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Dispatching the Dungeon Master » Blog Archive » Game Seed: Balloons
Game Seed: Balloons

I want to play a game involving helium balloons. Maybe a reverse scavenger hunt? Each team would have a dozen balloons, a list of targets (’man in red shirt’, ‘child with ice-cream’), and the first team to give all their balloons away to appropriate targets would be the winner.

My concerns with this:

Score verification. To make sure people don’t just let the balloons go, there’d need to be a way to make sure that they’ve given them to appropriate recipients. The obvious solution to this is photographs: give your balloon to someone in a red shirt, take a photo of them, bring the photos back at the end for judging. However, it’s presumably harder and more awkward to give a balloon to someone and persuade them to be in a photograph than it is to just give them a balloon; and this is probably especially the case with children, the group most likely to appreciate random balloons. Asking someone whether you can give their toddler a balloon and take a photo seems likely to be awkward.

Annoyed passers-by. What if there’s only one person in a red shirt, and they don’t want a balloon? They could get every team, potentially every team member, trying to foist a balloon on them. Making it possible for passers-by to be more than scenery seems like a good thing for a game to do, but annoying them incessantly with balloons is less good. The ideal playing space would be somewhere like the South Bank, where there won’t be too many people in a hurry to get to an autopsy, but even so.

I’ll go down to the South Bank with some balloons and try to give them away, to see how it goes, but: any solutions? Any different ideas for a big balloon game? It’s worth noting that deliberately letting go of balloons may count as littering, depending on where it’s done (though it sounds like it’s okay in the UK as long as they’re biodegradable balloons, released in numbers under 5000, and don’t have string or tags attached).

The obvious way to have teams not bother the same people would be for they to be in distant places.

To handle scoring in an enclosed area, each team can have balloons of one color, and the judges count how many of each type come out on the hands of the ‘right’ people.

Ooh, I like that. I’d considered having a judge go around with each team, but obviously that’s very cumbersome and annoying and makes it much more difficult to organise. Just a couple of judges, and colour-coded-by-team balloons, is a great idea, though.

Ooh, Zaratustra raises an interesting, but alas unrelated, idea - a reverse ARG, where each player has to find a way to manipulate random strangers that they are involved in an ARG, and get them to come to a designated spot, say, without realising that they are being manipulated… whoever can get the most people to come to the designated end point wins. A bit arbitrary and cruel on the randoms, perhaps, but the meta-ness of it amused me.

Back to balloons: if I was going to do a balloon-based game, it would be more of a hide-and-seek-fest, British Bulldog style of thing, where each of the runners had an inflated balloon and each of the seekers had a pin… The runners could go back for another balloon if theirs got popped, and score for every balloon that makes it to the destination, while the seekers score for every balloon they destroy in the process. Over a sufficiently large area - the West End, say - and with a large number of players, that could be mildly entertaining.

Yes, I did think about the popping-balloons possibility, but couldn’t come up with any way in which encouraging people to run around brandishing pins was a good idea.

Or scissors, probably. Even if having to cut people’s strings to release their balloons would be fantastic.

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