The Game Least Dangerous
Two Saturdays each month Aric McKeown gets lost and locals in his social network must track him down. McKeown sends them clues through Twitter. For example: "Bob Dylan has a lifetime ban." "Derived from an Aldous Huxley Title." "Founded by a circus performer." (Answer: Brave New Workshop.) A bounty of riches await the first to find McKeown. Thus goes the aptly named "The Least Dangerous Game," a bi-monthly event invented and run by McKeown, who kindly made himself available to answer City Pages' probing questions.
City Pages: What was the inspiration for the game?
Aric McKeown: I was in the car looking for bead stores for my wife. I have a GPS on my phone so I was looking that up, trying to find different locations around the Twin Cities and I saw, "You are here" on the map—kind of weird. I couldn't find these beads I was looking for. That's where Twitter comes in—it's a social texting program online. I was text-messaging people through my phone about how frustrated I was. At that point it just kind of snapped together—just the combination of the GPS and the frustration.
CP: How many times have you played the game so far?
AM: Maybe around ten.
CP: What kind of participation have you had?
AM: There are about fifty people following the updates and the clues. The most people that have found me on one occasion have been about six.
CP: How do you pick the location?
AM: I generally try to go with some place with historical significance or if there's an event going on like the Craftstravaganza at the Fair Grounds.
CP: Will you play it even in the cold winter months?
AM: I'll give it a try. It depends on the how the participation is.
CP: How is the Least Dangerous Game using technology to make people more social?
AM: I try to make websites which have more of a face to them, where you know who you're dealing with, who you're talking to, whose blogs you're reading. The web can be so impersonal. Not only do people get out and see the Twin Cities here, but they discover the people they have been talking to online.
CP: What rewards do people get?
AM: It's all pretty much out of pocket right now. Every so often there's like threadless.com—it's a site where people submit their t-shirt designs and people vote on them and then they produce them. They gave a fifty-dollar gift certificate to the winner. But generally it's just a fifteen dollar gift certificate somewhere.
CP: You're funding it yourself right now?
CP: It must be something that's somewhat important to you then?
AM: It's fun to do. I enjoy doing it.
CP: What is your personal remuneration for doing this?
CP: What is the personal reward?
AM: Doing something different. It was rewarding for me because I could be sitting at home on these beautiful Saturdays doing nothing. It gets me out and about. It gets me to discover new places. You know, everyone goes, "Well, there's nothing to do." If you look for ten seconds, there is something to do. There's lots to do around here.
CP: Any particularly funny or interesting behind the scenes stories the game?
AM: I try to do some wrap ups on line after each game has been played. It's kind of fun, you can private message with Twitter so you can Twitter just one person. Sometimes they'll say what they're thinking, you know, and send that to me. Like, "I think you're here. I'm not sure. I'm on my way." It's fun 'cause they're going in completely the wrong direction. Well, I can't really guide you until the next clue. Ed Kohler of Technology Evangelist found me at Matt's Bar and he was actually in Edina and he biked all the way there. I think he was meeting his wife at Lake and Calhoun, so he was about half way in between. So he did a quick bike ride and showed up in all his bright colors and spandex pants.
CP: Did he win?
AM: Yup. He did win. If you can win on a bike, you know, then other people have to try a little harder.
CP: Do people actually sit down and talk to each other after they've played the game?
AM: It's happened a couple of times. The first time on our terribly rainy, cold test run we sat around in a coffee shop for about an hour and a half discussing everything from the Internet to the Twin Cities. That's happened a couple times—it's happened at Matt's Bar on Cedar.
CP: What has been the response to the game?
AM: People have liked it. Everyone thinks it's pretty clever. I haven't heard anyone say it was the stupidest idea. Well, maybe when I first tell them about it. It's hard to describe sometimes and they can't tell if I'm serious or not. They're like, "You do what? Hide?" Once people get the general idea down, they like it.
CP: Where does the name come from?
AM: The name comes from a take on "The Most Dangerous Game" which is a short story about humans hunting humans. I didn't really want to be hunted like that—with guns and weapons, so I figured "The Least Dangerous Game,"—just people getting up, getting out, meeting.
CP: Are you looking for further sponsorship right now?
AM: I have just a general "If you're looking to sponsor" on the website. It'd be nice if I didn't have to pay 15 dollars every time I did this. But it's its own reward I guess.
CP: Is there any danger involved at all?
AM: There is no danger. No one's been mad if they didn't win. You know, if someone shows up a minute or half a minute before them, then it's like, "Oh, I was so close." And then they compare their notes and what they were doing and what they were thinking when the different clues came out. It's a very friendly game.
The Least Dangerous Game is played on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. For more information and to sign up, go to www.leastdangerousgame.com