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September 15, 2008 10:44 AM
Fascinating account of 'The Game,' an adventure race organized by Microsoft execs, sheds light on tech culture
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano
Jonathan Martin writes in The Seattle Times' Pacific Magazine about an adventure scavenger hunt called The Game. The story is a must read for anyone interested in learning more about the mindset of high-achieving smart guys at companies like Microsoft.
Martin's story focuses on one particular running of the annual event in 2002, organized by Joe Belfiore, an 18-year company veteran and currently corporate vice president in charge of the company's Media Center line. He had been putting on these events since high school.
The Game, Martin writes, is meant to be the "ultimate test for the Renaissance man or woman. Or just a really good excuse to turn off your Blackberry, forget work, ignore spouses and have a hell-raising good time."
But the 2002 running ended with a tragic accident that left a participant paralyzed.
More from Martin's story:
"Belfiore transplanted The Game as he established himself out West -- first at Stanford, then in Redmond, where he was hired in 1990. He launched his first Seattle-based Game in 1995 with a 'bomb threat' aboard a tour boat and ended it with a helicopter ride to the summit of a ski resort in British Columbia. The puzzles involved cryptography, anagrams, braille and a computer game called 'The Game of Life.' There was no prize for winning, just bragging rights.
"Word spread among fellow Microsofties. Game stories became like fish stories, expanding with age. Games ballooned in sophistication. Rolls of quarters were replaced by vans wired with their own power grids and stocked with laptops, GPS locaters, fax/copier combos, code books for semaphores, toolboxes, cases of Red Bull, folding bikes and an occasional chainsaw.
"'There was a tendency to one-up with each Game,' recalls Dan Egnor, a 33-year-old Google engineer who played four Games. 'It emphasized exotic locations and extreme activities rather than being just intellectual puzzle-solving. This was really part of that late-'90s Microsoft culture. Very competitive, hard-working, hard-playing.'"