I blame Misha.
At least that’s what I think I’m supposed to say. I’m new to this GISH thing.
Actually, I blame Robbie Thompson and Felicia Day for luring me into this GISH thing. I saw a tweet saying that Robbie had devised a game for Felicia and other Supernatural cast members to play online as a charitable fundraiser to feed children who had lost their school meals because of CoVid closings. All I had to do to watch this epic battle of gaming nerds was pay $15 to join a mini-GISH scavenger hunt – a one day version of the larger, one week insanity that takes place every August. The game was part of the festivities included with my registration. I like scavenger hunts, I thought to myself. It’s only one day. I can set aside $15 and a few hours to see this game. Besides, I could use a little fun in my life right now.
Famous last words.
Challenge #1: Register
So I joined GISH for the first time ever. As usual, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
The registration was simple enough. Click a link, push a button and follow the prompts. I chose to play “just for fun” as opposed to “in it to win it.” The last thing I needed in my busy life was competitive pressure to do hugely uninhibited things that are wildly out of character for me. The GISH website said I didn’t have to do anything else after paying my $15. They would automatically assign me to a team with other people who only wanted to have fun. It did strongly recommend, however, that I download the GISH app. Great. Another app on my phone. Why does everything need an app??
So I downloaded the app, sat back and waited for GISH day, Saturday, May 30.
I was a bit apprehensive the night before, wondering what the next day would bring, but I kept telling myself that it was good to get outside your comfort zone once in a while. This is supposed to be fun, I reminded myself. I am doing a good thing to help with CoVid relief I said, along with all the rest of the platitudes you repeat to yourself to justify why you’re nervous about doing a new thing when you could have minded your own business and gone about your normal daily routines in a calm and predictable manner.
Challenge #2: Find GISH (i.e. find where I’m supposed to be to do this thing called GISH)
Mercifully, Saturday morning finally arrived. The hunt was to start at 12pmC with an opening ceremony led by Misha. Originally, I understood that the Ackles and Collins families were going to kick-off the fun at noon with a Lego building contest, virtually leading participants in the first scavenger activity. I had a mild anxiety attack trying to figure out how I was supposed to watch the opening ceremony at the same time Jensen, Danneel and a cadre of kids created building-block masterpieces! Maybe I misunderstood the start times? Turn on the PC and check everything again, Nightsky. My inner dialog was running rampant as I tried to navigate through entirely unknown waters. I didn’t know where “GISH” was, or even what it was I was looking for! What does the GISH website say? Wait, check Twitter! GISH and Misha might have posted updates! How about the app on my phone? Is that where all this takes place??
So I launched the app in search of the promised opening ceremony - and was immediately bombarded with direct messages! It turns out the captain of my GISH team had introduced herself 3 days ago. How was that possible? I didn’t even know teams had been assigned 3 days ago! Surprise #1: It turns out the GISH app has a messaging feature, and she had reached out to take roll call. She was in Russia so there was a significant time zone disparity with me and a few others on our team but could we all chime in so she could assess who all was present and accounted for. One person volunteered that he/she was from Finland (we all used screen names so gender remains unknown). I said I was from Chicago and that this was my first GISH. It was the first GISH for all of them too – including the captain. Well, that’s not reassuring. I was hoping to be guided on this adventure by experienced veterans! And my team is all over the world! I didn’t expect that! I guess I really hadn’t comprehended how far this hunt extended. 15 people had been assigned to our team but less than half of that number showed up. So we're playing at a disadvantage. Hmmm, it's going to be hard to rack up points with a smaller team.
Somewhere in my bouncing back and forth between platforms, I found that the Lego party was at 1pm, and my new teammates confirmed that the opening was at noon (after several messages relaying their local time in military hours, which I had to convert to my time by counting on my fingers). That’s a relief. At least I’ll have time to orient myself to the hunt before the first activity. But where is the @#$% kick-off live event? It is getting perilously close to noon! Quick, get back to the website and login with your impossible-to-type password (which I got wrong repeatedly because I was nervous). Why did I pick a password with characters that require two handed coordinated typing? So much pressure! I didn’t know I would be in a hurry to log in before the countdown timer hit 0:00:00!
