The 420 Game Bay Area, 20-22 April, 2001

The 420 Game was an amazing experience. Team Advil featured Alex Aravanis, rookie Jarrod Chapman, John Owens, Scott Pegg, and Greg Yap. The pregame began with a front page that suggested a drug theme. Decoding the links led to "follow the white rabbit" and running down the white rabbit links led to a username/password pair; logging in as "guest", "follow the white rabbit" led to a clue (bring SF transportation maps). The root directory of the web server suggested Japanese character sets were important. And the training page indicated binoculars were important. (Descriptions of these solutions are here.)

The actual application involved the usual questions as well as achieving a good score on a Java video game, running around a maze picking up clues and goodies while avoiding cops and keeping your energy high. After acceptance, we had to write a Java program to play the game efficiently (I believe Scott changed 4 characters of the sample program as our entry ... we weren't the fastest team, but weren't the slowest either).

At this point, despite references to white rabbits and other objects we should have caught, we still thought it was a drug theme. This, until we were asked to appear in Dubose Park on Friday, 4/20/01, at a certain time. Not knowing what to expect, we took our places at the appointed bench and were handed a DHL envelope by a quickly moving passerby. It started ringing. We opened it up and answered the enclosed cell phone, and were directed to walk around the corner to ... The Mystery Machine, formerly owned by Game Control and revived for this particular event. Inside were two representatives of the Matrix, clad in black, and offering us red or blue pills. The previous theme was a red herring; in fact, we were tasked with achieving the liberation of mankind from the shackles of the Matrix. We were also instructed that the encryption system used in the Matrix was Solitaire from Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. The key was to be based on the SF Chronicle's Saturday bridge column.

This was all pretty spectacular.

Scott and I downloaded relevant Solitaire code that night (we recommend the C++ version). The next morning, we brought our van to the Roxie Cinema in the Mission in San Francisco. We had been properly warned to prepare to be mobile; our van was valet-parked (read: removed from the premises).

(More later.)

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