Location Based Gaming
Most Video Games, Virtual Worlds, and MMORPGs take place in cyberspace. The world of Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft exists entirely in your computer or game console. Whether you play in Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, or Taipei doesn’t matter very much. But what if there was a game that had “virtual clues” placed in the real streets of Berlin? That would mean a much smaller audience for the game of course, but it’d also mean that your “virtual experience” was mapped to elements of the real world. It would mean that your game was “Location Based.”
As you know, we still spend a lot of time in plain, old “regular reality” or “RL.” Some people spend a little or a lot of time in Virtual Reality, or “VR.” But there’s also a hybrid space known as Augmented Reality or “AR.” This doesn’t have to be too fancy, it can be something as simple as standing in the street and holding your phone up, and then having Yelp Ratings superimposed on the restaurants down the length of the street. No doubt in the near future plumbers, copier repair peeps (do we actually still need copiers & printers?) and others will have AR Tablets they can hold up and receive directions to change this pipe or flip that lever. The old Museum Audio Tour might be replaced by a much more graphic and immersive tour where you can hold your phone or tablet up and see annotations about an object, or see x-rays of it, and so on.
For Location Based Gaming your phone might reveal “clues” planted along the Alexanderplatz, or have text or videos mapped onto the Brandenburg Gate. Perhaps a character, RL or Avatar, will speak to you from a specific location. You can do some pretty amazing things with platforms like Layar.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to start programming AR Layers! For our “peek” at LBGs & ARGs, we’re going to try something a little easier, Geocaching. This is a “game” where you can hide something somewhere on earth, upload the coordinates, and let other people hunt for it. And you can find other people’s Geocaches. In more remote areas like Mammoth or Sequoia, Geocaches can be large containers like old ammo canisters filled with trinkets to trade. Down here in the city a more common form is something like an Altoids tin and a magnet hiding it in some small place.
You can see a couple of my geocaches here: glenn.zucman.com/i2va/glenns-geocaches
Last semester we used the official Geocaching.com website. That was pretty cool. But also a little bit of a problem. I got a very polite email from them that your students are messing up our website! Apparently the average user is pretty precise when they list the coordinates for a Geocache they hide. And we were a little less precise.
This semester we’re going to find one geocache and place one geocache. We will use the Geocaching.com website to find a cache, but we will not use it for placing our own websites. Instead you can list your caches in the comments on this page. Even though we won’t get yelled at by Geocaching.com this time, next week you’ll have the chance to earn EC by finding your classmates geocaches. So it’s still a really nice idea to try to be precise with your coordinates.
Part 1. Finding a Cache
- Download the Geocaching App for Android or iOS (the Free version!)
- Find a cache near you that looks interesting
- Go find it!
- Enter your cache in the paper log book & with the mobile app
- Trade trinkets
- Take a photo
Part 2. Placing a Cache
- Download a free GPS app for your phone. Suggestions below.
- Get some sort of small container. An Altoids tin and a magnet work great. You can eat all the mints. Probably not all at once.
- Get a tiny pencil and some paper for a “log book” that will fit in your tin
- Find a few “trinkets” – buttons, coins, whatever, that you can stock your tin with
- Find a place to hide your cache. Note: GPS coordinates can drift a bit. Try to find a clear spot to take your reading and wait a while for the numbers to settle down.
- Add a “hint” that can help people zero in on your geocache.
- Take a photo
- Enter the GPS coordinates for your geocache, and any other info, as a comment on this page. Then next week you’ll be able to hunt for each other’s geocaches for EC if you want to.
Here are a couple of pretty nice free apps for Android/iOS. If you find others that you like, LMK!
Your Blog Post
- Include pix of the cache you found and the cache you placed
- List the GPS coordinates of the cache you placed
- Describe your 2 experiences: easy, hard, fun? Did it make you think any differently about places and the different experiences and ideas that are mapped onto the places we inhabit?
- You might know that in Harry Potter muggles are people who lack magical abilities. In Geocaching they refer to people who don’t have GPS units as muggles. A few years ago it was pretty rare to have a GPS unit. Of course today everyone (here in the Global North) has a GPS unit in their phone. But still they don’t know about the coordinate data and the mapping of where caches are, so they’re still pretty much muggles.
Can you expand the concept of muggles beyond geocaching? Places have histories. Sometimes secret. Sometimes not secret, but still not known to you. Maybe that alley where you had your first kiss was also the place where someone died years earlier. Think about the “secrets” we know because we have GPS coordinates for geocaches, and all the muggles who walk by the same places but don’t know the secrets we do. What other sorts of secrets do you think places have that you might know when others don’t? Or that others might know and you don’t? Can you “map” feelings and emotions onto the geography of a place?