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A treasure hunt is one of many different types of games which can have one or more players who try to find hidden articles, locations or places by using a series of clues. Treasure hunt games may be an indoor or outdoor activity. Outdoors they can be played in a garden or the treasure could be located anywhere around the world.
Treasure hunt are sometimes organised by parents as a game to be played at children's parties. This could be in a range of formats; just searching for items, following clues as a group or splitting into teams to race to a prize.
An armchair treasure hunt is any activity that requires solving puzzles or riddles in some easily portable and widely reproduced format (often an illustrated children's book), and then using clues hidden either in the story or the graphics of the book to find a real treasure somewhere in the physical world. However, although these may seem to be for children, this genre is aimed at dedicated adults.
The use of a treasure hunt as a party game is attributed to socialite Elsa Maxwell. She said that:
There is a growing market for treasure hunts consisting of fixed landmarks in the real world, rather than a specially laid trail at a particular event. Companies are providing these hunts as corporate team building activities in cities around the world with London, Dublin and Sydney key examples.
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a global positioning system (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called "geocaches" or "caches") anywhere in the world.
Letterboxing is another treasure hunt game. It is played outdoors and combines elements of orienteering, art and problem-solving. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places (such as parks) and distribute clues to finding the box in printed catalogs, on one of several web sites, or by word of mouth. Individual letterboxes usually contain a logbook and a rubber stamp.
Treasure trails are a variation on the theme of a treasure hunt in which participants follow a set of directions and discover clues to help solve a puzzle en route. Trails may be on foot or use vehicles including public transport. They may follow circular routes or be linear in nature.
An armchair treasure hunt uses a book or a puzzle as basis, in which clues are hidden. This type of treasure hunt normally takes months to solve and has immense prizes to be won, for example the lipogram book Toxic Panda by Adam Adams.
Online treasure hunts are a new development where participants follow clues and visit different websites (or even physical locations) to solve riddles. Participants can win prizes for correctly solving puzzles to win treasure hunts. Many of these online hunts are subject to internet gaming laws that vary between jurisdictions. A photo treasure hunt is a new way to play the well-known treasure hunt game. The main difference between them is that in a photo treasure hunt the competitors have to collect pictures rather than collecting items.
In 1956, comedian Jan Murray created and hosted a variation for television, also known as Treasure Hunt. The game pitted a pair of contestants answering questions to qualify to go on a treasure hunt that involved choosing from among thirty treasure chests that included anything from gag prizes to valuable merchandise and/or cash. The show also offered home viewers a chance for a treasure hunt, when a postcard was chosen from a large drum by a young guest who revolved the drum several times to mix up the entries. The show aired daily in the morning and once a week in the evening until 1959, when the networks began canceling game shows in the wake of the quiz show scandal.
The current Guinness World Records title for 'most participants in a treasure hunt game' is held by Team London Ambassadors, who broke the previous record (of 308 participants) in London on 23 June 2012. 466 Participants, all London Ambassadors for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, worked in 93 teams of five, each completing a set of 12 clues hidden on either side of the River Thames, starting and finishing at City Hall London. The treasure hunt in the form of a spy mission game formed part of World Record London for 2012. A separate points competition was held with one team emerging the winner of the 'treasure'.