Late this fall we were charged with creating a fun, easy-to-use scavenger hunt to be run entirely on the Loopt Platform. Loopt is fun, functional 'Social Mapping' service that lets you know where your friends are at any given moment. It also aims to educate its users about goings-on in various neighborhoods. It's like Gowalla and Foursquare (without the scoring/points), and many consider it the most robust location-based social networking tool out there. We were obviously more than happy to help them inject some game-play into their service in the form of 3 large city-wide, holiday-themed scavenger hunts. They went down in LA, NYC and SF during Dec. and Jan,and the whole bi-coastal shin-dig bore the name: Holiday from the Holidays.
Designing the game was a significant challenge as we couldn't use our trusty Go Game web app called MazeMaker, which allows players to enter answers which are verified and scored online. What we came up with was a game design that used Loopt to drive players to actors or 'Plants' sprinkled liberally throughout the gamezone. The solutions to the location-based puzzles resulted in phone numbers which represented new friends that the players would add. They would then go find these new friends, do some crazy interactions and earn drink tickets to be redeemed at the final party. Each actor represented a different holiday (Frida Kahlo for Cinco de Mayo, a giant Turkey for T-giving, etc), and they were simply AWESOME. Ultimately the games led everyone back to an ending venue where the beer did flow and men chundered.
What proved to be the MOST challenging hurdles were things that, to date, we've found no technical work-around for: Massive Storms! The first game in LA corresponded (to the minute) with THIS particular doozy of a storm . Understandably, attendance was well fell short of the 500 people who'd signed up (but Angelinos are known to melt in rain so we'll give them a pass). Not to worry, though, because a mere week away lay the NYC version of the Game. Finn jetted east to administer this game to the hardy New Yorkers who certainly wouldn't be deterred by a little rain. It turned out that, again -- to the minute, the game collided with what shall most likely be known as #FREAKINGSNOWPOCALYPSE2009-OMG-WEREALLGONNADIE!!!!!!!!!!!!! Turns out that many of the players who'd signed up opted for PJs and hot cocoa over a city-wide scavenger hunt. Or, they just wanted to make snow angels and not listen to odd directions from a phone.
Once we made a ritual sacrifice of a half a dozen iPhones, the rainclouds cleared and the tables were set for the 3rd and final game in our hometown of SF. Several hundred players braved the partly-cloudy skies and 62-degree weather and our game-design was finally put to the test. It worked like a charm!!! One particular gps watch-wearing super geek called it 'The funnest urban event I've ever participated in!!!' He sent us this little track of his day.
It was gratifying to finally see the game in action, being played by tons of people and, of course, being well-received. We put a ton of work into these games. It was a good exercise in design for us as we tend to use our one web tool exclusively. Location-based gaming seems like it's here to stay, and whomever can make the stickiest game will win the most tumb-balls. Right now Foursquare (and Gowalla) are rocking it because, imho, they're fun, easy and pretty addictive. Bottom line: they are games, and people love to play. We'd love to bring a little more of The Go Game's interactivity to these game platforms, wherein players can run/hide/tag/hi5 and otherwise get silly with one another (in the flesh), all in the name of amassing points or reputation, without being too stalker-y. We'll get on that project next week (after we sew a new turkey suit).