Sunday, November 30, 2008

The DEF's of Treasure Hunting - "D"

As far as I know, this image is from a "free to use" site. If anyone lets me know that it is not,
I will remove it immediately on request. Thanks for letting me to drop it here in the meantime.

"D" is for "Dropping"

Stress is the bane of most competitive teams. Failure to cope with it leads to compromises, resorting to bluffing and worst of all, accounting for the team's slip in the final standings. The underlying cause? Poor time management, mostly.

Treasure Hunting is a timed event. Managing the time well for all the tasks to be accomplished is vital for any team to be successful. Even if the team was not geared up to be competitive, it guaranteed satisfaction in knowing that no penalties were incurred and each member did not feel unduly stressed throughout the course.

This will not be just a discussion about the usual word with the "big "O" in front of it. It is strange, but treasure hunting is also about dropping sectors, dropping people, dropping points, dropping out of contention, dropping out of favour and sadly, for many teams, dropping out of hunts forever!

The last one probably explains for the relatively steady quantity of "regular" teams seen at Open Treasure Hunts. Many join and many drop out at the same time.

By now you should know, when someone is said to be a regular hunter - it is purely for their consistency in attendance. So who is a "master"? To me, it is the popular title given to those who have better demonstrated undisputed abilities in comprehending the mental challenges. Thus a "master" may not be "regular". The inverse is also true - attendance is not necessarily evidence of "master" ability. Okay, wrong subject for this post - let's drop this.

Let's see what happens in the "Oh! Sxxx! We're out of time!" situation. It happens a lot!

It is very easy for teams to lose sight of time. Absorbed in the challenges, mesmerized by the cleverness of the clues and overwhelmed by the myriad of signs presented in the sector - time flies before one's eyes. The heart fights the mind constantly - "Give up" or "I know I can solve this one". Stay n find? Or Drop n go?

It is therefore essential that someone in the team - usually the driver, is assigned the full time responsibility to keep a close watch on the time. The more sophisticated have watches set with discreet alarms for sectors where members have to be dropped off to hunt on foot.

Still, it is not good enough. You need a guardian who is willing to huff and puff at them and to shepherd them back to the car, ignoring all the consequential tantrums in the car and just drive off when the time is up. A tough and unpopular job! Not easy to succeed and often the flaring continues way beyond the sector, carried into the next one or two sectors and unsettling the team's concentration!

"Why give up? We know what to look for, mah, still have time, mah!" "No more time okay! We have to drop this sector. So much more to do and so much more distance to cover! We have to go! Drop it okay?" If you care, observe the eye contacts during these animated verbal exchanges the next time - there's none! Everyone is dropping a face (jaw?) or just gazing out the windows.

Maybe one day, we should have laser leashes on every member - press of a button and everyone is snapped back into their car seats! Treasure Hunting in 2050?

Some hunts bundle in bonus challenges and tasks, in the form of puzzles, quizzes and extra riddles. All to be completed within the regulated hunting time. While some COCs are very kind to allocate reasonable "extra" time, many would take the stand that there are 4 persons in a car - so by logical division of labour, there is an equal 4 to 6 hours for each "bonus"! Computes? No wonder we hear of "bonuses" being completely dropped - just too hot to handle!

Dear COCs - treasure hunting is firstly a series of "BRAINSTORMING, DO IT TOGETHER TEAM WORK" activities - everything has to be done as a team - not one each by individuals. Hope we remember this ourselves when HRU sets their first public hunt! Dropping a hint there!

Having said all that, the reason for the dropping of bonuses may just be simply because of the level of difficulty. To some, given all the time in the world, it would still remain unsolved.

The fabric that holds the team together is very fragile. Teams who seriously want to hunt together again and again, will be sensitive to the personalities that weave the partnership together in complex patterns of assignments, encounters and personal challenges. When a trait (sounds like thread) is not tolerated, it is made known in one way or another and someone will drop out of favour and be "yanked" out. And just as quickly, another drops in, and the experiment continues until the most workable combination is found.

Treasure hunting is not every one's cup of tea for sure. Some will just try it once and - "that's it for me" - drop off like a swatted fly. Others will try for a while longer, believing they still have the stomach for the queer demands of the game and resist the temptation to drop off like a ripe durian. Yet some will just drop in and out of the game - loving it, but cannot find the time for it, all of the time - like how turtles swim in the open ocean. Needless to say, there will be those who will drop everything else just to be there - like HRU.

This is the phenomenon when a team encounters too many toughies along the route. Coupled with time scarcity, there can only be one consequence - excessive dropping of questions. When a team tells you that they have dropped between 20% to 30% of questions, that's a serious bout of diarrhoea. No cure for it - just hope that you can get over the impact of it until the next hunt!

Yet, to some, they would rather describe it as a badly hit sortie which has returned after dropping off bombs!

But it does not mean that there will be no winners - every hunt has a winner. When the disease is highly contagious, it actually levels the playing field! Thus there exist a saying amongst the "masters", "When it is tough for one, it is tough for everyone". So, when a team tells you that they are experiencing some "stomach ache", they are actually hoping you will be getting it too!

COCs Playing "God"?
Dropping of points are mostly the fault of the team. That's human. No excuses. Clear mistakes. Oversights. Yet, there is one dropping that is not in their hands. In fact, it is at the mercy of the COC's hands.

Due to the high number of participants, COCs will hire extras to help in the marking of answer sheets. 99% of the time the extras get it right. But sadly, it only needs that 1% of slip-ups to create unforgettable memories of "COC dropped our points" for the unfortunate - spoiling what otherwise would have been a glorious night for the compromised team. Another story of "The Big One That Got Away" for the grieved team.

Why does it happen? Time constraint again. This time on the part of the COC's team. That's putting it politely. Could it be that nobody did a double check of the marking (answers correct?) or the tabulating (simple maths) or the scanning to make sure no pages were left out (due diligence)? As with anything regarding COCs - there will be more questions than there will be answers.

Another mistake that causes team to drop in position is the wrong application of the tie-breakers. When teams are tied, a set of tie-breaker rules are applied - but some COCs can get it wrong. Commonly, the wrong sequence applied - different from what was announced.

Another is the misinterpretation of what is a countdown. Some will understand it to mean counting backwards from the last question up to Q1. While others could interpret it to mean, counting downwards from Q1 to the last Q.

COCs also face a dilemma with "extra hands" who do not record or correctly compute critical tie-breakers that involve time taken or distance covered.

The good news is, most COCs, have learned from this and have started to state very clearly what they mean by their tie-breakers and work harder in ensuring they are correctly applied. Most - not all!

Couldn't all COCs avoid all of these? Of course, they can - but note - I said CAN - which means, they have the ability to do so. But WILL they? We wish, we hope and we pray - yes. Because dropping down the ladder for reasons that are beyond us, is very, very painful and the scar is permanent. I have a few to show!

That's "D" ... will work on "E" & "F", but expect things to be slower. I am not time constrained, so I hope not to drop anything interesting. If I do, please pick it up from here for me, okay?

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