Location, location, location!
I was very excited when I first discovered geocaching and location-based gaming a few months ago, and now everything seems to be about “where”.
What is geocaching?
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called “geocaches” or “caches”) anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and “treasure,” usually toys or trinkets of little value. Today, well over 800,000 geocaches are registered on various websites devoted to the pastime.
And location-based gaming?
A location-based game (or location-enabled game) is one in which the game play somehow evolves and progresses via a player’s location. Thus, location-based games almost always support some kind of localization technology, for example by using satellite positioning like GPS. “Urban gaming” or “Street Games” are typically multi-player location-based games played out on city streets and built up urban environments.
To my mind, these forms of games and libraries seem to be made for each other. First, and I believe most importantly, they create a means of uniting the virtual and the real worlds, allowing people to explore both the library building and its resources. Second, they engage people and create community through story telling (which I have posted about before), and encourage those ephemeral real life experiences, the sudden discovery of a new idea or place, that can be transformative. Third, they seem to have a wider appeal across age groups than traditional console games, and allow for family or team co-operation and interaction.
A few libraries have already taken up the idea. The most interesting example is the location based game Scoot from Australia, which in the past has involved the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, State Library of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, the Arts Centre and the Melbourne Museum. The Shifted Librarian also had a recent post that gives a great example of using geocaching in libraries.
For those who are interested, two events have taken place recently that featured some wonderful information. The first is Where 2.0, that had a great presentation by the founder of Geocaching.com, Jeremy Irish, covering the basics of game design. He mentions the new platform he has developed, Wherigo, that seems to have a lot of potential for creative uses of the technology with minimal expense and knowledge, while avoiding some of the legal issues associated with geocaching. The second is Come Out & Play, which focuses on location-based gaming. The recent SXSW Festival included a panel on location based gaming which featured Catherine Herdlick, one of the organizers of the festival.
So, grab your cellphone or GPS and get out there!