Phew – finally got logged into the website… but why is this page blank? Nothing’s happening! Is something supposed to be happening? Am I the only idiot who doesn’t know how to log into this kick-off? The app is open on my phone and the website is up on my computer but nothing is happening on either one! Quick, start up the iPad! I always have luck with the iPad! Now I have 3 devices running (two on my desk and one on my lap) to try to participate in some kind of orientation that I hope will tell me what to do next.
Yay, the website has a link that will take me directly to the opening ceremony page! I like being dragged and dropped into the right place!
Sure enough, I clicked the link and the page that was sitting dormant on my PC was now playing a goofy, annoying song about vegetables on my iPad. Well, at least that’s progress!
Wait. Is the opening ceremony on Zoom?? Does that mean the video will be on and everyone will be able to see me?? "Honey (and resident tech support Zoom expert), come here please! How do I watch a mass video without being watched myself? WHY IS MY PC CAMERA LIT??? IS MY CAMERA ON??”
After getting one of those “This was your crazy idea” looks from my husband, I decided to just cover my camera aperture with my thumb for the entire broadcast. Problem solved.
An insufferable number of repetitious verses about vegetables later, Misha finally appeared on my iPad (my PC was still blank). OK, relax. You’re in the right place.
Find the hunt. Check. Second challenge of GISH accomplished successfully.
During the orientation, I heard/read (I don’t remember which) Surprise #2: “One day” meant 24 hours. The hunt would run from 1P on Saturday to 1P on Sunday. Well, that wasn’t in my weekend schedule!
Surprise #3: Because of the very serious civil unrest that had erupted in the United States, all of the scheduled Zoom activities, including the instigating Robbie/Felicia/SPNCast game, had been cancelled. In their place, the GISH team worked through the night to recraft the hunt to be more respectful of the tragedy that we all witnessed through every news outlet imaginable. The Ackles/Collins cooperative game had been replaced with a serious conversation with four civil rights activists to explain and discuss racial tension and the current civil rights movement that had suddenly emerged in every city from coast to coast. GISH activities had been reworked to focus our charitable good deeds to advance racial equality and justice, in addition to the still critical but now secondary CoVid crisis. A crisis on top of a crisis. Misha takes a lot of weight upon his shoulders.
Misha’s introduction took exactly the right tone. He was conflicted. He thought of cancelling the hunt because it seemed wrong to play games when we were likely in a historical moment of change in our culture. He watched social media’s outrage and disturbing videos on repeat all day Friday. If he gave into the despair and rage he was feeling, and threw his attention and support to the protests, what about the kids who were going hungry? In the end, they decided to retrofit GISH to help both causes.
Truthfully, my first reaction was conflicted as well. Um, I signed up for a mental health recharge from the fear and tension of CoVid. I’m not sure I’m up for hearing another heartbreaking situation that is overtaking my nation that I’m more or less helpless to remedy. I truly gave thoughtful consideration to backing out so as to not emotionally absorb more outrage and conflict. My “fun” day had come to a screeching halt, or so I thought. In the end, though, I decided to believe in the GISH process that I had heard for years is empowering and effective. I’ve come this far. I might as well stick it out. The cause is worth it. Something important is happening and Misha is giving you a change to understand it better. Suit up.
Challenge #3: Find, Pick and DO Scavenger Hunt “Things”
Having mastered the technical challenge of hearing Misha’s opening address, the hunt had officially begun. With the promise that the list of activities would be posted as soon as he finished, Misha sent us on our way with some inspiring words and good luck wishes. Reading the comments on Zoom, I guess I was one of the lucky ones who actually saw his motivational speech. Surprise #4: The Zoom ceremony maxed out at 5000 viewers so many people couldn’t log in. There are over 5000 people from all over the world participating in this thing! That’s why the “24 hours” extends overnight. It’s daytime for the other half of the world. I truly had not comprehended the extent or size of this hunt! I was also grateful that I had gotten lucky enough to get into the ceremony. That’s all I would have needed! At least my 3 device attack got me a ticket in! Now where is this all-important list??
