What are the chief elements of an Easter egg hunt? Chocolate, of course. Hidden eggs. For our Easter games in Canada Water park - Bunny For Nothing - we also added rival teams and a Bad Bunny in a rabbit man mask (like batman but with longer ears) stealing players eggs. The woods were stuffed full of pretty plastic eggshells filled with chocolate, carefully hidden so as to be out of sight, and out of reach of dogs walking the park. We were so prepared. So, so prepared.
But we forgot about the squirrels.
Squirrels like chocolate. Did you know that? They like chocolate so much that on seeing a woman hiding chocolate filled eggs around the woods, a gathering of squirrels will change from a group of fluffy layabouts, lazily dangling from tress and lobbing nuts at one another, to a calculating, highly organized hit squad.
It was exactly two and a half minutes after placing the first egg that I circled back through the woods and found it lying several meters from its hiding place. The egg was cracked open, and the chocolate gone. In the tree above, a squirrel with chocolate smeared around its mouth chittered at me triumphantly.
By the time the players arrived, ten minutes later, it was all out war. There were four teams of intelligent, map reading players, with gaming experience, knowledge of the area, opposable thumbs. And there was a fifth team of fluffy desperados, chewing through plastic and hiding eggs in trees.
Players actually started following the squirrels to find out where the eggs were. It didn’t break the game, if anything it gave it a manic, ludicrous edge, but this too was an education in game design.
Sometimes there are squirrels.
Sometimes there are unexpected hailstorms, or people who are allergic to zombies, or people with a screaming phobia of safety pins. Sometimes the entire game area becomes suddenly and inexplicably covered in a dog show, with yapping poodles receiving prizes for “best quiff.” or somebody turns up in the night and slaps an ice rink down right where you were about to play Outbreak, and fifty zombies suddenly become a lot less scary (although zombies on ice skates would be a sight to see. Has anyone done this yet? Should we?)
The point is that you can’t be prepared for everything. If the kit has to include fifty umbrellas, a defibrillator, two hundred pairs of ice skates, a poodle net and a can of Squirrel-be-gone then you’ve lost anyway.
All you can do is try to see around the next corner; the one that has “POODLE SHOW! NEXT SATURDAY!” written on it, or your team mate idly muttering; “didn’t badgers eat all of the jelly beans when we did this last year?”
And everything else you deal with on the fly, on the run, as best you can. Because there’s nothing more exciting than chasing down a squirrel holding a stolen chocolate egg that used to belong to you. It’s the game changing moment when you don’t know what’s going to happen next that lets you know you’re really alive.