June Smith an actor for the Go Game

The author in character for a Go Game. PHOTO: KEANA PARKER


A new cell phone scavenger hunt on steroids can get retirees out and about—while paying them for their role in team-building


“Men do not quit playing because they grow old—they grow old because they quit playing,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes. He was onto something.

While it’s true that retirement affords time to enjoy the games of golf, shuffleboard and Sudoku, it doesn’t have to end there. How about trying a fun activity acting as a “secret agent plant” for the Go Game? This innovative San Francisco company, established by co-founders Ian Fraser and Finnegan Kelly, conducts team-building games for employees of corporate clients. To accomplish this, Go Game producers hire people like you and me to assist as “plants.” These exercises are often held during the day, an ideal time for retirees, and the pay ranges from $75–$125.

I heard about the Go Game from a friend who was hired as a plant in a team-building exercise for 250 employees of Apple, Inc. at Seascape Resort in Aptos. More plants were needed, so I accepted her invitation to register and was excited to be hired. About 20 of us were posted around the vast resort waiting for teams to search us out, and employees were provided with cell phones carrying instructions for their “missions.” Teams are told, “At any time, anyone could be part of the action. That guy playing the double bass, the distraught bride, and the guy running around dressed as a superhero? We put them there. Or did we?” Each plant is given a different roll, and mine was to judge Apple-themed haiku poetry while staked out at a wooden bridge. I enjoyed several exceptionally clever presentations, gave out a code to enter into players’ phones, and then sent them on to their next stop.


Assignments vary. For Driscoll’s employees, I was stationed at a Pacific Avenue coffee shop looking sad and bored. Teams had to spot me, identify themselves with special dialogue, and then try to cheer me up with a joke. (The funny part was that even though I was alone and looking sad, I was the last person they approached!) The highest pay I received was for Cloudflare, Inc.’s game at Chaminade Resort for 330 employees. Conference manager Kelsey Kulbarsh said space on the grounds, plus one night’s lodging was reserved; the highest number of visitors they have accommodated. It was the most difficult mission I’ve worked on, with teams having to solve a puzzle involving musical notes; however, I was fortunate to be stationed with a partner who had musical knowledge.

My favorite acting role was for Adobe Systems. I was one of the two plants hired, and game producer Fraser cast our roles wisely. Allee B., an attractive young woman, was to hang out in Rosie McCann’s bar to judge the team’s pick-up lines. I played a snooty art critic having tea in Lulu Carpenter’s. Moments ahead, my teams had to find a random piece of art (a twig, a takeout container) to try and sell to me. I was nervous and excited beforehand, so I consulted an art conservator pal for buzzwords, and my actress niece Hayley for snooty lines. My favorite was, “I guess I could buy this piece and place it next to my least favorite Picasso.”


Fraser and Kelly have worked diligently to make their dream company become a reality. Fraser says, “Corporate groups from Silicon Valley come to Santa Cruz because it feels like a real trip. They cross the mountains and arrive in a totally different place both physically and culturally, yet it’s only 45 minutes from the office. Go Game is the fun part of their meetings.” As Plato put it, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

For folks willing to travel, games take place all over the Bay Area. Michael Riley of San Jose agrees that it’s a great chance for seniors to get out and have some fun.

“I’m 59,” he says, “and one of the reasons I enjoy it is seeing the younger generations work together to problem solve.”

For my latest game, I played a basketball coach at the Boardwalk for Palo Alto Networks. This may sound like a stretch, but I remembered the Go Game mantra: “Above all, make sure the teams have fun!”

After all, when I get old, I don’t want people saying, “What a sweet little old lady.” I want them saying, “‘Oh, crap! What’s she up to now?’”



To take part as a plant, register with


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  • June M. Smith

    Another part of Go Game’s team building is known as the Bike Build. We did that with Adobe after our first missions were completed. The teams assembled bikes for low income kids at The Boy’s and Girl’s Club. What a great concept that is!