ObieGame: Oberlin’s Most Puzzling Tradition


Courtesy of Renée Geyer

In the 19-year running Oberlin institution ObieGame, players connect through solving puzzles and planners grow closer writing riddles and stories.

For such a wildly popular event, ObieGame remains shrouded in an air of mystery. With this year’s version underway, the two-week alternate reality game melds brainteasers and a treasure hunt into an interactive story, attracting over 300 participants a year. The mission is simple: “Follow the clues. Solve the puzzle. Save the world.” 

In past games, players have faced off with evil corporations, the Illuminati, demons, rogue artificial intelligence, and more. I’m not at liberty to divulge much about this year’s plot, but I can say that players recently began investigating an online forum tied to dark secrets. 

Each edition of ObieGame is made possible by a team of roughly 15 volunteer planners. Meeting in secret, they work together to orchestrate the riddles, events, and acting that make each story come to life. According to College third-year and ObieGame planner Ava Simon, the group works year-round to make the event possible. 

When Oberlin’s campus abruptly shut down in March 2020, ObieGame coordinators creatively reimagined the tradition. In a record-smashing two weeks, the group wrote a new story and restructured the game for online play. Then that summer, they made a groundbreaking decision — for the first time in its history, the game would take place in both the fall and spring semesters. This plan gave nearly every student the chance to take part on campus. Even though all puzzles can be completed remotely this year, organizers believe that on-campus participation is offering players a richer experience. 

To say that people take ObieGame seriously would be an understatement, though this intensity is all in good fun. Teams take part in heated negotiations, offering up one bit of information in exchange for another. Others will resort to sneakier tactics — some players craft fake clues and unsolvable puzzles to throw off opponents. According to College third-year and planner Carl Hausman, such red herrings are an ObieGame staple. 

“At this point, it’s practically tradition for at least one team to lay out some kind of a false trail for other unwitting teams to follow,” Hausman wrote in an email to the Review

ObieGame has come a long way since its inception in 2004. The game’s first iteration was more or less a trail of puzzles with a loose spy theme. Since then, ObieGame has transformed into a vibrant ARG experience, each year offering a new, interactive story. The game’s creator, Aaron “Mooch” Mucciolo, OC ’02, is thrilled to see the strides ObieGame has made and the evolution of its legacy. 

“When I roped a friend into helping me write some bad rhymes in spring 2004, I did not foresee a 19th iteration,” Mucciolo wrote in an email to the Review. “I am truly, truly delighted and just a bit awed by that number.”

The community among ObieGame planners and players is remarkably tight-knit. Mucciolo was involved in ObieGame for over a decade, devising puzzles and training others in the art of game planning. Organizers and players alike treasure the relationships they’ve built through ObieGame. College fourth-year Renée Geyer, who first played as part of an eight-person team, remains close with several individuals from that group. 

“Some of my strongest friendships I’ve made in college were solidified in intense puzzle-solving sessions spring semester freshman year,” Geyer wrote in an email to the Review

Just as players connect through solving puzzles, organizers grow closer writing riddles and stories. College fourth-year Jacqueline Steel, a game planner for the last three years, has enjoyed contributing to the team’s collective imagination. 

“It’s really just fun to create a story with people and get to see it come to life,” Steel said. “The collaborative nature of it is definitely one of my favorite things about ObieGame.” 

College first-year Ale Jorge, a new member of the planning team, echoed this sentiment. 

“I love writing fiction, and ObieGame is a story unlike any other,” Jorge wrote in an email to the Review. “To be a part of writing and telling its story has been so fun and fulfilling, and I’m so happy to be a part of the team for that reason.”

After pouring months into planning, organizers are eager to see students’ reactions as the plot unfolds. College third-year and planner Mistral Newman encourages players, both current and prospective, to be playful with the elaborate story that planners have created. 

“If you engage more with the world we’ve built, most of the time you’ll get more out of it,” Newman wrote in an email to the Review. “We love people interacting with our characters and making content related to the world of the game. Sometimes, we’ll even change parts of the game in response to what we’ve seen our players do.”

After a long day of work or school, being able to enjoy the company of friends is always important. ObieGame provides a whole new realm for you to experience together. So why not take a break from real-world drudgery? You never know what quests await you. 

“Play is important; it keeps us from getting too down on ourselves and the heavy things happening in our lives,” Mucciolo wrote. “Oberlin students deserve a little break from changing the real world to spend time having fun saving a fictional one.”

If you were hoping to play ObieGame this semester, I’m afraid you’re too late. But keep your eyes peeled… you never know when disaster will strike again. To learn more about the event, including past storylines and winners, check out the ObieGame site.