Frantic that I was already behind in “hunting,” I searched for the list which Misha promised was waiting for us. There was a little icon on the app that looked like a to-do list but hitting that image only brought up a GISH logo and an otherwise blank screen. Switch to the website (on my PC)! Maybe it’s there! I hit every available tab. No list.
People on my iPad’s Zoom call (the page was still open on my iPad) were commenting that they had the list. Freak out! Where is the list? So I started DMing my team (on the app on my phone). One person reassured me, saying the app was slow right now, and they didn’t have the list either. This is seriously hitting my panic button, people! The clock is ticking! I’m supposed to be doing something!!
At one point in my technical ping-pong between devices, I finally found the list. It was under “Hunt” on the website but I had looked there before with no luck. I had continuously refreshed the page, and I guess one of those times produced the desired results. The trick was to scroll down past two pages of disclaimers and instructions to get to the list! I truly would have appreciated a BIG arrow and the words “LIST HERE” but that’s just me. I found out later that technical difficulties kept the list from being uploaded on time. Why others were able to find it before me is still a mystery.
I guess my team captain found the list about the same time as me because she started copying and pasting the “Hunt” page for us into DMs, beginning with pages upon pages of tiny phone screens of instructions. Then she started typing the items into our DM conversation. “#1 blah, blah, blah, blah. #2 blah, blah… you get the idea. By now I was reading the list on my PC as fast as I could, frantically searching for anything I would be capable of doing (because I was completely convinced that the GISH list would be comprised of only weird things that I simply couldn't/wouldn't do). When I saw that she was copying and pasting the list for us, I scrolled down on my PC to find out how many “items” there were in total. Over 100 tasks! Holy cow! I have to read through 100 tasks! Our team captain got to #6 before she gave up on her well-meaning but hopeless transcription efforts.
I guess everyone had found the list by then because suddenly teammates were messaging their choices. “I’ll take #x!” “Okay, then I’ll grab #y!” And so on. Read faster, Nightsky, or all the easy ones will be taken! This is so stressful!
At one point, I noticed there was an “Assign to” button on each task. Maybe if I give tasks to myself I can officially grab a few that I can do? My teammates must have started to figure this out too because the messages stopped and names started appearing in tasks.
My team’s enlightenment generated simultaneous panic and relief in me – panic that I’d be left with no way to reasonably contribute to the team, but relief when I saw that my peers were volunteering for things that there was NO WAY I would ever do! Some were technical mysteries to me, such as “Show household chores getting magically done (i.e. by themselves), in reverse (e.g. clean things getting dirty), without reversing the video. I wouldn’t know how to do any part of that task, so hooray for that teammate! Other tasks were hemispheres away from my comfort zone, such as create (and model?) a bikini made entirely out of old machinery (It may have said metal parts or something akin. I didn’t memorize the wording as just envisioning what people would come up with for the bra part of the bikini was making me blush). Still other challenges were things I just didn’t have the raw materials to get done, such as showing how a Storm Trooper passes his/her time in CoVid isolation. The imagination that went into creating these scavenger hunt items was really impressive!
Remember that originally the hunt was created to entertain people in CoVid quarantine, and to help children displaced from school, so many of the tasks were about being at home, while others were for parents and children being together non-stop in close quarters. Consequently, this GISH included a few dozen tasks for “the young or young at heart” to do together with their parents. I skipped over this subset of tasks as I wanted to leave them for my team members who specifically said they were doing the hunt with their kids.
Finally, I saw a task that I thought was in my wheelhouse: “Show us a superhero helping out at home.” I shared it with my husband (as a high school and college theater performer, he is much better at pretending than I am) who noted that it also said something about “or helping front line workers deal with CoVid.” We're both fans of all kinds of superheroes, so we have a 2 foot statue of Superman in our den. We also have an extensive supply of medical equipment in the house, so hubbie came up with a scenario and helped me stage Superman taking my blood pressure! We took dozens of pictures to get it just right, and posted it to the hunt! Set off the fireworks! I posted my first GISH task!
