Subversive Movement

Last night I went to another Nerd Nite event with my friend Chester.

Nerd Nite Feb 2014

This time, the topics were esports, staphylococcus aureus, and culture-jamming.

The first topic was pretty entertaining. It was about the rise of esports (professional video gaming) and the comparison to traditional (physical) sports. The speaker made the point that esports professionals want the same thing as traditional sports professionals, and work just as hard to “make it.” He started with this video clip:

Most people in the audience did not realize how impressive this was, so he broke it down for us. Because Daigo (Ken) starts the clip with such low health against Justin Wong (Chun Li), he plays somewhat cautiously and hits her just enough to fill up her Special bar. Then he baits her into using her special, which is a 17-move combo. The only way to take no damage from the attack is to perfect parry each hit of the combo, including that mid-air parry which leads into his combo that defeats her. Perfect parries require exact timing (only a few milliseconds of leeway). Much more impressive now, right?

The second topic was a bit scary. The speaker attempted to use a “warning bunny” to warn of upcoming graphic slides, but the system did not work very well, because more than half her slides were fairly gruesome. Luckily, the visual aids did not bother me. Rather, the information did. I had no idea that staph was so prevalent in our everyday lives. 20-30% of the US population are persistent (asymptomatic) carriers of staph, and another 30-50% are intermittent carriers. Staph is very commonly found on our skin, and only gets truly scary when it gets inside. But that could happen with any minor cut or abrasion!

The final speaker was very intriguing. He defined culture-jamming as “being cool” or “sticking it to the man” and could be anything, even something as simple as drawing a moustache on a poster. The thing was, back in the 1950s, the consequences for these “subversive” actions could be much more serious. This was the height of McCarthyism, and the “cool” folks could lose their jobs, property, or freedom for these little acts of rebellion. Keeping those risks in mind, the speaker focus on Jean Shepherd (of A Christmas Story fame) and his old radio show. One of the cooler projects he did was getting listeners to go into bookstores and request a fake book, I, Libertine. Back in those days, best-seller lists were ranked by demand as well as sales, so this non-book actually made it onto the New York Times Bestsellers!

All in all, we had fun and learned a little something new. I think we’re going to make this a regular thing.


End of Time

Time Sphere

When Batman was “killed” by Darkseid, he was actually trapped in time. Using his infinite preparedness, he went to the end of time and, among other plans, built a time machine for his allies to reach him.

Over the weekend, some friends and I played with a time machine as well! We went to Japantown and tried Real Escape Game’s Real Escape Room v.2 – Escape from the Time Travel Lab.

Time Travel Lab flyer

This game was in the Real Escape Room format, similar to the Mysterious Room game we did a while back. A single team of 11 people is locked into a physical room, and we were given free reign to tear the room apart to find tools and clues to solve the puzzles and escape the room before we were all lost in space and time.

Without giving too much away, since the game is still in progress, I will just let you know that once again, we did not escape, but we got excruciatingly close.

Time Travel Lab

We had a wrong answer on the very last puzzle… the key to escape and victory was literally within our grasp and we were not able to hang on to it.

That said, I think that we made progress as a team. We were better at communicating and did find and solve the puzzles better in general. I would say our biggest problem with this particular game was a lack of time-management/foresight. The way the game is set up, the entire team has to move together between the primary and secondary rooms, and we took too many trips back and forth, which wasted time.

We are pretty pumped to tackle the next game, Escape from the Moon Base, which will be coming up in April and will follow the traditional Real Escape Game format.

Enemy Action

James Bond/Batman

Ian Fleming wrote,

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”

So we were eager to tackle the next Real Escape Game and prove that our two-game winning streak was not just a coincidence. Sadly, Rachel could not make it to this one, and our streak had started when she joined the team. Regardless, we pushed on without her to REG v.6 – Escape from the Bank!

Escape from the Bank

This one was back to the regular Real Escape game format – teams of six around a table solving puzzles mostly in place, but also with some exploration about the room and as you can guess, the theme this time was a bank. The story is that we are a team of thieves trying to steal a secret document from a safety deposit box inside the bank vault. There was even a room to the side of the hall marked up like a vault that we had to get into!

Our team was able to figure out the route to the vault that bypasses all of the security teams. However, for some reason, we could not figure out the escape route, and ended up failing the game. The final puzzle was one where we had to eliminate extraneous letters from an encoded message to find the hidden one, but some combination of poor communication, misunderstanding the clues, and just pure frustration got in the way of our success. We were so bothered by the game that we left without taking a losers picture, which we always did in the past.

Hopefully we will do better at the next one. And I am going to do my best to rope Rachel back in, since she seems to be our key to victory.

