Midnight Madness Returns



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Midnight Madness Returns was an urban game in Manhattan on the night of October 6-7, 2012. From 7:45pm until 10:30am, 180 players on twenty teams raced to solve puzzles they found around the city. The project raised $1.4 million for the children’s charity Good Shepherd Services.

Official Finish Times

  • 10:21. The 0xffff00’s
  • 10:22. Midnight Suns & Tri Lambs
  • 10:24. Screamin’ Green
  • 10:25. Efficient Frontier
  • 10:30. Operation Twist
  • 10:33. Recovery Lox
  • 10:41. Black Gold
Times were not recorded for subsequent teams.



Three zones

Our work, including fundraising materials, location scouting, and the game itself, extended across print, web, mobile, and site-specific platforms and engaged hundreds of players and dozens of volunteers. Puzzles, installations, and locations involved the rotating globe in the Daily News Building, a little-known pedestrian underpass in the middle of the night, controlling the lights of the Bank of America Tower, predicting the serial numbers of actual subway cars, and many more, ranging from “forgotten” or hidden New York to some of the most modern structures in the city.

Through an innovative cultural and charity funding mechanism involving a non-profit organization, a financial services firm, and a passionate commissioner, our game changed the fabric of New York City for one night – and ultimately helped our charity provide hurricane relief services elsewhere in the city later that month.

This is our only project about which users have said, “There aren’t too many things out there that stimulate multiple-percent life-quality boosts just by encountering them once.” (That was Elisha Wiesel, our collaborator on the reborn game, on playing past years’ games.) One player called the most recent game “an unforgettable experience – the memory of it ranking right up there with various great coming-of-age moments from years past.” Another called it “one of the most enjoyable evenings I have ever spent – and you know that is going to be a high bar.”

The game stretched across three zones of play during successively later parts of the night. That a resilient network of playful and cultural interventions in public space can power a similarly resilient network of humanitarian or productive interventions in public space is a metaphor for our studio’s approach. We’re working now on next year’s game.

The game was reviewed recently on Quartz and written up on nytimes.com, nymag.com, and Fark. Said one commenter on Fark: “Yeah, I want to hate on Goldman Sachs as much as the next guy, but they raised $1.4 million for charity by scheduling an event their employees seemed to really enjoy… More corporations should do this.”

Midnight Madness is a long-time collaboration with the game’s founder in New York, Mat Laibowitz, and many others, and this year also included new partners Elisha Wiesel and InsiderNYC.


When players arrived at the headquarters for each zone, a table cloth showed the game map as it was known so far, similar to the maps in massively multiplayer online games.


Zone 1

Zone 1 began at the East River near 22nd Street and ended standing atop the Tudor City overpass, looking a mile across town toward the spire of the Bank of America. Players then controlled the spire’s lights in real time from the bridge to solve the zone’s final puzzle. They might realize that as they’d been circling the tower throughout zone 1, it had been flashing a meaningful sequence all along.


Zone 2

Zone 2 took place inside HERE Theater in Soho. Players solved used a wardrobe of colored Midnight Madness t-shirts to solve a crytographic sphere, turned the sphere into a bowl and ate a secret flavor of ice cream from it, and used that knowledge to play the devilish seathisizer in one of the theaters.


Zone 3

Zone 3 wound through lower Manhattan, home base for many of the players who worked for a financial services firm. It began with laser mini-golf in a fog-filled nine-story abandoned turn-of-the-century building with a glass atrium ceiling, and included twisted album covers in an old boxing gym, a puzzle in the middle of the Chambers Street subway station, and a puzzle under the Goldman Sachs canopy that was, fittingly enough, entirely invislble, made only of infrared light shining through a black glass window.


Snapshots

These photographs are by the amazing Jason Fulford, and others. Many more are available at www.midnight-madness.org, along with sample puzzles that you can solve.



Puzzle #1–3

Puzzle #1–3
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Puzzle #4: Subway Spotting

Puzzle #4: Subway Spotting
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Puzzle #5A–5C: Hats Off

Puzzle #5A–5C: Hats Off
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Puzzle #6, #7: Flash Drive Sounds & Crossword

Puzzle #6, #7: Flash Drive Sounds & Crossword
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Puzzle #8: Semaphore

Puzzle #8: Semaphore
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Puzzle #9: Blind Rebus

Puzzle #9: Blind Rebus
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Puzzle #10A, 10B: Wifi Networks

Puzzle #10A, 10B: Wifi Networks
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Puzzle #11: Jonathan Coulton performance

Puzzle #11: Jonathan Coulton performance
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Bank of America Spire

Bank of America Spire
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Puzzle #11: I Scream

Puzzle #11: I Scream
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Puzzle #12: Sphere

Puzzle #12: Sphere
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Puzzle #13: Seathesizer

Puzzle #13: Seathesizer
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It’s around 10:30am on Sunday and we just finished a crazy night and morning of mind bending and frustrating puzzle solving fun. We had to aim lasers with mirrors across an abandoned building, wire a circuit board to show a location on a map and do tons of other wild things to figure out where to go next… I felt sad coming into Manhattan this AM with no more clues waiting for me.

–Team Screaming Green 


Puzzle #14: Lasers

Puzzle #14: Lasers
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Puzzle #15: Phrases

Puzzle #15: Phrases
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Puzzle #16: Album Covers

Puzzle #16: Album Covers
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Puzzle #17: Infrared Camera

We can see its hooked up to something electrical and think it looks like the monolith from 2001 “a space odyssey”. It makes no noise and doesn’t respond to knocking….
–Recovery Lox
 
We can see its hooked up to something electrical and think it looks like the monolith from 2001 “a space odyssey”. It makes no noise and doesn’t respond to knocking….

–Recovery Lox

 

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MM Booklet

The fundraising booklet contains a mission statement letter, dyptch maps for Good Shepherd Services’ programs versus Midnight Madness clue locations, and a fold-out poster with the team rosters
The fundraising booklet contains a mission statement letter, dyptch maps for Good Shepherd Services’ programs versus Midnight Madness clue locations, and a fold-out poster with the team rosters
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MM Website

Midnight-madness.org hosts a vast archive of images from the event, sorted into sample puzzles, pre-game, zone 1, zone 2, and zone 3.
Midnight-madness.org hosts a vast archive of images from the event, sorted into sample puzzles, pre-game, zone 1, zone 2, and zone 3.
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