Virtual Scavenger Hunt: Ideas, Rules & Tools For Better Team Integration

in Research   Posted on July 22, 2021  Author: Imed Bouchrika,

Remember Pokemon GO? Before the pandemic, this was a popular game whose concept is very close to that of scavenger hunting: players go to different locations to “catch” a pokemon. The game has had 147 million users and received the Mobile Game of the Year award from D.I.C.E. along with nine other awards from different institutions in 2016. This demonstrates not only the public’s reception of the game but also the effectiveness of its gameplay design. It continues to engage users of different ages and cultures around the world.

Nowadays, the space we can explore has been limited by the COVID-19 pandemic. An article published in the American Journal of Public Health (2020) emphasized the importance of “strategies to bolster social support and connectedness” in combatting loneliness due to socially restrictive guidelines in these tough times. While Pokemon GO has adjusted its game design to stay relevant in the new normal, what has become more popular is the conduct of virtual meetups and the incorporation of play. Virtual scavenger hunting, for instance, has become one of the popular options for activities during online events.

Digital scavenging can serve as an icebreaker, a team-building activity, or in itself an online event. It can serve as a way for people to increase their level of familiarity with each other or to simply connect and alleviate the loneliness that comes with social isolation. This article discusses the benefits and rules of playing the game and gives the reader some virtual scavenger hunt ideas and tips for designing and personalizing the activity.

Virtual Scavenger Hunt Table of Contents

  1. Benefits of Play in Times of Crisis
  2. Virtual Scavenger Hunting Rules
  3. Know Your Hunters
  4. Scavenger List Ideas
  5. Tips and Tools for Scavenger Hunting

Benefits of Play in Times of Crisis

There has been growing attention on the psychological impact of social isolation due to the enforcement of lockdowns and physical distancing measures as necessitated by the emergence and spread of COVID-19. An article published in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications states that social isolation is “associated with poor life satisfaction across domains, work-related stress, lower trust of institutions such as central government and business, perceived personal risk for COVID-19, and higher levels of use of substances as a coping strategy” (Clair, 2021, 6).

The negative impact of COVID-19 urges us to collectively find ways to cope better and provide each other support with the help of technology available to us. For example, companies are trying various online activities to keep employees engaged and productive. Schools, on the other hand, are trying to maximize learning and capture the essence of physical classroom setups. In both cases, one effective intervention is play.

Chanana and Sangeeta (2020) cite short online game sessions as one of the company engagement activities that help sustain motivation and institutional commitment. Similarly, a study published in the International Journal of Advanced Science and Technology posits that introducing games as a work intervention results in increased engagement and efficiency and decreased slack time among employees (Prasad & Rao, 2020).

Play is a valuable activity that can act as a therapeutic agent among children and students (Parker et al., 2020). Research also shows that play improves learning experiences (Taylor, 2020).

With the many benefits that come with play, it is not surprising that people try to incorporate it as an activity during online meetings or classes.

Source: State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report

Virtual Scavenger Hunting Rules

Here are the steps for designing your own virtual scavenger hunt:

  1. Create a list of items for the scavenger hunt. Depending on the purpose and participants of the game, you may have a theme in mind, based on which you may craft a list of items. Consider the availability of each item in your participants’ immediate environment. Remember, you do not want to stress them out by making them find impossible things. You want them to have fun searching.
  2. Assign a point to each item on the list. Things that are harder to find may correspond to higher points. Let your participants know this at the onset so they can strategize accordingly.
  3. Decide on the length of the activity. Set a deadline for submission of as many items as participants can collate given limited time. You may want to set a timer for this. When the timer starts, share the list with the participants, and let the hunt begin!
  4. Allow participants to share the items they collected with the team. Create a post/conversation thread for the participants to share and comment on each other’s finds. This might be just as fun as the game itself or even more.
  5. Announce the winner/s. The point system you designed will decide the winner of the game. Don’t forget to congratulate not only the winner/s but also everyone for their effort.

virtual team activities COVID-19 engagement

Know Your Hunters

Design the activity with your participants in mind. Analysis and consideration of the demographic data from your target audience will help you craft your list and implement the activity better. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What age group do they belong? Different activities may appeal more or less to different age groups. Further, participants should have a general idea or background about the theme. You would want to pick a theme that emphasizes age diversity rather than generational gaps.
  • What are their common grounds? If your participants are in the same class or are working in the same company, this will not be hard. For employees, you may design a game that is industry-specific or work-related. If you have participants from all over the world, you may need to consider cultural sensitivity.
  • What concepts are most familiar to them as a collective? If you want people participating, you must ensure that this activity is designed to include them.
  • What are the levels of intimacy in your target group? Some groups may be more open to sharing personal information with one another and some may prefer to put clear boundaries between whatever institution this game is intended for as an activity and home. In the case of the former, you would want to stick with work/subject-related scavenger hunt themes.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Scavenger List Ideas

