Greetings…you may call me…Keeper, for I am the keeper of theme park tales. You would think I’d be gorging in the bounty of Thanksgiving and waiting with baited breath for the theme park presents of the holiday season but no, I’m still reveling in Halloween goodness thanks to our friends at Universal. As you know our friends at A & D gave the HHN fans a treat this year called Horror Unearthed. For those that missed it a super explanation of the basics and game play was done by Racheal last month… and although it remains unfinished, it was a great tool to use..so I will not dwell on that here. In years past there have been online games and also in-park activities put out for the super fans but this year brought things to a new level. Before the run started the games appeared on the web site…this is nothing new. It’s been a way to hold off the cravings and bring the fans to a fever pitch before the event and this year was no exception. The interesting difference is that when you registered for the games this year you had to choose your “legion” before you could play and also designate if you wanted e-mail and/or text updates. The legions matched up with the event’s roving hoards, which as I hoped, ended up being the highlights of the event… see my thoughts here on that …
By reading the personalities/characteristics of each legion you decided which you wanted to affiliate with. It was like a cross between picking your own zodiac sign and designing an on-line role playing character. Once you picked your legion when you played the games not only did you win life force (points) but you helped your legion be stronger than the others. Like rooting for sports team’s good natured rivalries ensued (MORPHANS RULE!!) and the small but loyal group of players started to bond.
Once the event started game players were able to get a physical card to use in park to continue to earn life force for your legion. This RDIF card could be carried around to do in park tasks during the event. Now you know my love for this technology, and how important I feel it is to the future of the theme park experience, we’ve chatted about it before in both the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and Magiquest games. The Universal gang has taken it another step in it’s evolution by meshing the online and in park experience together.
“The Masters” as the A&D team dubbed themselves, started us off with baby steps in September and early October…scan you card at a house—get points and an online “badge”. Go 5 times to the same house—another badge—10 times another. Do all 7 in one night—yup another. After we got comfortable with that came the puzzles…do 3 houses in a certain order and 4 houses in a certain order, the order concealed in a cryptic verse we had to figure out. But the ultimate in the mixture came the night there was a task for one legion and one legion only. The clues was only sent to the at home players of that legion that opted to receive e-mails. They had to use the legions bond that had been cultivated over the past weeks to communicate with the in park players to get them to the meeting spot by the proper time. This continued until all the legions had a night. These puzzles were not for rookies my friends. In finding out the history of the legions we learned Turkish, Chinese, studied Mayan symbols and even used our knowledge of the history of Universal’s past attractions. Thanks to Designing the Fears webmaster Charles, we had a Facebook group to communicate through and many legion members shared phone numbers and contact info so the players at home could communicate through the cyber-fog of Universal’s black hole of phone service and help direct their legion to victory.
To me, the interesting thing that happened right from that first task was that legions were pushed aside and everyone was helping everyone else, the game had truly united us unlike any fan website has in the past. We had a common knowledge base, common goals, and a shared love for the event and the experience we were sharing and making together. I think some of my fondest memories of the event were sitting at a big table at Mel’s or Finnegan’s and brainstorming ideas in a group while our family at home was shooting us info and thoughts through cyberspace. Yes we had indeed become a family. We had become one and the whole was so much greater than the sum of its parts.
The in park games ended the last Sunday in October when a clue sent a pack of a couple hundred of us scurrying around the park in search of the Masters who were wearing black cloaks and guiding us to our final destination….a party/talk/meet up at the Pantages Theatre where they provided refreshments, we got to meet up with our legion mates, and listened to some of evolution of this exciting program and even got a real world “badge” to reward our accomplishments.
We thought the adventure was over but through the month of November the online games stayed active, life force still accumulated, and the winners started getting mysterious puzzle pieces in their e-mails. Each legion is starting to discover how HHNs past is “rooted” in their family tree. The puzzles seem to be winding down… the cave from where our legions originated from is slowly closing bit by bit as we are weaned from HHN for another year, still being lovingly guided by the Masters as the pages on the calendar pass into holidays that SOME consider more important. I’d be willing to bet, however, that what was cultivated here will be used again. The legions are moving towards hibernation but the adventure, the memories, and the friendships formed will not sleep and will stay within us …when the light dim and the fog thickens again…we will once again be one
Every Day’s An Adventure