Thursday, 23 December 2010


I thumbed the radio on my belt to life and whispered, "Does anyone know the code to the back door? It's three digits and starts with a 3." Static. The response "Try 3,5,1" came a moment later. The PIN worked, the door creaked open and I slunk into the room, which turned out to be a toilet. I could see the case I was looking for by the end stall, but it was secured to the door with a cable-tie. My Victorinox made quick work of the tie and I scooped up the heavy box and made my way back out the door into the alley. There was ice underfoot and, as I paused with baited breath, I could hear the footsteps of a guard approaching down the steps which were my only exit. I knew I was trapped.

Thus ran my Saturday afternoon in New Cross in South London. I was part of a heist, the objective of which was to recover some cases from a guarded building. This isn't my normal line of work, you understand, but the aptly named Heist was an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) run by the folk at Firehazard Games. The game began with 12 participants gathering in the comfortable Amersham Arms pub and then being briefed by Casey, the Firehazard rep. We had about 10 minutes to distribute the kit she gave us (including stun guns, wire cutters, duck tape and night-vision goggles - all the real deal) and form a plan. We didn't do very well at the latter, and only really concluded that we were going to split into two teams and simultaneously go in the front and the back.

It turns out this was all we needed. Through good communication and persistence we proved ourselves to be the weekend's best team for we managed to recover all the cases. Our prize was what all burglars desire - a big bag of chocolate coins. I was extremely impressed with the Firehazard management, as events like this are logistically very difficult on so many levels. Most notable were the actors playing the security guards, who struck an excellent balance between letting the players get away with certain things, but being suitably authoritarian when necessary.

I am getting more and more interested in gamification and ARGs. I think they are growing trends possibly indicative of society's increasing ennui towards MMORPGs. I am sure I will be posting more on this topic soon.

The Plan

Our briefing session in the Amersham Arms

Our kit included walkie talkies

The site of the heist

The toilet in which I found the last case

Our swag

Our winning team

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