Monday, July 18, 2011

Mystery Magnet Maze Magic: A competition

This piece special to the Clarion Content from local artist, intellectual and bon vivant, Jeff Israel.

Mystery Magnet Maze Magic: A competition
By: Jeff Israel

What a great title, right? Who would not be intrigued by those four words? I certainly was more than curious and overly enthusiastic when my friend called me and asked me to be on his team. I love puzzles, games and competition. This event has it all.

How does it work? The Mystery Magnet Maze is based around teams of four people selected at random to compete by one of the organizers of the event. There were thirteen teams interested in participating, through a bingo type selection only eight were chosen to compete. My team was lucky enough to be involved in the festivities. The event was free and it was televised at 2am on some network I cannot remember.

What and where is this event? The games where held at King’s Barcade in Raleigh on Martin Street in the heart of downtown. They have an eccentric MC, to narrate and keep the event moving, as well as, a small crew to make the event logistics happen. The idea of the competition is thus: each team of four players has 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the round) to build a labyrinth style maze out of thin wooden pieces. Each piece has an individual magnet to secure it to the metal game board. The board is slightly larger than your average Monopoly board and has walls. You can determine a start and end point at your discretion, and each team is given a small wooden ball to test their maze. Our team tried to create pitfalls and dead-ends to spoil our opponent’s chances of victory.

Once the team has built the maze and the allotted time is up, two teams compete on stage to see whose maze is superior. The mazes are placed on platforms that tilt and swivel. The platform has handles in which the competitors maneuver the wooden ball through the maze. We were taken back stage where each team chooses one representative to challenge the other team’s maze. First, each representative has to go through their own maze to make sure it is solvable and they are timed. Once these baselines are established then the participants tackle their opponent's maze. At this point you are allowed one other member of your team on stage to act as a guide. The audience stands silent as they watch the teams on two opposing flat screens that show the maze with camera mounted on the ceiling.

What are the prizes? For a free event the prizes are quite generous. $500 bucks for first place, $200 for second and $100 for third. Our team did not place, but we had a lot of fun. The group, Mystery Build, has a larger nationwide competition where you pay thirty dollars to get a mystery box where you have to build a sculpture solely out of the items in that box. I am guessing the popularity of the Mystery Build is why they can afford to have such nice prizes for the Mystery Magnet Maze Magic winners.

Participatory games of this ilk are increasing popular. Two of our teammates who played in the previous Raleigh tournament and told us that the number of teams doubled from the last time. It was scads of fun, a unique and different night. I will be back for another round next time they are held and I hope you will be there too.

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