At the end of January, Anders Svensson will hide a treasure chest somewhere in Calgary. Starting February 1, members of Treasure League will receive clues guiding them to the box – the first to find it gets $500.
Svensson, a freelance writer and creative consultant, is producing the treasure hunt through his creative studio, Jetpack, and putting up the prize money out of his own pocket. He describes Treasure League as a game in which the entire city is the game board. “You’re challenging the city to a game of wits and each other to a race,” he says.
The treasure chest (an actual custom-designed chest made of wood and metal) will be re-hidden each month and the hunt will start again. For a $10 fee, Calgarians can sign up for a month of play and the chance to find the prize. Each month has its own theme, and the clues – which could be anything from messages and video clips to riddles and sound files – will fit the theme.
Svensson created his first treasure hunt in October 2013 as part of a marketing campaign to help launch a website. The search lasted 17 days before the prize was uncovered by a couple who used the cash to pay down their student loans. Svensson describes it as “feel-good” experience, and also an education. He’s been mulling over the lessons he learned ever since.
“I made it too easy. I don’t think it lasted nearly long enough, which was disappointing,” Svensson says. He says Treasure League improves on that first attempt, and represents the culmination of everything he’s learned at every job he’s held. While he hopes membership fees will cover the monthly prize money, Svensson isn’t interested in making a profit – he’s in it for the creative challenge. If memberships increase, he’ll simply make the prize bigger.
Svensson says the Treasure League is in the same spirit as friendly competitions like pub trivia nights and increasingly popular group activities like axe throwing and escape rooms – but it has more entertainment value. “Treasure League is cheaper than an escape room and it can last 1,000 times longer,” Svensson says. “I did the math.”