Tag Archives: scuba games

Underwater Marco Polo Proves Popular On Blacktip Island Reefs

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An underwater Marco Polo player (right) spins to avoid being tagged by the ‘it’ player Thursday beneath an Eagle Ray Divers dive boat on Blacktip Island. (photo courtesy of davidhv22)

In an effort to attract more non-divers to scuba, the Blacktip Island Chamber of Commerce this week started underwater sessions of the popular children’s pool game Marco Polo for adults on the Caribbean island’s reefs.

“The inspiration was seeing kids in the pool playing Marco Polo with masks and snorkels,” chamber president Kay Valve said. “There’s lots of non-diving spouses and significant others who don’t dive because they think it’s boring.

“This is the next logical step, and shows people there’s more to do on the dives than just look at fish,” Valve said. “Whoever’s ‘it’ wears a blacked-out mask and shouts ‘Marco’ through their regulator, then all the others shout ‘Polo’ back. You can hear quite clearly underwater.”

Island dive operations have noted an uptick in certification requests.

“We’re slammed certifying people so they can play reef-tag,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “I don’t get it, but the guests are goofy for it and come back smiling, so it’s all good.”

Participants agreed.

“If I’d known how fun this would be, I’d’ve gotten certified years ago,” Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort guest Earnestine Bass said. “It’s like being a kid again, but not cooped up in some backyard pool.”

Organizers have also created a surface-based version for snorkelers.

“Kids under 10 and anyone else who just doesn’t want to scuba can still have a great time,” Valve said. “We also modified the basic rules for underwater and surface players.

“For divers, there’s a ‘fish out of water’ rule for anyone who climbs on a boat’s swim platform to avoid being tagged,” Valve said. “For snorkelers we added a ‘fish underwater’ rule for players who dive down to escape.”

Some diving guests, however, were not pleased with the new activity.

“I come here to chill and look at fish, not watch a bunch of idiots charge across the reef,” Marlin Bleu said. “All their hollering scares the fish away. And you can hear them two, three dive sites off.

“Worse, I got grabbed twice today by a couple of these jokers,” Bleu said. “I have a dive knife, a big one, and I’m not afraid to use it.”

Dive operators say it’s impossible to completely separate players from other divers.

“We ask players to be respectful, but it’s not practical to take them to different sites,” Eagle Ray Divers dive operations manager Ger Latner said. “Marco Polo players want to go to the most popular dive sites too, and they’re paying the same rates as everyone else.

“In the meantime, our dive boats are full and we’re selling courses like crazy,” Latner said. “And snorkel and scuba gear is flying off the shelves.”

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Blacktip Island Role Players Create Durgons and Dragons Game

durgons and dragons

The common black durgon is a major danger in the new Durgons and Dragons role-playing game developed by a group of Blacktip Island scuba-diving gaming aficionados. (photo courtesy of NOAA)

A group of Blacktip Island underwater role-playing game enthusiasts this week played their first rounds of their newly-developed Durgons and Dragons on Jawfish Reef to celebrate the upcoming end of hurricane. season.

“It’s a riff on Dungeons and Dragons, played underwater,” game developer Lee Helm said. “The Dive Master walks players through underwater adventures, usually quests to find treasure or explore sunken pirate ships or caves.

“There’s no magic per se, but the in-game reef is way different than the real reef,” Helm said. “Sharks and orcas and krakens are the obvious dangers. But all the normal reef fish can be deadly, too.”

As in Dungeons and Dragons, players must navigate dangers and defeat monsters.

“Parrotfish, triggerfish, nurse sharks, even other divers can kill you,” gamer Edwin Chub said. “And you have to watch for swarms of brown chomises. Chromii. Whatever.

“The real terrors, though, are the leafy sea dragons and black durgons,” Chub said. “Just yesterday a durgon chewed through 10 player characters. We’re still recovering from that.”

With players on scuba, game time is limited by air consumption.

“When you’re out of air, the game’s over. Heavy breathers put the entire team at risk,” said player Harry Blenny. “You’re basically playing against game hazards, other players and time. People meditate beforehand to save air.

“It gets vicious. Light breathers try to kill off the air hogs’ characters so the game will last longer,” Blenny said. “And the air-suckers gang up on other players to get those characters killed off. We had plans for surface-supplied air to avoid all that, but decompression sickness issues scotched that since there’s no barometric chamber on the island.”

Some residents remained unimpressed.

“I really don’t get it, but I guess I don’t have to,” cook Jessie Catahoula said. “It’s goofy, but at least it keeps Lee and his buddies out of sight and away from me.”

Players emphasized the game’s positive aspects.

“It teaches people to work together as a team, not knowing if one of the characters is a Random Bad Diver,” Helm said. “When an RBD starts flailing there’s a 20 percent chance the character closest to him drowns.

“Just this morning my 39th-level heliox diver got bent on a rogue upwelling because of a Baddie,” Helm said. “I had to start over with a character that’s barely nitrox certified.”

Others touted the game’s growing popularity.

“There’s already Durgons and Dragons clubs on other islands,” Blenny said. “We’re gonnna have a D and D tournament over the holidays, too. As word spreads, our ultimate goal is to have some women join us. Or talk to us.”

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