The team also receives an envelope of evidence for the mission, which includes photos of a dead woman the team must try to identify. The story goes that her body was found in Citadel headquarters, with a single gunshot wound to the head, the morning after a virus infiltrated the company's systems. The team must find out who the dead intruder is, who the double agent in The Citadel is, and why the virus was placed on the company's computers.

Because Citadel officials believe it was probably an "inside job," they must contract with unfamiliar faces to gather intelligence — that's where the four players come in.

Throughout the mission, the team relays information to SCOPE, who serves as both a guide, to keep the team on track, and scorekeeper. Every time the team uncovers evidence or information at a location, they score a certain number of points. They also lose points for missing something and get bonus points for uncovering more deeply buried clues.

Serious fun: SCOPE and Greg Shaw play their parts.
Jamie Peachey
Serious fun: SCOPE and Greg Shaw play their parts.
Greg Shaw
Jamie Peachey
Greg Shaw

Details

For more information on The Citadel, or to set up a game, call Mission Lane Network at 602-795-0300 or visit www.citadelphoenix.com.

"You will have a maximum of six hours to complete this mission," SCOPE tells them. "Your time starts the moment your first team member walks out that door."

It's almost 6:30 when team Dragon's mission starts. They will not finish until 12:30 in the morning. Along the way, they will stop at eight locations and encounter more than six actors, some disguised as everyday Phoenicians. Some of the clues they will uncover are cleverly hidden — for example, a clue could be a message embedded in a book that's sitting on the shelves of a bookstore, or hidden inside a fake advertisement video on YouTube for a fictional local taxi company, or tucked into a pack of cigarettes some unconscious bum's clutching in a park.

Because the team doesn't know what the actors look like, they believe anybody they encounter could be part of the game. As the team walks down Second Street toward Washington, Michelle Parrent (a.k.a. Agent Bellstar) looks around with suspicion.

There's an older black guy in a wheelchair begging for money and barking like a dog, a young guy wearing a backpack whizzing by on a bike, a small group of people eating quietly on a restaurant patio, a few couples walking together.

"You know, there are a lot of people in downtown Phoenix for a Tuesday night," Parrent says. "Some of them have got to be part of this game."

She knows she will have to talk to people to find their contact but isn't sure how to approach them. Walking up to a stranger while wearing an ear bud and saying something like, "Are you in on this?" or "Are you part of the game?" sounds not only conspicuous, but crazy.

One of Parrent's teammates gives a dollar to the man in the wheelchair, thinking he may be part of the game. They ask the man if he can tell them anything. He tells them he's hungry. Dead end.

It won't be the last time team Dragon engages an unsuspecting Phoenician in strange conversation. Later in the game, they ask a puzzled receptionist at the Renaissance Two tower, "Do you have anything for us?" and approach three U.S. Bank employees at the Collier Center and ask if they know anything about anything.

Not only does it seem as if everybody's part of the game, but it feels as though everything is a clue. The team finds themselves looking behind loose decorative plates on park lights, studying the signs on buildings, checking their sandwiches at the deli for notes. But SCOPE is there to help keep them on track, and any time the team starts to go too far down a rabbit hole, their cell phone rings.

At 9 p.m., team Dragon has a major breakthrough at the deli where they've been sitting for the past 90 minutes. Using a Beale code key given to her by SCOPE, Parrent begins deciphering a message hidden in a book. She's so determined she barely touches her turkey sandwich. "I've got it!" she says with a grin, showing the message she's written on a napkin to her teammates. The message reveals a name. The name leads to a fake MySpace profile, which leads to the identity of the dead intruder at The Citadel. They all pat themselves on the back.

But the game is far from over. Their mission will lead them to four more locations, including the seedy motel room where actors stage a shooting scene and, finally, to Citadel headquarters, for an exciting multi-media conclusion that includes high-tech "live" video feeds of action supposedly taking place halfway across the globe.

After the game, Greg and Sonja Shaw sit down with the test team at headquarters and solicit their feedback. Everybody is exhausted, but the players agree that the game was a lot of fun and very challenging. There is some criticism, however, when Greg Shaw boldly says, "Tell me five things you hated about the game."

Nobody can come up with five, but there are some complaints. Because the game takes place exclusively in central and downtown Phoenix, players need to know the area. "If you're not familiar with downtown Phoenix, you'll probably need to bring a map," Parrent says.

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7 comments
J.M.
J.M.

I found this article because I was just sitting in my house thinking up the same idea and googled to see if anyone else had done it yet. Dam.

Greg Shaw
Greg Shaw

Hi Marcia. The game is designed for four players, but you could play it with one, two, or three players if you like. The per game cost is $380 regardless of team size. We would consider 5 players in certain situations (4 students and an adult) but our testing showed us that teams larger than that had a hard time keeping things together throughout the mission. Our contact info is in the article if you'd like to book a game with us. Thanks!

Marcia Heitz
Marcia Heitz

Sounds a little scary for kids... but my husband and I would love it! How many can play?

George
George

Cool idea! Paying to be a spy for a night. Awesome!

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

Wow, this sounds pretty damned cool. If this becomes a viable business, I might just have to play next time I come to Phoenix to visit family. Great story, too, gives background on role-playing, LARPS and alot of other stuff.

Good Luck with The Citadel, I hope it works for you guys.

Gotta try this
Gotta try this

It sounds like virtual reality without all the computers. I can't wait to play this game. Sign me up.

Julie Coleman
Julie Coleman

This sounds like a totally fun night out...something definately different than dinner and a movie. My husband is such a geek, he'll love it too.

 
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