While I was playing set decorator, patient and photographer, my teammates had an extensive DM thread going about changing how we communicated. They were finding the app cumbersome and wanted to start a group chat on Facebook. The problem was that none of us knew anyone else’s real names. Really? I just got settled into the GISH website for the hunt tasks, and the app for the team! You want to add another platform to all this?? Someone took the lead and offered their Facebook name so we could all identify ourselves to him/her and he/she could add us to a group chat. Have you guessed it? Of course, I couldn’t find them on Facebook. There are a dozen people on here with your name! What does your profile ID look like? These icon images are all too small! I can’t see if any of these people are holding ice cream! You say you’re with a girl? What age girl? What is your location? Maybe I can eliminate all the other choices by location! To further confuse the matter, no one was answering my DM’s. I kept asking more and more questions, getting increasingly panicked that I was yet again going to miss everything because of technical difficulties, but no one was helping me. Them I received the “Panic Now” message: “Is anyone else going to join us? I have everyone who expressed interest added to the chat.” Wait! I’m trying to get on! Why aren’t you answering me?
All this time I was ever mindful of the clock. The task of listening to the Misha/Jensen/Danneel conversation with the activists was soon, or so I thought (Misha and his organizers had different opinions as to when the livestream would take place). After we finished our Superman EMT project, I checked the website for a link to the Zoom conference. I then learned that the conversation was going to be much later than I expected so I decided to stop GISHing for a few hours to take care of some family responsibilities. This intermission granted me my first insight into my psyche: I’m feeling terribly guilty for taking time to help out family instead of generating points for my team. I committed myself to be available for 1 day for this. Yet when I cut my family visit short to make it back in time for the racial discrimination panel, I found myself thinking, I feel terribly guilty that I stopped actually helping someone to listen to an educational panel on how I might theoretically help my community. Aren’t daily, routine responsibilities just as heroic as altruistic activism? What a Catch-22. I had a lot of fun creating the Superman photo-op, but this mental conflict between my family and fandom roles was no fun at all.
I successfully joined the civil rights panel discussion in time, and have to admit that I learned quite a bit. It was sobering but I felt honored to hear from such prominent leaders that Misha had gathered for us. They ended on hopeful words so it was more uplifting than I had imagined.
Challenge #4: Be a Valued Member of the Team
Watching the video was listed as one of the hunt items, so teams could earn 20 points for every person who posted a picture of themselves watching the livestream. Before the panel started, I had returned to the GISH app and DM’d my teammates: I will watch the video. I can get my required picture as proof, but I’m not sure how to create the collage of everyone on our team who participates. Is anyone else going to watch? Can anyone else create the team grid so we get extra points? No reply before or after the panel. Huh, I guess no one else is interested? So I logged into the hunt page on my PC, found the task, assigned it to myself, and uploaded my picture. 20 points. Check. Two tasks done.
That’s not enough. I have to find other things to do. I’m sure everyone else will do more than two tasks!
I found another task that appealed to me a great deal. Buy a children’s book from a list of recommended titles and donate it to a local school library. The chosen books were noted for being diverse, introducing children to diversity, or helping children understand why they were “different” from others. I looked up the description and ratings of each and every recommended book on Amazon, made my choice, indicated that it was a gift to my children’s former school, then uploaded a screenprint of my order to the GISH website. Check. A third task done.
But I still didn’t know if I had done enough to be considered a “good” teammate. How many tasks does each team member normally do? How many points does each person generate for their team? Have I done enough yet? So I DM’d my teammates with questions about the tasks. Then I DM’s them again about the panel. Then I DM’d them about what they would be doing. Over and over again, I asked questions that surely someone would be able to answer for me, but I got radio silence. I was being ghosted. What is happening? Why isn’t anyone answering? I bet they are all over on the Facebook chat, that I can’t find, and are all working together without me.
Cue my second psyche introspection for the hunt: Flashback to grade school when I was left out of the “cool group” and had to play on my own. All those old feelings of rejection and exclusion came flooding back to me. Ugh. Haven’t I gotten over that yet? Are you kidding me with this? You feel like the kid who wasn't invited to the "cool kid's" birthday party! Get a grip!
