I laid in a hotel bed in New Orleans’s French Quarter, the nightstand beside me littered with liquor bottles, pretending to be stoned. I pulled up the covers, donned my sunglasses, and turned on the TV. Soon, a small group of men walked in: uniformed Marines, there to recruit me into the military.
“No,” I slurred, as planned. One of them pushed me harder. “No way, man, the military’s not for me,” I repeated. Despite their weak reasoning, I softened, and soon I’d promised them all I would join the Marines. They shouted victory, high-fived, then dashed out of the hotel room with the password I’d given them. Soon, another group of hulking, crew-cut young men entered, suggesting that I join the Marines.
This was not a surreal dream. It was my job. These Marines were playing the Go Game.
The Go Game is a sort of cellphone-based scavenger hunt designed to build team skills, mostly among office workers. “Bring us your over-competitive salesperson, your skeptical product manager, and stressed out director,” says the game’s website. “The Go Game will braid you all into a friendship bracelet of professional effectiveness that will be the envy of your professional peers.”
The San Francisco–based company travels to conventions countrywide, and since its inception has hosted games for groups in Canada, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Mexico. A convention Mecca, New Orleans is a top market for the Go Game. It’s also one of the last places anyone wants to be stuck learning to be a better corporate drone.
“We understand—team building can sometimes feel like a forced activity that makes people roll their eyes and wish they’d skipped out to play golf,” the website says. “After ten years and over 10,000 games run, we have refined the art of engaging engineers, marketing teams, lawyers, and everything in between, turning them into Go Game enthusiasts.”
With a new baby at home and in need of a little extra Christmas money, I jumped when the Go Game producers wrote to me recently about a job in New Orleans. Not long after, I found myself dressed as a ninja in the French Quarter.
On that day, I met Finnegan Kelly, the Go Game’s co-founder at, coincidentally, Finnegan’s French Quarter Pub at three in the afternoon. He handed me my cheap, thin ninja costume, and I dressed in the bathroom. Just enough of my face remained visible that anyone who knew me could recognize me immediately—a great possibility in New Orleans, which has the social dynamic of Sesame Street, but with more alcohol. “If it’s OK with you,” I told Finnegan when I came back out, “I’m going to do a shot of Jim Beam before I head onto the street looking like this.”
“Whatever you need to get into character, drunken master.”
As I downed the shot I realized, much to my relief, that I’d overlooked the extra piece to the face mask, which would further obscure my identity. Between that and my dark sunglasses, I felt much safer on the streets.
Finally, Finnegan then handed me a plastic lightsaber. My job was to “try to sort of hide” and wait until a group of participants discovered another lightsaber hidden in a newspaper box. At that point I would jump out and engage them in a duel that I was not allowed to win. As Finnegan explained all this, I tried to keep my mind focused on the new, warm jacket I planned to buy my daughter for Christmas. No way was Santa taking credit for that. CLICK HERE to read the rest of the piece at VICE…
Or watch this Go Game tutorial!