This is a little different to my usual woodland posts but even woodland fairies have an inner geek lurking…
Last year an unknown enemy kidnapped the chief architect of a top secret US weapons programme – Project Architeuthis. Luckily a resourceful navy cryptologist was able to sneak onboard the enemy submarine and send back messages via social network sites to help her team locate the sub and recover the technology. These messages were sent via Twitter and Facebook in codes, ciphers and puzzles. The US Navy enlisted people to help solve her messages, locate the sub and save the world. I took on the challenge!
Thankfully none of this was real (I think!) It was all part of a US Navy online codebreaking game designed to find suitable new recruits. Thousands worldwide joined up, initially solving ciphers to discover what had happened, then puzzles of increasing difficulty to gain the coordinates of the submarine. I discovered it on day one and solved the first puzzle with ease. I decided I’d play for a while just for fun. I had no prior knowledge of codebreaking but I plodded along and managed to keep up with the others, using my trusty pad and pen, a few Google searches and just a bit of lucky guesswork. I was hooked! For eighteen days I drove my husband mad. I went into work with strings of numbers written on the back of my hand, I tapped out Morse code on my desk and my dreams were flooded with secret codes.
I had no expectations of getting to the end but figured I’d enjoy the game until it got too hard. And it did – really, really hard! The original thousands of players had dwindled to a small group, mainly men and just two other women. It was at this point I got involved in the community sharing ideas to solve the now ridiculously tricky puzzles. I teamed up with the other two ladies, both professional working mums with children the same age as mine. We had a plan to try and get at least one woman in the winners group. It spurred me on and I went into tenacious, obsessive mode. I was determined and my inner geek had definitely broken free.
I downloaded all sorts of weird software, cracked codes in different languages, learnt semaphore, Morse code and researched some bizarre things. I cursed the sneaky red herrings I’d committed hours to solving and grinned madly at each little triumph. It paid off and we finally worked out the coordinates of the enemy submarine, rescued the girl and saved the world! Wuhooo! All three of us made it into the winning ten and the prize – just the satisfaction that we did it. It felt weird when it was done, for eighteen days I had become immersed in this fantasy world and now it was over.
I kept in touch with my fellow female winners. Only they understood the exhilaration of completing it. Most people just thought I was slightly crazy (well more than usual) and my neighbour now thinks I’m a spy! I’m not by the way (or am I?)
I’d just got my inner geek firmly under control when I received a certificate, with a code on the back!
Oh no! I could feel my inner geek rubbing her hands in glee. The deciphered note reported that key enemy agents had escaped. The game was on! Last week the Project Architeuthis Facebook page changed its profile picture – Sleeper Shark was born and a new challenge is about to begin.
So if you fancy a challenge, a bit of code breaking and problem solving, let your inner geek out to come play with mine and we’ll save the world together!