Unable to “team” with anyone, I decided to look for at least one more task that I could do myself before going to bed. Something that would redeem my sense of self-worth. I didn’t really find anything that spoke to me. Yes, I suppose I could have written a haiku but someone had already finished that task. Good. It sounded hard and reminds me too much of English class. I don’t need any more reminders of school! In fiddling around with the list, I saw that I could sort the tasks by team member so I decided to take one last look at everything for which I had volunteered to see what else I might do.
That’s when the final blow of the day sucker punched me: My task of watching the panel didn’t show up in my “list.” It was no longer “assigned” to me. I searched for the task and found that the picture I had taken of myself watching the civil rights panel had been replaced by a grid of 6 other team members watching the conference, and my name had been replaced as the person who accomplished the task.
My stomach dropped. All that mental anguish I had put myself through to leave my family member and get back in time to watch the panel so that I could do something useful for this team had been erased. I had been left out of the organized watch party somehow. I was reduced to just two accomplished tasks, and I was utterly isolated from the team. I DM’d the team member who stole my task, pleading to add my picture to the grid. It meant another 20 points for the team, I explained. It also meant that my efforts would mean something, but I didn't say that to him/her. No reply.
Defeated, I turned off my phone and went to bed.
And I laid there. Upset, frustrated, confused, angry – you name it, I felt it, and it was keeping me awake.
Darn it! I turned my phone back on and opened the app. I had to find something else to do for points! Surprise #5: When the app opened, my DM board exploded with messages. Answers to all my prior questions. A reply from the person who made the Zoom conference picture grid. Replies about the Facebook chat. Everything! The person apologized profusely for clobbering my work. He/she hadn’t understood how this worked and had in good faith added her picture thinking it would add to mine? Or he/she didn’t see my pic? I don’t know. Anyway, they would be happy to add my pic to the grid if I would email it to them. So at 1am, I orchestrated (from bed, in the dark, on my phone) sending my pic to this new email account. It was all a misunderstanding. They love me after all (remember Sally Field?)! Now I could sleep peacefully. I was a member of the team again.
Challenge #5: Have Fun
The next morning I awoke with the consoling thought that the hunt would only be open until 1pm my time. Only a few hours to go and all this pressure and mental angst will be over! I now felt much better about my teammates, and I had learned that I could communicate with them as long as I turned my phone off and on repeatedly to refresh the app (or close and relaunch the app as I figured out much later in the day), so my spirits were lifted. I logged onto the site to search for maybe one more thing that I could do in the short time that was left.
Surprise #6: The hunt had been extended until 3pm my time to make up for all the technical difficulties everyone had experienced the day before. UGH! They're not letting me off the hook! Here's where I got my next insight into my psyche. I was being really competitive! It didn't matter that I had signed up "for the fun of it." I wanted to generate as many points as I possibly could. I'm not usually a competitive person. I have no idea why generating points was so important to me, but it was. As long as the hunt was open, I had to find more tasks to do.
Something odd happened then. Remember those “young at heart” challenges? Well, only one or two of them had been done yesterday by the team member with the young child. Wait, if they don’t need them as family activities, maybe I can do these easier tasks? I’m up to the challenge to do some of these items! So I gave myself permission to be "young at heart." I reasoned that Misha would approve of me not taking myself (or the hunt) so seriously, so I assigned myself the task of creating a rainbow with a sprinkler hose (cue the husband who is also a scientist and loves doing science experiments). Success! Done, photographed and uploaded!
Stage a glamorous magazine photo shoot with a stuffed animal? Easy! Done, photographed and uploaded!
(that's a King Crowley crown from a Supernatural convention)
Talk to your child about a family heirloom in your home? Absolutely! So I discussed with my adult daughter a photo album we had just created of turn of the century family portraits. Done, photographed and uploaded! I was on a roll! With my newly galvanized confidence, I ventured back into the adult tasks and found, “create a black out poem that describes a more ideal world.” Old magazine and black marker in hand, I created a masterpiece (if I do say so myself) about nature! Done, photographed and uploaded!
Hey, this was fun! I noted a teammate’s (the technical guru guy) task image hadn’t loaded properly so I DM’d the guy, closed/reopened my app and, voila! He replied! We were working together again! Now I was getting bold, and there was still time for one more task. This one was really bizarre – video interview a friend’s pet for a job position within your household (quarantine, remember?). So I called my sister who has two dogs and interviewed her Jack Terrier on Zoom for the position of security guard of my family. The video is hilarious! I actually did a crazy thing and got points for it!
