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Medallion Hunt Park Destruction
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Joined: 17 Dec 2002

Posts: 947

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2004 3:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Has any of this negative stuff reached the letters to the editor in the Pioneer Press? I subscribe to the other rag, and I normally just scan the headlines, read the sports and comics, and work the puzzles.
There comes a time in every young boy's life when he gets an irresistible urge to seek buried treasure.--Mark Twain
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King Boreas

Joined: 16 Dec 2002

Posts: 2463

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2004 4:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

a possible letter from a friend:

Dear Pioneer Press,

I'm sure by now you've gotten a lot of feedback already about how
this year's hunt went. Despite what's being said, I'd first like to
thank you for continuing to put on this event. I'm sure it's more of
a pain that it seems to be worth at times, but it is a magical sort
of event each year for many residents of St. Paul and the surrounding
area at a time when bleakness might otherwise rule. Consequently, I
wish to be clear that the comments I have about the hunt, as well as
those others have made, come from a love of the hunt. If we didn't
care about it, and want to see it be successful, we wouldn't spend
the effort to say anything at all.

As I think back to this hunt, as well as last year's I see four areas
that have problems, some of which I consider serious.

The first problem, which I'm sure you're well aware of already has to
do with the way the medallion was hidden. Specifically I'm referring
to the hiding of the medallion in a real doughnut. I don't think
there's much more to say on that matter that hasn't already been
said. But I do think there are more clever ways to hide the
medallion. In a year with no snow, in that same park, I ran a hunt a
couple of years ago and put my coin in a jewelry box, covered it with
mud, and when it froze, it looked like a rock. I put it in some
prairie grass and people overlooked it for three days. One could
stick pine needles all over it or tape it to leaves. It might still
take a while to find it without requiring the clues to be so vague.

And that leads to the second problem. Both this year and last, the
clues did a very poor job of leading hunters towards the medallion.
They referenced a lot of things in the park, but there was no good
sense of where in the park to go. In Como, the triple E gate and the
Ibsen bust were both pretty far from the treasure as well as each
other. This year we had clues about things all over the park as
well. The problem with this is twofold. One, it takes away people's
drive to go out to the parks and actually look for it. When the
clues talk about things that are all over the place, people don't
know where to dig. If the clues aren't drawing them to any specific
area, then they have nothing to get excited about. And if they're
not getting excited about anything, the hunt becomes boring and
people become less inclined to participate. I've seen many people
make exactly this comment already since the end of this last hunt.
Secondly, if people start to believe that the clues aren't going to
lead you to the treasure, and it's just going to come down to a mad
dash at the end each year, no one is going to pay much attention to
the hunt anymore until it get's close to the end. Again, I've heard
many people say after this hunt that they're going to be "double-
digit hunters" from now on, meaning they aren't going to invest
anything into the hunt until clue #10.

The third problem, which is related, is that some of these clues are
just too obscure. Last year there was Ann Bilansky, the French
immersion school, and the 1872 vs. 1873 clues. This year there was
the clue with Bible verse. No one figured these clues out. And
what's worse, no one could even imagine themselves figuring these
clues out. A good clue, even if it's tricky, should have someone
hitting themselves on the head when they read the explanations and
think to themselves, "I should have gotten that!". But these clues
the last two years just make people go "Huh?" People need to believe
the clues are solvable, because when they solve it, that's what gets
them excited and makes them want to participate even more. The clues
the last two years have made me not even want to invest time worrying
about them anymore. I don't want to go downtown to get the early
paper anymore because I know chances are I'm going to have to do
hours of research online to figure out a clue.

These two problems together have really drained the life out of a lot
of hunters. For the hunt to be fun, hunters need to feel like
they're making progress towards their goal. They need clues that
they can make some sense of, or at least believe they have. They
need to feel like each clue is guiding them closer to their goal of
finding it. Clues that make no sense, or guide you all over the park
fail to give you that feeling of progress.

The fourth problem is the one I consider to be the most serious.
It's the one that pushed my feelings beyond "This clue writer is
annoying," to "This clue writer needs to be fired!" This problem has
to do with where the medallion has been hidden the last two years. I
understand there was a lack of snowcover, but the places the
medallion has been hidden have been genuinely dangerous. Last year
in the woods at Como was merely hazardous, but the hiding spot at
Phalen was outrageous. The slope of that valley was quite steep and
very slippery with the snow. And if a person did happen to fall,
there was an excellent chance they could have impaled themselves on
the many dead branches sticking out in all directions. And if that
wasn't bad enough, the final clue even specifically instructed people
to walk down the steepest part of the valley while trying to count
off 50 large paces. I was under the impression this was supposed to
be a family event, one most anyone could participate it. But I know
many hunters who were not able to make the descent into that valley.
I think it was utterly irresponsible of the clue writer to place the
treasure down there and send so many people into a hazardous area.

