I Invented A Game Of ‘I Spy’ To Keep My Neighbors Connected

To keep her neighbors connected during COVID-19, Nikki Moustafa came up with an idea — use windows to play a group game of “I Spy.”

A collage centered around the quote 'Windows are our connection to our neighbors'
Paula Friedrich / WBEZ
A collage centered around the quote 'Windows are our connection to our neighbors'
Paula Friedrich / WBEZ

I Invented A Game Of ‘I Spy’ To Keep My Neighbors Connected

To keep her neighbors connected during COVID-19, Nikki Moustafa came up with an idea — use windows to play a group game of “I Spy.”

Nikki Moustafa lives in a part of Edgewater that her relatives tell her feels like Sesame Street, “like everyone knows everyone, we’re all very friendly.” One day just before the stay-at-home order went into place, Moustafa was driving home, wondering about ways to stay connected with her neighbors while at the same time staying locked up at home.

She came up with the idea for a neighborhood-wide game of “I Spy” using people’s windows. The goal: “to keep us sane in isolation...and remind us we are still a community.”

Moustafa posted the I Spy idea to a neighborhood Facebook group and asked if others were interested in playing along. “Almost immediately, about 25 people were like, ‘Yeah! What do we do? How do we do it? Let’s do this!’”

“I Spy”: Edgewater Edition

Neighbors began thinking about what they wanted to put in their windows for others to “find.”

Resident Lisa Love, a school teacher, came up with the idea of assembling all the clues onto a bingo card that people could print out or call up on their phones and bring with them on walks.

“We tried to be a little creative and make it a riddle,” Love said.

Once the bingo card was out, participants had to scour the windows of homes, condos and apartment buildings in a six-block area to see if they could spy the object described.

Somewhere over the ____, or leading to a pot of gold on the 6000 block of Paulina” described a rainbow that children had painted onto their window. Clues led to boats, waving lucky cats, and a sculpture of Elvis crafted from vegetables.

“Look for the character that says, ‘Luke...I am your father’ on the 6100 block of Paulina” led to a mask of Darth Vader hung on a skeleton.

Moustafa said people had fun brainstorming what to put in their window. For the next round of the game, she’s posting a picture of Blanche Devereaux with the clue, “Golden Girls.”

“You know, everyone's proud of what they've done,” she said. “They’re sending in their clues and they like showing their trinkets or their picture, whatever it is.”

The game has been a hit, especially among the many families in the area with young kids.

“Before the game, we were taking walks, but it didn’t give us that interaction, that sense of purpose that the game has brought to it,” Love said. Her children will walk further now that they have something to look for.

There are people putting objects in their windows and sending in clues from nearly every block in the area. “And I know that there's been several adults who said, ‘I don't have kids, but I'm playing, too!’”

Windows are a “tunnel into our lives”

Love said the “I Spy” game has given her neighbors a way to express themselves during a time when it’s not possible to connect in person.

“The fun part is to see what objects or items that everyone has decided to place in their windows,” she said. “It kind of gives you a little insight onto the personality of the family inside.”

She said quarantine has made windows more important. They’re a kind of “tunnel into our lives.”

“I have found myself sitting in my front window so much more than I ever had before,” Love said. “As soon as I see any movement, I’m peering out to see who it is and give a big smile and wave. Because I think that those windows are our connection to our neighbors.”

Linda Lutton is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @lindalutton. Joe DeCeault is a senior producer for WBEZ. You can follow him on Twitter at @joedeceault. Katherine Nagasawa is WBEZ's audience engagement producer. You can follow her on Twitter at @Kat_Nagasawa.