Just before the Study Planner was sent out to be printed, there was a final opportunity to run through and test the game, to see if all the puzzles were in fact solvable. When hiding clues in a book that is written in code and backwards, the one thing not wanted is a spelling mistake.
One lucky staff member was, with allot of hints, given the final version of the study planner and told of the clues within. They were, with some helping nudges, a first and only real test case of the game before it would go off to print. It was a nervous few hours as we watched them discover and solve each cypher hoping that everything was spelt correctly, and that all the number trails lead to the correct pages. The real-world test was a success, and the book went out to print that same day.
On the first day of school each student was, as every year, handed a copy of the study planner. With no notice, announcement, or hint given as to its extra special purpose. It wasn’t until two months later, inconveniently on April 1, that a message was left in the morning bulletin that would hopefully encourage some curious minds to begin discovering that a game is afoot. On the last day of the school term and the Thursday before the long Easter weekend. The notice read “Best of Luck: There is more than one Easter Egg to discover this year. A puzzling treasure hunt to the key and a $100 gift voucher for first place. Make sure to Plan your Study and are ready player 29?”.
While the timing wasn’t great it sparked the interest of almost every student who was hoping to solve the puzzle by the end of the day. While a handful of students had found and deciphered the first clue before the announcement, the message in the daily bulletin sent hundreds of students in all directions around the campus as each one came to a different conclusion.
The bulletin message itself needed to be solved, while not overly difficult, we needed to show that this was a puzzle to be completed and not simply a “follow the breadcrumbs” path. The cipher in the message laid out a few different bits of information; the phrase “ready player 29” is reference to Ready Player One, a book/movie about a video game having a long hidden quest to a prize. Again, reinforced with the wording “More than one Easter Egg to discover”, which is also reference to a secret hidden inside visual media. The wording “Plan your Study” was in refence to the Study Planner, and the “29” was the page number that contained the first puzzle and start to the quest, and a deliberate mistake of the ‘ready player one’ title.
The daily bulletin message kick started the entire school’s interest in the secret game included in the Study Planner, even in ways we didn’t expect. The most satisfying of which were those students who pooled their knowledge and worked together as a group. This was completely unexpected considering only one major prize could be won. Seeing that the journey of discovery, solving the puzzles, and finding the clues was something that was bringing people together completely exceeded our expectations.
As time went on, the openly public hunting and solving of puzzles in the planner subdued. Those seeking the solution to the riddle and wanting the prize became less and less vocal about it. We received messages on occasion asking for hints, or wondering if a theory was correct. While nothing was ever given away, we relished in the knowledge that students were wanting to seek out and find the treasure. If they could actually solve the puzzles and get to the end was a mystery to even us, one that only time would know.