The playing field for the 2016 Nascondino World Championships, held in Consonno, Italy.
The playing field for the 2016 Nascondino World Championships, held in Consonno, Italy. Garyharness/CC BY-SA 4.0

Have you ever started a hide and seek game that got out of hand? Perhaps people ended up high in trees, or underneath abandoned buildings. Maybe someone hid too well, and got lost for hours. You end up talking about it for years afterwards, unsure exactly what alchemy occurred to make it so memorable.

Back in 2010, a few friends in Italy played that kind of game: the kind that was so good, they wanted to bring other people into it. And so they did. Starting today, September 8th, they’re hosting the eighth annual Nascondino World Championships, a weekend-long romp that bills itself as “the only hide and seek international competition.”

Hide and seek, the Championship’s organizers write, invites “unabashed and carefree abandon.” The competition aims to take that childhood feeling of wonder and terror and scale it way up. As the Local reports, this year, 80 teams of five people each have signed up, and they come from 11 different countries, including the U.S., Japan, and Australia.

Each team member must hide in a particular section of the huge hide-and-seek arena, a massive field studded with hay bales, screens, and other obstacles for hiding behind. They then have to make it back to a central base before they’re tagged by any seekers. The games are played tournament-style, and the top prize for the winning team is called the Golden Fig Leaf. Competitors bring their A game, dressing like Waldo or disguising themselves with greenery.

The competition takes place in the town of Consonno, a village in northern Italy that was built as a nightlife capital but largely abandoned after a landslide. Although players aren’t allowed to hide in the abandoned buildings—too rickety—the “bizarre, decadent buildings,” as the Championship’s website describes them, are meant to lend the game a certain aura.

Most of that hide-and-seek feeling, though, is baked in. “Hide and seek has been played all over the world as far back as history can remember,” the website says. “Hiding is an animal instinct.” One that, if you’re good enough, can get you a world champion title.

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