Each May since 1987, the University of Chicago Scav Hunt has challenged teams of students and alumni to a sprint for points and glory, one unusual item at a time. During the coronavirus this year, organizers faced a new challenge for the distinctly UChicago tradition: adapting the four-day event to a virtual format.
“Scav is a gateway to some really incredible relationships and experiences, and I wanted as many people to be included in that as possible,” said third-year Sam Dulys, head judge of this year’s event.
With hundreds of participants and a record number of teams, this year’s hunt, dubbed “Scav 404,” fostered much-needed community in a time of social distancing. An advantage of going online was that it allowed people around the globe to participate, including a team of about 20 incoming first-year students in the College.
“In a time of isolation and uncertainty surrounding our daily routines and traditional rites of passage, we were eager to experience the camaraderie embodied within the spirit of Scav,” said incoming student Navid Mazidabadifarahani, team member of “The Prom Redeemers.” “For about a week, in the middle of AP exams, we suspended our concerns surrounding high school and dove headfirst into the UChicago community.”
At midnight last Wednesday, judges released a link on Twitch, which led teams to a series of hidden clues and five puzzles, that once solved, revealed a list of over 130 items. Among the bizarre items this year: “A dad joke captured in the wild, directly from the man himself” (0.3 points per unique father figure, 9 points max) to a DIY-haircut using a “fancy bowl with an uneven, artistic rim” (8 points).
One highlight was a live, single-elimination tournament where competitors assumed the rhetorical style and fashion sense of Socrates to debate questions such as “When is it OK to take an empty seat you didn’t pay for at a sporting event?” and “Do you need to tell a seller when they’ve undervalued an item at a yard sale?”
“I doubt there will ever be an event that is a better fit for me,” said third-year Anna Stoneman, who won the tournament for the Snell-Hitchcock team. “While philosophy debates are truly a staple of campus culture, they certainly don't often happen while toga-clad before an audience spread across the country. This event in particular, as well as Scav as a whole, very much captures what I love the most about the University of Chicago: the people, and the brilliant and engaging culture that they create.”