Scavenger hunts are no longer just for kids. They can help colleagues, students, families and friends bond. Plus they’re easier than ever to create using interactive websites and smartphone apps.
The Scavenger Experience
Six friends and one curly-haired dog met me in downtown Boulder, Colorado, ready for adventure despite driving rain. They had gamely agreed to test a photo-based scavenger hunt I’d created, and the weather hadn’t dampened their excitement. With smartphones in hand and umbrellas up, we ventured out from under our dry shelter.
I’d created the hunt using Klikaklu, an iPhone app that invites the organizer to take photos of stationary clues. To progress, players must find the spot in the clue and then take matching photos on their phones. Everything is editable, including the game style.
This hunt was sequential rather than a showing all the clues at once because the last clue pointed to a place where we could grab a bite afterward. I estimated the 10 clues would take about an hour to solve.
The first clue showed a bear statue around the corner from where we met up. Nobody recognized it. Not counting my own, the group had two iPhones, three Android smartphones and one dumb phone. Some sketchy smartphone searches later and everyone began rushing off in the wrong direction. Uh-oh. What had I done? Another puddle-filled block later, and I couldn’t help but offer an audible hint.
Klikaklu allowed me to add in-game hints for harder clues and upload photo “trophies” for correct matches. Location info can be turned on or off, which helps if you want to make a photo-hunt around the house—or add difficulty. The first seven days are free and then the app offers a $4.99 upgrade to continue creating hunts. There’s no Android version yet, although the developers are working on one.
GooseChase is another way to generate unique scavenger hunts. Each game can be customized online, and then missions appear in the participants’ smartphones once they start. The app works on both Apple and Android devices. The game is free for a personal hunt with up to 10 users, and the company offers paid packages for larger groups and businesses.
Participants use GooseChase to take photos in order to complete missions. This year the company compiled the 26 most popular scavenger hunt ideas, which included “Take a picture of a stranger taking a picture of you” and “Find a street sign that personifies a team member. Photograph.”
Scavify’s mobile scavenger hunts work across multiple operating systems and are free to play. The platform can handle various group sizes, competitive and non-competitive hunts, local tours and multiple durations. Personal packages start at $29 for 10 players and include unlimited tasks, a real-time leaderboard, photo downloads and social media sharing. Like GooseChase, the company can customize professional and team-building hunts.
More Than a Game
Doing a hunt with coworkers can be incredibly fun. Years ago, I helped organize a scavenger hunt at the magazine where I worked in the Boston area. Teams spread out across town, taking Polaroid pictures together at unusual locations. Later, colleagues swapped wild stories as we looked through the snapshots at the staff party.
Scavenger hunts are also an engaging way to experience a new city. Before setting out with Klikaklu, I’d made a list of interesting places to photograph. However, while walking around I saw things I’d never noticed before: a print of a face someone pasted to a tree, robot murals on a building, an Amy Winehouse quote the city had painted on the sidewalk.
That’s the idea behind Stray Boots, self-guided tours that challenge participants to find sites, answer questions and take photos. Each of the 70-plus tours in more than a dozen cities, mostly in the US, costs between $5 and $25.
In Boulder, the day was so rainy that we saw kids protesting the weather. Their signs read, “People aren’t fish.” Our increasingly damp group knew the city well but nobody had heard that lower 15th Street was designated the Design District. To be fair, I didn’t either before creating the hunt.
Where exactly was that Brené Brown quote about innovation? Phone searches couldn’t say right away so the crew spread out to scan the ground. One of my friends later said she thought competing teams could have made things even more interesting. Although the iPhone users in our group have kept Klikaklu on their devices and plan to use it again, I’d like to try creating a hunt around written riddles for a different challenge.
Fortunately my hour-long estimate was proving accurate. The last Klikaklu photo showed a slightly bent one-way sign. I’d chosen it because the sign was pointing to a brewery that had outdoor seating for dogs, and we had one who was keeping up like a champ. The email invitation alluded to the place, but this being Boulder that hadn’t narrowed it down at the time.
My friends got to the correct street and began debating which way to look. We were now soaked and hungry. One friend said he thought the brewery to the west didn’t have a patio – the very one next to the final clue. OK, one last hint: I looked at him, shook my head, and smiled. We made our way through puddles to a finish replete with cold beer and hot food.