New player? Sign Up Here
Sam Archer
Level 8: 3256 points
Last Logged In: January 5th, 2016
TEAM: San Francisco Zero TEAM: SCIENCE! TEAM: UCZero TEAM: Run-of-the-mill taskers TEAM: ALL THINGS MEATIFUL! TEAM: Public Library Zero TEAM: Players TEAM: SSF0R (Sphores) TEAM: SFØ Academy BART Psychogeographical Association Rank 7: Pedestrian EquivalenZ Rank 3: Protocologist The University of Aesthematics Rank 5: Anti-Realist Humanitarian Crisis Rank 5: Diplomat Biome Rank 8: Ecoterrorist Chrononautic Exxon Rank 4: Prophet Society For Nihilistic Intent And Disruptive Efforts Rank 3: The Meddlesome
50 + 35 points

Journey To The End Of The Night Los Angeles: Five Years Running by Sam Archer, Waldo Cheerio

May 8th, 2012 4:17 PM / Location: 34.106696,-118.2170

INSTRUCTIONS: The city spreads out before you. Rushing from point to point, lit by the slow strobe of fluorescent buses and dark streets. Stumbling into situations for a stranger's signature. Fleeing unknown pursuers, breathing hard, admiring the landscape and the multitude of worlds hidden in it.

For one night, drop your relations, your work and leisure activities, and all your usual motives for movement and action, and let yourself be drawn by the attractions of the chase and the encounters you find there.

A thrilling pursuit through the heart of Los Angeles. No skates, no bikes, no cars; just your own two feet and public transportation. Bring some water, possibly a camera, and comfortable shoes (or maybe no shoes) - leave everything else at home.

If you participated in the Los Angeles Fifth Anniversary Journey on 5-5-12, in any way, be it as Runner, Chaser, Documentarian or Check Point Volunteer please tell us your story.

Yes, please, take lots of pictures, or draw some, if you have no camera. Tell us your tale of adventure, be as detailed as you can.

Tell us your impressions of the route, the people you meet, and your perceptions of the city.

I'm still not sure quite how it came to pass that I flew down to LA to run a checkpoint for Journey. I think it helped that I volunteered before I had too much time to think about it.

My friends Mike and Camilla, who graciously gave me a floor to crash on and spent the weekend driving me around, came with me to Waldo's garage to get the place set up. I'd spent weeks plotting and scheming over what I was going to put the runners through, and amassing the materials to make it all happen.

The germ of the idea came from a checkpoint from a past Journey that ended with bells tied to runners, and the game of Ninja Corridor. I wanted to subject runners to a test of stealth in which they would have to avoid ringing bells, and then affix bells to them. The concept of an entire ninja training ground sprouted up around that, but the Test of Stealth remained the centerpiece.

It took longer to hang all the bells than I'd expected it would. With three people it ended up taking us about three hours in all, but the effect was kind of magical. As it neared completion we walked through it over and over, looking for places where it was too easy, adding more bells, retesting it... it got more and more challenging, and started to create that elusive "fun" thing that I had envisioned.


There were other tests as well. The Test of Patience was a sadistic little exercise meant to evoke the sort of hazing you see in martial arts films -- you had to use chopsticks to move grains of rice into a dish on a scale until it balanced. I'd dug through a lot of eBay listings to find an actual balance scale to use for this one, but hadn't yet done any testing to figure out how much rice was a reasonable amount. It turns out that it only takes a minute or two to move about 5 grams of uncooked rice using chopsticks, but it feels like much longer.

Mike playtests the Test of Patience.

The Test of Accuracy and the Test of Balance were meant to be done as a pair. One runner would be given a set of weapons (Koosh balls) and told that they were to strike "the target" a certain number of times with them. The other runner would be told to perch on one foot without falling over. The fun twist is that the balancing person is the target for the throwing person.

Accuracy and Balance.

This went through a few rounds of playtesting as well to verify that it was fun to pelt each other with Koosh balls but that it was pretty difficult to actually cause any injuries. By the time I met up with Waldo, all was ready. We brought Lincoln by to check everything out. If I recall correctly, he even managed to make it through the Test of Stealth with the added "hard mode" challenge that Waldo had thought up...

