I know a lot of people are clambering for information and opinion on the Red Bull Mind Gamers World Championship which I participated in last week. I’ll do what I can, and hopefully connect people to other relevant content. But the question is where to start? I don’t have the time nor inclination (nor ability, really) to structure my thoughts into a single, coherent article, so instead I’ll just throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what is stickily interesting.
Perhaps the best place to start is the big one; the qualifying game. But I’m not going straight into what we thought of it. Instead, for now, I’ll just present details on the challenge itself for you to digest. I think some of the games were explained on the finals broadcast, and may have more or better information that what will follow, but we couldn’t hear the stuff that wasn’t recorded live and I don’t know if it’s available to watch again (or if I’d watch it if it was).
The important note before we get into the game is the preamble. On arrival in Budapest we each received a welcome pack which contained our jackets (shown above), t-shirts (not shown above), rule book, ‘research paper’ and other bits and bobs. We were advised to “go through the rule book, the research paper and the time table carefully”. The rules explained that unlike a normal escape room based on time, the event would be scored on power, in-keeping with the theming. You would start the game with 720 units of power, and lose one every five seconds. In addition you could ‘request assistance’, which actually meant bypass the puzzle, but that would cost you 60 units (five minutes), and you had to have been on a puzzle for at least five minutes before you could bypass it. Finally further units would be lost for penalties such as submitting incorrect answers or breaking the rules. Incorrect answers cost 12 units (60 seconds). Breaking the rules would be assessed based on the severity of the break. Yes that is subjective.
The game itself was described as “a series of challenges”. That turned out to take the form of seven separate chambers that each contained one challenge. The story was similar to the (coming direct to DVD near you soon) MindGamers movie. You had to enter the quantum computer pursuing the bad guy while being helped by the good guy (names removed in case you want to watch the film (but I wouldn’t)):
- Virtual Reality – This was to represent your transition into the computer. Everyone was sat in a chair and given a virtual reality headset. You were told nothing other than when the challenge was completed you should remove your headset, place it in the box provided, and proceed. Within the VR world you moved through a white door labelled A1 into a coloured room. In the room you had differently coloured doors with signs like A2 or B2. You then had to move from room to room until you completed the ‘maze’. Sometimes going through a wrong door incurred a penalty. Sometimes it took you back to A1. The ‘solution’ was that the correct door was the complementary colour to the colour of the room you were in. Complementary colours was one paragraph of the research paper you were to read in advance. The letter and number combinations were cell references intended to tell you that you were on a 4×4 grid. Penalties were incurred by going through a wrong door but remaining on the grid. Going off the grid would return you to the start. When it was complete you removed your headset to find a door had opened.
- Sentry – This was the first layer of the bad guy’s defence system. It was very simply a lazer maze, with the slight twist that the lazers pivoted like security cameras. Penalties were incurred for breaking the lines.
- Vortex Tunnel (1) – The showpiece of the whole challenge; a process for ‘removing your memories’. You walked along a gangway through a rotating tunnel covered in symbols connected by lines. Each of the team had been allocated a symbol, which was inked on to the back of your neck, and you had to find your symbol and the one it was linked to. Having done that you entered the answers into a computer and opened a hidden door.
- Firewall – Another security system to overcome. At first glance this appeared to be another lazer maze, but a much tougher one. The twist here was that you had to ‘break the wall’, i.e. break all the lazers rather than avoiding them. Once you’d done that some green lazers appeared so you had to break the original ones again without breaking the green ones. As far as I could tell there was no trick to it, it was just a dexterity challenge.
- Pegwall – Thematically (and performance-wise, but we’ll come on to that later) this is where it started to break up for me. For some reason the floor had been electrified and you had to deactivate it. On the wall there was a narrow ledge under 24 peg holes forming a 6×4 grid. Four pegs were permanently inserted and four more were on the ledge for you to insert. Around the grid there was a light above each column and next to each row that changed state (on/off) when you inserted a peg in that row or column. You had to insert all eight pegs while turning all the lights on. Turning all the lights on with seven pegs was very straightforward, but the eighth would then turn two of the lights off. There was obviously some trick to it but after spending a lot of time we decided to bypass it.
- Wormhole – You had to split your team in two and enter two separate booths. In between the booths there was a tunnel you could see down into the other room, but thick glass which made communication difficult. On the floor in each booth were seven blocks with buttons on, called Qubits. When you pressed the button on the Qubit it started cycling through three colours. When you pressed the button again it turned off. On the wall were six numbered slots for the Qubits and a diagram that showed two colour wheels side by side but with some of the colours swapped around, suggesting that what was one colour for us was a different colour for the other room. As with the previous challenge we fumbled blindly for five minutes before deciding to bypass it. I’m yet to hear a definitive answer for how this worked. Somehow you were to put six of the Qubits into the numbered slots. Once in the slots pressing the button made them stay a single colour rather than turn off. From there you had to match one of the colour wheels. When both wheels were correct the doors opened. If you think I sound confused then you’re correct.
- Bending Realities – In the last room you were all back together with the task of assembling a huge structure out of separate parts. The structure had a yellow shape, inside a blue shape, inside a red cube. Apparently the trick was with starting with the red cube as it was a simpler shape, then fitting the others inside it.
Photos of all these games, and more, can be found on the Red Bull photos website (I’m not linking here for licencing reasons).
Okay, now you know a little bit more about what we were dealing with. Tune in next time to hear how we did and what I thought of it.