1000 Treasure Hunters

Hollywood Treasure

Fresh from our victory at Escape from the Magic Show, my friends and I were eager to win again and assure ourselves that it was not just a fluke, so we made sure we attended the next Real Escape Game event – 1000 Treasure Hunters.

1000 Treasure Hunters

This game was not in the usual Real Escape Game format. Instead, it was similar to the Escape from an Angel game that they held during the previous J-POP Festival. We were again running around Japantown looking for clues instead of sitting around a table.

This time, though, there were no limits on team sizes and no time limit, either. (Well, it was a two-day festival, but you did have to finish on the same day you started, so it was to your advantage to get there early in the day.) They had 1,000 entry packets with the materials you needed to get started, so there were 1,000 players running around at the same time, much more than at their other events. If you finished, you got a dog tag as well as entry into a raffle to win some cool Real Escape Game gear, like the treasure chest from their Mysterious Room game!

Treasure Chest

Well, we did manage to finish the game (and learned some new factoids about Japantown), but sadly we did not win anything from the raffle.

Escape from the Magic Show

Looks like my “Upcoming Events” list needs some serious updating, so I am going to try to cover some events I missed in the last half of 2013. I’ve also added events as a reminder to myself to write about them, so look forward to me knocking more items off the list!

Escape from the Magic Show

Back in June, my friends and I attended Real Escape Game v.5 – Escape from the Magic Show! Like the other standard-format Real Escape Games, you form teams of six and are stationed at a table, solving puzzles to escape before the time limit.

This time, the theme was a magic show, and the premise is that we are attending the first performance of a somewhat incompetent magician who trained under a master. The illusions kept working, but not in the way the magician intended. For the grand finale, he accidentally handcuffs the audience to a magical exploding briefcase!

The game itself was more interesting than usual because the teams were actually handcuffed together in a circle around our tables. After solving some of the puzzles, we were able to unlock some of the bonds so that some members could go around the room to find more clues. Also, the game-runners hired an actual magician to do tricks at timed intervals, and those tricks were clues to help us!

I try not to spoil the puzzles themselves in these write-ups, just in case you decide to go try them at a later date. (Real Escape Game just started in LA and Seattle!) Plus it has been so long I do not remember a lot of the details. But I will tell you one thing…


We finally won and truly escaped!

Batman Always Wins

Batman Wins

Batman is a master strategist. He works hard to know everything that is going on, always has a back-up plan, and when all else fails, can bluff like nobody’s business. With a combination like that, how could you not win every time?

Unfortunately, I do not live up to my idol. Similar to how I throw myself at puzzles, I love playing board games with friends. But I am terrible at them! I have a reputation among my friends for always losing. There are several reasons for this:

  • In competitive games, I tend to get aggressive more quickly than other players, drawing retaliation for the rest of the game.
  • Despite my early moves, I usually lack the killer instinct to finish off competitors, preferring to chip away at them.
  • Most importantly, though, I just have plum terrible luck. When I need to draw a certain card or roll a particular number, I consistently get the opposite, making me a bad gamer even in cooperative games.

Last night, though, some friends and I got together for a board games night. I talked my usual shit, not expecting anything to come of it, but I actually won! I am now two for two when playing Zooloretto. Time to consider retiring as a champion.

Batman Zoo

Davy Jones

Back at the end of January, my friends and I attempted Real Escape Game v.4 – Escape from the Haunted Ship.

This one was more along the lines of the usual Real Escape Games – many teams of six playing at the same time – rather than the Escape from the Mysterious Room format of a single team of eleven.

Our group of friends ended up being more than six, so we split up into two teams and added some strangers. My team’s mix was pretty good. We had some new folks, but we worked well together and the puzzles actually seemed relatively easy. A lot of the usual puzzle elements were use, such as items being locked inside miniature chests, but one of the new things I really enjoyed was that there were “blackouts” where the ghosts with give us additional clues (through projected movies), but we also needed to use that blackout time to find additional clues only visible under black light.

Haunted Ship

Once again, though, we got incredibly close, but did not win. My team ended up solving all the puzzles, but did not “escape” because we did not notice one of the hints about how to find the ghost captain’s love’s name. However, my friend Nelson, who I did not even know was coming, ended up winning with his team! I am already signed up for the next game, Escape from the Magic Show, happening this June. You should come join us!

Oh, another really cool thing about Escape from the Haunted Ship is that it was held on the SS Jeremiah O’Brien at Pier 45. The game was conducted in the main hold, but we got to tour the entire ship after. I learned that footage of the O’Brien‘s engines were used for the Titanic movie!