The Cardboard Box Game

At the end of the day at Barcamp London XII everybody returned to the large social space in order to take part in:

The Mysterious Mystery Game

Scarlett put in her second appearance of the day, and co-opted @TheHodge (her dad) to help out.

The mystery bit was quickly cleared up. The teams all had cardboard boxes to work with, and the challenge was to build a fictitious product within a limited time, just 20 minutes. A full explanation of the rules is here.

Team names were required and @TheHodge reminded us all, that humorous names might lead to more points. However, as there were a handful of youngsters present, the team names should be “most creative and child appropriate”.

That idea was immediately seized upon by one group who named themselves Team Most Creative And Child Appropriate. Another bunch of mad cap creatives came up with Team Do Not Look Into Laser With Remaining Eye.

Scarlett distributed a “mystery word” from the hat, and each team was compelled to match the single word they were given. A little leeway was allowed. However, the product and the storyline had to be largely faithful to the assigned mystery word, and the box had to remain principally a box. No Eiffel Towers allowed!

The team’s box could be modified and decorated, to aid an imaginative sales pitch. A panel of judges would listen to each pitch and judge the products on originality, positivity, and humour.

There’s a recommended strategy for product development. It’s widely known in the tech sector, and (with a lot of software engineers in the room) you’d be forgiven for having expected some adherence to:

  • Identify the Problem
  • Research and Analysis
  • Developing Specifications
  • Concept Generation and Evaluation, and so on

“Nah! You don’ wanna do dat!”

Time was of the essence, and the room of 70 people erupted into deeply animated discussion, cutting, colouring, laughing and pointing. And laughing some more.

You could almost see the light bulbs illuminating above some people’s heads. At times it was frenzied, and at other times it was comical. This is the most fun you can have with a post it note, a marker pen and a cardboard box!

Assigned the word “Hollywood” Team Do Not Look Into Laser With Remaining Eye built a working pinhole camera, while Team Lion next to them had the word “Music” and designed a unique Boom Box which was a real, authentic box, an eco-friendly, compostable box!

Perhaps the easiest word drawn from the hat was “Fashion”.

That led Team Semi Colon Drop Tables (that’s a great joke, for people who do databases and SQL) to build the latest in fashionable cardboard attire. The problem was that Sean was up at the front of the room to present, and had nearly finished speaking even before Jairo managed to reach the cat walk wearing his delicate outfit!

The other easy word in the hat was “School”, especially given that the event was in a school which we had hired for the day. Team Dynamic Duo warned us “don’t eat toads, they taste bad and might be poisonous” and delivered a few more golden nuggets.

This photo of Team Lion shows the atmosphere well. In the foreground Hugh is smiling broadly, flanked by seriously analytical Dan, and determined engineer Paul. Behind Dan, Jonty from Team Do Not Look Into Laser With Remaining Eye is holding the pinhole camera to his face, whilst over on the right David from Team Dynamic Duo appears to be trying to climb into his box!

Arguably the hardest word in the hat was “Healthcare” but that just inspired Team The Them to work even harder. They built the portable artificial intelligence nurse.

  • P – Portable
  • A – Artificial
  • I – Intelligence
  • N – Nurse

A revolutionary medical device designed to redefine the diagnostic experience – a synergy of innovation and compassion. Cleverly presented to the judges, with a vaguely human version of a synthesised voice, the dialogue struck a chord with everyone. It was a great rendition of the stunning sarcastic voice of GLaDoS. The guys are not playing with their phones, they are trying to adapt GLaDos to handle part of the presentation.

Team The Them were worthy winners, and Scarlett awarded the prizes, a collection of Lego toys.

Every team also “won” a massive box of chocolates to share, and we all agreed that the first half of this proverb is most definitely true:

Irish proverb – “A good laugh and a long sleep are two of the best cures for anything.”

After an exhausting day, and a good night’s sleep, the chair @proactivepaul can confirm that the second bit is true as well.