It started out harmlessly enough--my YouTube playthrough of Mega Man 6 was running way behind schedule, and I had decided to give my anxious viewers a preview of the video I was working on. Nothing too spectacular; a little over a minute of raw footage with no commentary, but visually interesting enough to stand on its own. However, I wasn't just going to hand this over to my fans--if they were that eager to see some new material, then surely they wouldn't mind a scavenger hunt to find it.
Now, one thing that's important to understand is that a number of my viewers like to hang out on my channel, participate in ongoing conversations, and rewatch my videos with some degree of frequency. This is the kind of crowd you need to make a YouTube scavenger hunt work. I made the grand announcement that I had released an unlisted video--one you could only find if you had the video URL--and that I had scattered clues across my channel as to what the URL was.
Here it is in full:
I explained to my viewers that I had split the link into seven parts. The biggest chunk was easily visible on the main page of my channel; the rest were character pairs (letters, numbers, or symbols) hidden somewhere on the video page for six different videos, one from each Mega Man game I had worked on up to that point. By locating all the URL pieces and assembling them in order, viewers could access my top-secret bonus video. I admitted up front that it was most likely not worth the effort they'd put into finding it, but hopefully the search would be sufficiently entertaining.
I was impressed by the sportsmanship--people largely kept to themselves, and didn't ruin the surprise for anyone. There were a few pieces that people found particularly tricky to locate, but I gradually introduced more clues to point folks in the right direction. The biggest general hint I could give was to look for anything that was out of place.
Some of these were particularly devious.
In my channel profile, I provided the first part of the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
In the description of one of my Mega Man 1 videos, I uncharacteristically ended one of my professional-looking explanatory sentences with the big grinning face emoticon. This emoticon also happened to be the next part of the URL: =D
I made a big deal in one of my videos about how I avoided cluttering up my videos with comment boxes (annotations); I added a comment box to the corner of a Mega Man 2 video with the next part of the URL: 08
I snuck one of the pieces into the title of a video: "Mega Man 3 - Part h2"
One of my video descriptions for Mega Man 4 was slightly altered to discuss: A video review / walkthrough / showoff video of Mega Man 4 (NES), WIth retrospective audio commentary.
Another piece was concealed as a video search tag for one of my Mega Man 5 installments: _Q
The last piece was hidden...somewhere in the description of a Mega Man 6 video, but for the life of me I cannot remember where. Presumably at the beginning or end of a word where I could subtly tack on an extra letter to form the character pair--for example, when talking about vYamato Man. Wherever it was, I recall this being one of the easier pieces to find.
The scavenger hunt went on for a few weeks. On April 1st, with the next official video still a ways away from completion, I decided to go public with the top-secret scavenger hunt video...as an April Fools' joke.
Relatively few of my viewers had successfully located all the parts of the URL and seen the video, so this would be a perfect way to both share the secret with the masses and sucker them in with a gag at the same time. I made it the featured video on my channel, and passed it off as Part 5 (the next installment) of my Mega Man 6 run. The kicker was the video description:
After a series of major setbacks with the recording of my Mega Man 6 commentary, I was forced to either re-record the whole thing or just give up entirely. So, there's no commentary with this video.
It's been a lot of work to put together these videos, and I just don't have the time I used to, so this will probably be the last video I make. Sorry about that.
Disappointment. Tragedy. Outrage. Then the observant folks went on to read the video tags:
* not actually Part 5
* ha ha gotcha
* april fools
Laughter. Relief. Still outrage. A few people don't take kindly to April Fools' jokes. Mine was (inadvertently) extra sneaky because the video posting date wasn't April 1, but in fact March 3, making it appear that much more legit.
Still, as good a prank as I've ever pulled, not to mention the best scavenger hunt I think I've ever thrown. Things to keep in mind for the future, methinks.