Misha’s closing ceremony was taking place at 1pm (I guess they couldn’t reschedule it for the new ending hunt time) but I knew how to find it this time. I turned on my iPad (yeah, my PC still had a blank page where the Zoom conference should have been) and watched/listened to GISHers show off their projects while I did my Sunday Yoga routine. I’m multi-tasking now! I got this! Their tasks were all so much more complex than my tasks, and their projects were cute and imaginative, but hey, I was proud of my Superman Medic and my Nature Poem! I had donated a children’s book to a school and completed probably the most complex science experiment of my life with my back yard rainbow (I’m an engineer and a writer. I hated school science fairs!), plus I’m really proud (!!!) of my interview video because it was crazy, pointless, absolutely outside my comfort zone, and so much fun!
When it was all over, I felt immense relief, but also accomplishment. I had completed 6 tasks. I wrote down how many points I generated for the team, but I can’t find that piece of scrap paper. I think I threw it out expecting to be able to look in the hunt list at any time and beam about my projects. Surprise #7: the hunt list is taken down when the hunt is over. There is no record of my harrowing 24 hours. Maybe that’s for the best. No good ever comes from hanging onto things too long.
Would I do this again? Absolutely. I learned a lot from that web cast, and I ultimately followed on social media the civil rights leaders with whom I most identified. That one hour racial justice panel updated my perspective of the issues. I had a lot of fun on the second day, once all the beginner jitters had passed and I figured out how to end-around the app glitches. I later read in a website comment “App glitches are just part of GISH. You come to expect them!” Now I know. It’s not me. I may be challenged by technology, mysteriously competitive for points, creative (to a point), and still have childhood insecurity issues lingering, but I'm also now a valued member of a GISH team. I did some good for the world last weekend, learned a few things about myself, stepped outside my comfort zone and participated in yet one more thing with the Supernatural fandom. Next time it will be much easier.
I'm fairly certain I'm not up for the week long hunt, though. 24 hours is about all the fun I can handle. And I still blame Misha, but I’m guessing he’s okay with that. As of June 4, his little 1-day scavenger hunt raised $178,000 (and the amount was still growing) for NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and we donated over 515,000 meals for children experiencing hardship due to the CoVid-related school closures. Not bad for 24 hours. We did something worthwhile.
And… I never got to see Robbie, Felicia and SPN Cast members play their online game. What do you bet that they use that as bait to get me to sign up again for some future 1 day hunt?
Oh, well. I’m in. I’m a GISHer now.
P.S. Surprise #7: I signed up for GISH in 2018? I don't remember doing that. I know I never did a hunt before. I also have no idea how I earned 500 points. I had 1 point when the hunt began. I'm guessing they were awarded just for participating? I also have no idea how many points my team earned. Maybe those aren't posted? So all that competitive pressure I put on myself was for nothing? Like I said, now I know. Live and learn.
I'd love to hear your GISH stories! Also, please enlighten me with answers for all the mysteries I still haven't solved! Please comment below!
GISH promotional pictures are from the GISH website.
Here is Misha's introduction and link to the Racial Inequality and Injustice Panel. It's worth your time if you wish to learn more about what's happening in the US (and around the world) right now.
Yesterday, we posed questions to four black activists (@RealDarylDavis, @Deborah_Rev, @baratunde, & @brionajenkins) in a livestream. The conversation was profound and illuminating. It’s long, but it’s worth it. Please watch. @JensenAckles @DanneelHarris https://t.co/FZEpfGUx5C— Misha Collins (@mishacollins) May 31, 2020
Misha fans, don't miss Breathtaking Photos of Misha Collins, a collection assembled by Nightsky and Kim Prior of outstanding Misha photos from professional and fan photographers!
Read more of Nightsky's articles by going to WFB's Writer´s Page!
Read More Stories of the fun side of Supernatural and the #SPNFamily! They can all be found in WFB's "Lighter Side" articles!