A scavenger hunt is a party game in which the organizers prepare a list defining specific items, which the participants seek to gather or complete all items on the list, usually without purchasing them. Usually participants work in small teams, although the rules may allow individuals to participate. The goal is to be the first to complete the list or to complete the most items on the list.
In variations of the game, players take photographs of listed items or be challenged to complete the tasks on the list in the most creative manner. A scavenger hunt is distinguished from a treasure hunt, in that the latter involves one or a few items that are desirable and completed in sequence, while a scavenger hunt primarily collects undesirable or useless objects in random order.
According to game scholar Markus Montola, scavenger hunts evolved from ancient folk games. Gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell popularized scavenger hunts in the United States with a series of exclusive New York parties starting in the early 1930s. The scavenger-hunt craze among New York's elite was satirized in the 1936 film My Man Godfrey, where one of the items socialite players are trying to collect is a "Forgotten Man", a homeless person.
Scavenger hunts are regularly held at American universities, a notable modern example being the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt, founded in 1987. The town of Provo in Utah currently holds the Guinness World Record for organizing the world's largest scavenger hunt with 2,079 participants.
Internet scavenger hunts invite participants to visit different websites to find clues and solve puzzles, sometimes for a prize. The first internet hunt was developed in 1992 by Rick Gates to encourage people to explore the resources available online. Several feature films and television series have used online scavenger hunts as viral marketing, including The Da Vinci Code and the Sci-Fi Channel's series The Lost Room. Actor Misha Collins currently holds the Guinness World Record for organizing GISHWHES, the world's largest media scavenger hunt which included 14,580 participants in 972 teams from 90 countries as participants.
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