Here are some theme ideas to get you started crafting your own virtual scavenger hunt list:

  1. Take a selfie. The list can range from selfies with work-from-home outfits to selfies with the nearest tree. This is a fun theme activity that will also help people move around a little and be creative.
  2. Quarantine Pack. Adults are more likely to care about disinfecting, but this is great for introducing the concept to children. All of us should be familiar with the items on this list by now: alcohol, face mask, face shield, disinfectant spray, air purifiers, among others.
  3. The Five Senses. Invite your audience to be in the present moment. If you are tired of brainstorming, gamify it this way. Allow your audience to capture three things they see, smell, hear, feel, and taste.
  4. Alphabet. Find objects whose names begin with letters A, B, C, and so on. If you are teaching the participants of the game a language, this will be a great activity. In fact, a study showed that it can help students to be engaged in studying words and building other literacy skills (Chen & Greenwood, 2021).
  5. Shapes and colors. Instructions may go like: Find 5 red, star-shaped objects. This is more challenging due to the combination of two concepts. If you are teaching children, you may want to do two separate scavenger hunt lists and test their knowledge by combining the two on a later activity.
  6. Solve a riddle. Make the game more challenging by not simply listing items but also encouraging participants to learn and solve what they are looking for in the first place.
  7. Complete a crossword puzzle. This has the same concept as item number 6, but this is more ideal for visual learners.
  8. Around the house. You can craft a list of items found in various rooms of a typical house.
  9. Around the world. This theme is great for teaching geography. Challenge participants to find objects that come from different countries.
  10. Inside Out. Also known as vibe check among teenagers. Get to know your audience better by asking them to take pictures of things that make them happy, sad, angry, disgusted, or fearsome.
  11. Food. Favorite dish, breakfast of the day, lunch, you name it. Food is essential, and let’s hope that every one of your participants has food to eat.
  12. Show-themed. What is a popular show among your participants?
  13. Collect memes. Why not make the activity fun by making participants find funny things? Memes are regularly circulated on social media; it is almost a never-ending trend. Go ride it.
  14. Of Another Era. This is a great theme because while people do not share the same background they may share the same history, especially if they are located geographically close to each other. For instance, you may open a class about inflation by instructing participants to look for old coins.
  15. Holidays. They happen all-year-round and there is almost something every month to celebrate. Take this as a chance to launch a scavenger hunt.

You can mix and match the themes listed above and add your personal twist.

Tips and Tools for Scavenger Hunting

Below are some tips to help you create an engaging experience for your participants.

  • Inform the participants prior to the activity. This will help your participants prepare mentally and set aside time to play.
  • Communicate the purpose of the activity. People are more likely to be engaged in activities they find meaning in. You have a purpose for implementing this activity. Share it with your people.
  • Direct your audience to finding beauty. You may include in your list a picture of the sky or a flower. If your purpose is to alleviate stress and loneliness, gently point your participants to finding it in their everyday life.
  • Use scavenger hunting apps and websites. Goosechase, Scavify, and ClueKeeper are among the popular options.

Connect in the Virtual World

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many organizations to shift to digital environments. It has transformed the ways we connect with each other. Organizations are likely to continue holding virtual events in the post-pandemic world.

Virtual scavenger hunting is one of the best activities that you can do via Zoom. Perhaps time will come when such can be done again in person. Until then, we can do it online.



  1. Chen, X., & Greenwood, K. (2021). Supporting Young Students’ Word Study During the COVID‐19 Quarantine: ABC Scavenger Hunt. The Reading Teacher74(6), 819-823.
  2. Chanana N. & Sangeeta (2020). Employee engagement practices during COVID‐19 lockdown. Journal of Public Affairs.
  3. Clair, R., Gordon, M., Kroon, M. et al. (2021). The effects of social isolation on well-being and life satisfaction during pandemic. in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 8(28).
  4. Gallup, Inc. (2021) State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report.
  5. Pantell, M. & Shields-Zeeman, L. (2020). Maintaining Social Connections in the Setting of COVID-19 Social Distancing: A Call to Action. American Journal of Public Health, 110(9), 1367-1368.
  6. Parker, M.M., & Stone, A.N. (2020). More Than Play: Benefits of Play Therapy Training for Undergraduates and Implications for Student Affairs. Journal of College Student Development 61(3), 385-390.
  7. Prasad, K. D. V. & Rao, M. (2020). Can Gamification Intervention Improve Engagement, Performance Efficiency of Work Force – A Case Study with Information Technology Sector. International Journal of Advanced Science and Technology29(3), 13550-13558.
  8. Taylor, M.E., Boyer, W. (2020) Play-Based Learning: Evidence-Based Research to Improve Children’s Learning Experiences in the Kindergarten Classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal 48127–133.
  9. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021). Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.