Reflecting on 2021: Successes From the Past Year

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It’s time to bid adieu to 2021. You might be happy to leave this year behind, or sad that another year has passed. But even if you’re feeling the end-of-the-year blues (or frustration at another year spent in pandemic-mode) there’s always something from the past year to be grateful for. 

Gratefulness is a way of staying present and in the moment. As much as we want to look back to the past or skip forward into the future, there are things that are happening right now that are great, and that we should notice. Being grateful has a way of bonding people together, and it is also said to increase happiness, especially when we express our gratitude to others. 

In our last blog post, we reflected on the themes that we talked about over the course of last year’s blog posts. We’re continuing that act of reflection here too, in order to look back at the moments and successes that we as a company are proud of and grateful for.

Looking over the list below, it struck me how much we actually did accomplish this year, and how much we’ve grown as a company in 2021. I think it’s a testament to the passion and dedication of our team, which we are all grateful to be a part of. 

So come join us as we look back on our greatest hits of 2021!

1. New Member: Ayaka

The first change to our team in 2021 came in February, when Ayaka joined us.  Since then she has become an invaluable member of our company, writing blog posts and Japanese content, translating, working on marketing and acting as liaison to clients. Her fun, lively and down-to-earth nature has definitely brightened our team this year. 

2.. School Tantei: Yokohama

Our first major project in 2021 was creating a scavenger hunt for a class field trip of over 300 students in Yokohama. Luckily, we had the foundation of the game thanks to our previous HSJ Yokohama events. However, the size of the group and the fact that they were students playing and not adults meant we needed to expand the scope of the game and make it more accessible.

The event was a big success for us as both a team and a company. It led to the creation of School Tantei, our program for schools that combines puzzles with learning about SDGs. It also tested our logistical capabilities and made us realize that we could plan huge events. 

Lastly, it was great for us to see in-person how much the students enjoyed the program. With everything going on, their class couldn’t do their regularly scheduled class trip. But their teachers were all very happy that we could provide them with an opportunity to laugh and grow together. It was a reminder that a lot of what we do is providing a space for people to come together and share a special experience.

3. Suitcase Mystery 2

Our Suitcase Mystery program is one of our most popular team building activities. It’s just such a good and simple concept–one suitcase that can travel anywhere, filled with puzzles–which makes it easy for teams to use and enjoy. 

For a couple of years now we had been talking about making another version, and 2021 was the year that we finally did. Creating a brand new Suitcase Mystery game presented a bit of a creative challenge though. Because we could fill the suitcase with whatever we wanted, there was no real “starting point” to draw creativity.

However, in the end we managed to come up with a good concept–a student traveling the world. From there, we were able to create unique and innovative puzzles that stayed true to the original spirit of Suitcase Mystery, while offering something new and exciting. 

Our use of different materials and props that players can touch, as well as the way we incorporated technology into the game made Suitcase Mystery a wonderful addition to our team building lineup.   

4. Nazotabi Yokohama: The Magical Journey of the Wizard’s Apprentice

As a result of our success with School Tantei (see above), we decided to release a new consumer scavenger hunt game based in Yokohama. The result was The Magical Journey of the Wizard’s Apprentice. This game used a lot of the puzzle redesigns from the large event, but grounded in an original and creative new storyline.

For this story, as well as the design, our team really let our imaginations fly. In the game, players are apprentices to a powerful wizard, who must find an evil shadow that they accidentally released and seal it back into a magic book. As they travel to each location in the game, players also encounter magical creatures and village people who help them on their quest.

What we succeeded in doing was to give players a sense of escaping into a magical and wonderful new world, one in which their sense of adventure and imagination can reign free.  

5. Making Tabitantei accessible for large groups

As soon as we pivoted to online team building in 2020, we began to see the amazing potential that it could have. Way more is possible when you’re not bounded by space requirements and having to be physically in the same room. This meant that we could put on events for teams in different countries, or even continents.

But 2021 was the year that we really began to expand the possible size of the groups that we ran events for. This year we even hosted an event for 105 people–our largest ever. It showed us that we have the capacity and ability to expand this program even more, and we hope to keep doing so in 2022 as well. 

6. New Member: Jet 

The second change to our team occurred in October, when Jet, our stack developer, joined us. Jet was pretty much thrust into the midst of things as soon as he started, since we were in the midst of developing our newest online game, Secret Agent (see below). And he’s done a phenomenal job so far–making our game design and UX infinitely better and expanding the scope and scale of our online games. Aside from that though, Jet is a great person to work with and has fit in really well on our small yet tight-knit team. 

Another interesting thing about Jet is that he lives in the Philippines, despite our company being based in Tokyo. Two years ago this kind of situation would have been nearly unthinkable, and it’s a sign of how much has changed that it’s not even an issue at all. As much as there are things that are more difficult now, there’s also so much that is more possible now too.   

7. Secret Agent: The First Mission

We end with the last major project of 2021–Secret Agent: The First Mission. I think this was the perfect culmination of so much of what we had been working on this year–challenging ourselves to be more creative with our puzzle concepts and more imaginative with our stories, expanding the reach of our online activities, and pushing the boundaries of what we could do with our designs.

With an international espionage theme and a story involving stolen artwork from a world famous museum, we were able to expand our designs and puzzle concepts and let players really feel like they were traveling around the world. 

The first team that played Secret Agent clearly had fun, which was all the validation that we needed. We felt proud that we accomplished this project, and that we were able to come together to produce something of such a high quality using all of our different talents and skills. 

Here’s to 2022…

Thank you so much for reading our blog this year, and for supporting us. Next year will be full of new projects, ideas, and creative endeavors, so there will be lots more to read about and discover in 2022. And we encourage you to think about team building in 2022 and about what your team might need in the coming year. Have a happy new year and great start to 2022!   

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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