Now it's my understanding that a lot of these measures may have been
done on purpose to try and make the hunt last longer. However, when
the hunt goes to 12 clues, it basically becomes a free for all as
opposed to a meaningful challenge. A 12 clue hunt should be
considered a necessary evil, not a goal. If a hunt goes to the last
clue, it means something went wrong. If hunts start to consistently
go to the 12th clue, it means the whole process is flawed and people
will start to treat it as such.

It's my belief this change happened after the Merriam Hunt which went
only 6 clues and left a lot of people angry because they didn't get
to participate that year. But I believe at this point there was a
misunderstanding about what the problem was exactly. The anger
wasn't just because there was a short hunt. It will happen
sometimes, and indeed, we'd all like to believe we might be the
person who aces the clues and finds it early on. The anger was
actually due to the fact that the medallion wasn't found early
because someone was clever enough to get it. It was found early by a
kid who wasn't even looking. He was just kicking around as he took a
look at the park. The anger was because the medallion was hidden so
incredibly poorly, and that poor choice was what ended the hunt
early. The clues that year were fine.

If the current trend continues, people will mostly just ignore the
hunt until the end. At that point is there really a difference
between a 3 day hunt at the end, and a short hunt that ends on clue
#6 or #7? At least in a short hunt, people will be paying close
attention all 7 days and feel like they had a chance. The way it is
now, I don't know. What I do know is that the way people feel right
now is much worse than it was after the Newell or Merriam hunts.
After those hunts, people were more motivated than ever to be on top
of things. After the last two hunts, people aren't motivated to
participate at all.

So in my opinion, not only has this clue writer sucked all the fun
out the Medallion Hunt, they also have a track record of making some
pretty poor choices when it comes to hiding the thing. I don't know
that I would want to participate in another hunt designed by this
person, and I know many others feel the same. And these are people
who absolutely love the hunt.

If there's any hope of giving advice to make this better, this is
what I would offer.

Be more clever when hiding the medallion. People expect to have to
look for it. Some people even enjoy it. Use a clever disguise to
add a day or two onto the hunt instead of useless or vague clues.
Again, it's more likely to give people who didn't find it that
feeling of, "Oh, I should have gotten it! I was so close!" And that
will keep them coming back. If there's snow, don't hide it in
something plastic or waxed. Don't use something with a bright
color. People will know it the second they come across it. This
happened at Newell in 2000 and Como in 2001. Hide it in something
white that snow will stick to. If there is no snow, disguise it in
something that will blend in with the terrain.

When writing the clues, write clues that people can figure out, if
not wholly, at least partially. People like it when they know
they're looking for water or a playground or picnic tables. It makes
them feel like they're on the trail and getting closer. Avoid unique
identifiers as long as possible (an ice palace monument for
example). Things that can apply to a lot of places will keep people
guessing without feeling like they are completely in the dark.

Know what assumptions people make and use them against them. This
happened in 2003 when everyone assumed it couldn't be at Como. It
worked in 2001 when everyone assumed the Dove soap clue was the only
one referring to what it was hidden in. A word like "rough" tends to
get people to assume golf course when in fact it could just mean
rough terrain.

Write clues about things that actually suggest where in the park one
should look. It's not fair to have someone figure out a difficult
clue only to have it tell them the park they already suspect, but not
where in the park. If someone had gotten "the girls shall be happy
to dance clue", wouldn't it only be fair to believe that such a
difficult clue must be important and thus the treasure must be
nearby? If need be, one can be tricky in how they write the clue,
but then the information in the clue should be genuinely useful to
those that get it. And the truth is one doesn't even need to be all
that tricky. Whatever is written, people will still find 10
different ways to interpret it that you never imagined and they'll
lead themselves astray.

So hide the medallion somewhere safe. Disguise it if need be. Write
clues people can figure out that will tell them where to look. If
the hunt was a genuine challenge, people aren't going to be that
upset if it ends early. That just happens sometimes. The integrity
of the sport of it is more important than the length of it, even if
the longer ones are more fun. But as it is right now the fun is gone.

David Allison
Joined: 16 Dec 2002

arrive...raise heck...leave (SCSA)
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Joined: 13 Jan 2003

Posts: 157

PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2004 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i would be surprised to see this letter run in the paper, unless it was heavily edited. but it raises several good points and supports them. let's hope it doesn't fall upon deaf ears.

while i'm not a hunter of the medallion, i do enjoy following the progress of the hunt each year, and hearing the winner's story. i hope some changes are made that will improve the '05 edition.
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