JOHN RATITE’S FUN HOUSE
Players navigate a maze in the form of a multilevel fun house. Trivia questions are presented at various locations. Answering a question correctly allows a player to proceed through the maze while answering incorrectly blocks the maze path and forces a player to backtrack and find a new route. Players are gradually eliminated from the game either by getting trapped in maze sections with all paths blocked or by being voted out by other players. The last player to avoid elimination wins.
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A trivia maze game called “Grey Labyrinth” was presented on the Grey Labyrinth website in 2001 (note: the website, which hosts forum discussions on a broad variety of puzzles and game topics, had long pre-existed the trivia game; the game was named after the website not the other way around). The game moderator, username Dragon Phoenix, described a stone labyrinth as a way to add some spatial imagery and strategy to a challenge of general trivia. The game was presented in bulletin board format in the website’s Visitor Games forum, with participants posting questions, answers, and other developments within the limits of 24- or 48-hour game rounds. Players who answered too many questions incorrectly got trapped in the labyrinth and “died.” The winning player escaped from the labyrinth. I managed to finish in second place and, per Dragon Phoenix’s narration, did not die but remained in the labyrinth serving as the janitor and cleaning up the remains of the other losing players.
I decided to moderate my own version of the trivia maze the following year and created the character of John Ratite (anagram of “the janitor”) as the in-game host. Instead of a gloomy, generic stone labyrinth I chose a festive and gaily-colored fun house as my setting. Eliminated players did not “die,” rather they were escorted from the fun house by clowns (afterwards, several players indicated that my descriptions of clown-assisted evictions were just as terrifying as the death notices of Dragon Phoenix’s game). I also chose to label doorways within the house in so that they hinted at the associated questions. For example, a hall of contorted mirrors produced “unexpected emotional expressions on reflected faces” and included three mirrored doors labeled “Avid,” “Mad,” and “Stressed.” These doors featured trivia questions related to a diva, a dam, and desserts respectively. The trivia questions were of moderate difficulty and fairly traditional. Most of game atmosphere was produced by the elaborate descriptions of the rooms and by the strategic elements of navigating the house and forming alliances with other players. The most important legacy of the game was the John Ratite character who would be featured in several other Internet trivia games.