photo of an Altoids tin

Game Design II: Alternate Reality Gaming

Blue Banner with "Spring '16" in yellow letters

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.”

Augmented Reality

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:

photo of an Altoids tin, and a second photo of a bar magnet hanging on a rack at Home Depot, with a price of US$2.67 for 2 magnets

Last semester we used the official 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 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 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.

Your Activity

Part 1. Finding a Cache

  1. Download the Geocaching App for Android or iOS (the Free version!)
  2. Find a cache near you that looks interesting
  3. Go find it!
  4. Enter your cache in the paper log book & with the mobile app
  5. Trade trinkets
  6. Take a photo

Part 2. Placing a Cache

  1. Download a free GPS app for your phone. Suggestions below.
  2. 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.
  3. Get a tiny pencil and some paper for a “log book” that will fit in your tin
  4. Find a few “trinkets” – buttons, coins, whatever, that you can stock your tin with
  5. 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.
  6. Add a “hint” that can help people zero in on your geocache.
  7. Take a photo
  8. 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.

GPS Apps

Here are a couple of pretty nice free apps for Android/iOS. If you find others that you like, LMK!

4 images showing the elements described in the caption
1. Some Geocaches near me, using the Geocaching (free) app. 2. Outside of my Altoids Tin. 3. Inside of my Altoids tin.
Screen Caps from the Geocaching Mobile App
Geocaches around me!

Your Blog Post

  1. Include pix of the cache you found and the cache you placed
  2. List the GPS coordinates of the cache you placed
  3. 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?
  4. 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?

photo of an Altoids tin


41 responses to “Game Design II: Alternate Reality Gaming”

  1. enriquewarrior Avatar

    Group 11
    Enrique Plascencia
    Charles Watson
    Chris Williams
    Leah Perez
    Adilene Leon

    We think that Both characters can be seen as fake and real because they are a representation of a being. As 2pac was a real person ! Who can be studied for his looks, mannerism, voice ! So a really identical hologram can be made. People can make a connection with whileThe hatsume character is fictional, animated, a fake character that can have a fictional backstory made for them.
    Some people can connect with them, because they get a good feeling from them, which relates to the conversation we had a couple weeks ago about book characters. It depends on the person. People give the characters meaning, identity.
    It’s hard to say what 2pac would think about his hologram. As it has been 20 years. Viewpoints are different now than they were back then.

  2. elizabethmoledo Avatar

    33.664723, -117.948816
    “High Voltage”

  3. Tyler Kedis Avatar

    N 33.777801 E -118.112868
    “Upside down newspapers”

  4. elidiar Avatar

    N 033.46.809 – W 118.06.886
    “Electricity box”

    Elidia Ramirez

  5. Danielle Garcia Avatar

    N 33.47’49.080″
    W 118.03’43.682″

    “You ___ and I Rule”

  6. DevonDigsDirection Avatar

    N 33 degrees 51.277
    W 118degrees 23.569

    Like a snake in the grass, if grass was metal

    Devon Carus

  7. gabrielahblog Avatar

    N 033’46.809′
    W 118’06.886′

    “Rusty Electricity”

    Gabriela Hernandez

  8. jingghuann Avatar

    N 34 degrees 0’52.0416

    W 118 degrees 10’6.816

    Hint: between 4 and 5

  9. Lainie Le Avatar
    Lainie Le

    N 33.850511
    E -118.164940

    “Cherry Cove”

    Lainie Le

  10. jennifer19026 Avatar

    N 33° 47.226′
    W -118° 06.821′

    Jennifer Lee

  11. nancytrann Avatar

    33° 46.898′ N
    -118° 06.787′ W

    Nancy Tran

  12. aandradeespectrum Avatar

    33 degrees 49.914′ N
    -118 degrees 07.375′ W

    Andrew Andrade (Park Fun)

  13. The Hoax Reaper Avatar

    “The Far Left”

    3347’1″N   1187’10″W

    Mia Miller- (more info on my website)

  14. Kordell Tan Avatar
    Kordell Tan

    Treasure at the Movies

    33° 87.119 N
    117° 92.4328 W

  15. Enrique Vega Avatar

    The Jungle Book
    33° 52′ 48″ N
    118° 8′ 39″ W

    Enrique Vega

  16. Sam Tan Avatar

    Yellow Fellow

    N 34° 04’34.040″
    W 118° 07’25.084″

    Sam Tan

  17. destinyfarihi Avatar


    Latitude 33.836435
    Longitude -118.003571

    Destiny Farihi

  18. cassandratopete16 Avatar

    Small black box with a white design

    N 33.786
    E -118.115

    Look low, next to the parking structure

  19. Catherine Chin Avatar

    Be Sqaure
    N 33° 47.048′
    W -118° 07.096′

  20. oscolorblind Avatar

    Whats in the box!!!!???

    33° 51’05.309″
    118° 10’23.199″

    Oscar Alvarez

  21. megstevens2 Avatar

    N 32.8504
    W 117.2730
    Jolla at the yellow flowers 🙂

  22. jaysonfields Avatar

    Don’t get poked

    N 33° 51’1″
    W 118° 1’16”

  23. cherylpeng Avatar

    N 33.787633
    E -118.119135

    Parkside college plants

  24. dominiquegomezcsulb Avatar

    N 33.794962
    W -118.018091

    Look low

  25. Molly Poyer Avatar

    Shop till’ you drop

    33.49.867′ N
    -118.09.861′ W

  26. Helen Lee Avatar

    Name: A Practical Cache

    33° 47.182′ N
    -118° 08.116′ W

    Maker: Helen Lee

  27. rebekahhjohnson Avatar

    Vintage Treasures
    33.783271 N
    -118.118816 W

    Rebekah Johnson

  28. Joshua hyun Avatar

    Three Arbor

    33′ 57.349’N
    -118′ 06.637 W

  29. florenzbaltazar Avatar

    33’51’15 N
    118’4’19 W

    Weed out the prize

  30. tiffanyvangilder Avatar

    Cool Finds

    N 33.47’11’
    W 118.7’15’

  31. katherineshinno Avatar

    33°46’59” N
    118°7’7” W

    Hillside bushes

  32. alfonso422 Avatar

    33°4637.83” N
    119°53’14.67” W


  33. anthonysanchezblog Avatar

    33°46.752” N
    118°08.337’ W

    “The Game”

  34. Hilario Saucedo Avatar

    33’54’0.16” N
    119’49’8.28” W

    Between two Bushes

  35. greekishblog Avatar

    My Cache is somewhere enlightening…

    Latitude: 33.786621

    Longitude: -118.119575

    John Stouras

  36. apt148 Avatar

    Lat/lon: 33.791654/118.136665
    In the bush

  37. djbursch Avatar

    Hint! : When you feel like you’re going down the wrong path, just wait, because what you seek lies behind the next corner ;).

    My Geocache – 33.758517, -118.147035

  38. Gina Householder Avatar

    Tree Treasures
    N 33° 45.010′ and W 117° 59.495′

    1. Gina Householder Avatar

      I forgot to note that my geocache is not on campus for those of you seeking extra credit. Sorry! 🙁

  39. aasatt Avatar

    Location: N 33° 39.820 W 117° 56.835

    Description: Suspended above a dry river from heights that may make you quiver you will find this cache. Small container, room for goodies. You can park next to the little league fields and walk up the hill to get to the bridge.

    Hint: Don’t be afraid to peer over the edge.

  40. Alexander Lucero Avatar
    Alexander Lucero

    33° 51.599′ N
    -118° 07.954 W
    Alexander Lucero

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