Hard mode: bring the door with you!

It was a very long wait for the runners to show up. I spent a lot of time pacing like a caged tiger. We were the second to last checkpoint (#5, "Ninja Garage" on the map), and from what I heard the route to get to us was exceptionally grueling. Our first two runners arrived around 10:45, and another wave of about seven arrived at midnight (among them a friend of mine who I'd almost given up for dead). Seeing the runners go through the various trials was a treat, as different people had different approaches to the different tasks.

For the Test of Patience, some people used the chopsticks as I'd intended; some paired up to try to use them as shovels; some even used them to pick up the entire dish. (It didn't seem that any of these shenanigans actually saved any time, which amused me.)

I had a lot of fun presenting the Accuracy and Balance tests. "You," I would say, "are taking the Test of Accuracy. Wait here with these weapons. I will present you with a target; you must strike it five times. And YOU are taking the Test of Balance. Stand on one foot up here. Don't fall off. YOU! Begin!" Some people got the joke before I'd made it, and some laughed out loud as they realized that the "target" was their friend. Some of the throwers decided the game was to actually knock their friends off and/or hit them in the crotch. One pair decided to game it by having the "target" present a wide target with his jacket so that the thrower could throw gentle underhands and hit every time. I thought this was awesome. "Very good. Now! Switch!"

The Test of Stealth was of course the most popular, and it was tuned just right in terms of difficulty; I think about half of the people made it through without ringing a bell. Here I saw a lot of variety too; I'd designed it to be difficult to do by crawling, by having a combination of low-hanging bells and bells scattered on the floor, but a few people managed it with some crazy Mission Impossible moves. I ended up not making anyone do it with the door; everyone seemed impressed enough by the challenge at the default difficulty level.

Click here for video.

Each runner got something attached to their wrist with a ziptie before I signed their manifest. Those who had failed any of the tests (the Test of Stealth was the most difficult far and away) received a Bell of Shame for each test failed. Those who passed all of the tests flawlessly received a lucky charm (a little copper rabbit or bear).

At about 12:30 we decided to call it and pack up. Waldo graciously offered to deal with the bells later, which was good, as I hadn't particularly been looking forward to having to pull them all down at the end of a long night. A couple of "disqualified" runners (one with an injury that had necessitated calling a ride) joined us, hoping to find their friends, and eventually we all headed to Lincoln's for the finish line party, that being the most logical place to meet up at the end of Journey.

It was super fun getting to see so many SFZerians all together in meatspace. I think the highlight of my night might have been anna one seeing me and saying "You're Archer!" I'd been thinking about joining the ranks of "real name" players on my zeroday, but being recognized as an Internet pseudonym makes me feel like a Named Man. I may just have to keep it.

Looking forward to seeing y'all again next time. :D

+ larger

Stringing up lots and lots of bells.
Bells all strung.  Took about 3 hours with 3 people.
I playtest the Test of Stealth.
Mike playtests the Test of Patience.
Accuracy and Balance.
Patient as a sloth!
Immovable as an ox!
Deadly as a cobra!
Silent as a panther!
Lincoln tests his patience.
Hard mode: bring the door with you!
Awaiting the runners by the light of the supermoon.
Our first students.
Waiting for the next group to arrive.
C. M. attempts the ninja trials.
Weary runners appear.
And we test their patience.

7 vote(s)


(none yet)

3 comment(s)

(no subject) +1
posted by Jellybean of Thark on May 8th, 2012 5:33 PM

After the long trek up the hill, Ninja Garage was a lovely treat.

Yay! +2
posted by lefthandedsnail on May 9th, 2012 10:03 PM

I never realized quite how much I say "Yay!" until I watched the video, but it's the most honest way of expressing how I felt at Ninja School.

Late to the game +1
posted by Waldo Cheerio on August 8th, 2014 12:46 PM

I love it. I am only seeing this now, and I had no idea we got footage of those brave, brave ninja runners. Brings back fond memories. I still have the TMNT cups we offered to runners if they were thirsty.