It may betray my Boy Scout history but it is a genuine question? Given that a huge number of people are running around with GPS enabled, Google Maps enabled smartphones, where are the all the wide games that take advantage of these technologies?
I remember a board game that I used to play that, for a time, was my favourite called Scotland Yard. It involved one player acting as a criminal on the run and the other players as detectives whose job it is to apprehend him. The board is a street map of London (geographically accurate too – none of that Monopoly rubbish) and the players are given public transport tokens. It was fun. It’s a game that strikes me as being perfect for adaptation into a wide game. It would take all day and would cost the price of a travelcard but the idea of chasing someone around London following clues has got to appeal to more than just me.
And making the £££ from App Store sales must appeal to someone as well.
I have myself dabbled in Geocaching which in and of itself has all of the ingredients of a good wide game and takes advantage of the technology. If you haven’t heard of it, the activity involves leaving caches hidden around the world and logging their co-ordinates for others to find. Often the caches are just a piece of paper in a 35mm film pot with a list of names of people who have found it. Other caches are objects that the finder is prompted to take as long as they replace them with something of a similar value. The tracking down of the caches was fun and was a really nice way to pass time in an unfamiliar city (number of caches dependant) but the whole exercise lacks the competitive element of other players or time and scoring. There isn’t that built in structure. It feels like a hobby not a game which, whilst no bad thing in general, doesn;t fit what I am after.
I recently took a look at SCVNGR which actively calls itself a game platform. It uses location and smartphones by encouraging you to check in to venues and places and undertake challenges (generic to the site as well as as some set by other people) at the venues to collect points and compete against your friends in a league. In this manner it fills some of the gaps that geocaching lacks, but it still operates over an extended period of time using a scoreboard system. In this respect the ‘game’ takes too long even if there are short duration challenges. Not only that, but I and my friends found it difficult to actually get any challenges made up and the number of existing challenges are limited. It is after all a newish startup based out of America, and I am not certain that the game aspect of their service will remain the priority as location-based web services begin to compete with one another. Which is a shame because I got very excited by the potential for it.
Where then are the games that operate like a football match, say? Or a paintball day? Single event games that can be played at opportunity. Jumpers for goalposts or rather iPhones for GPS units. Games that can be played again and again and remain fun because each one is different. For what it’s worth, here are some thoughts about what would make up a good wide game.
- A solid premise: like a good board game I would like to see an interesting theme on which the rule of the game are based. Not to go as far as role-play necessarily but even card and dice games will have a story to illustrate the rules. I think with a game that has the potential to be so active getting into the spirit of a the story of the game would add to the fun.
- Not location specific: Whilst the location would be a fundamental element of the gameplay I think that a concept for a game should be able to be playable anywhere geographically. I would want to see games that were based in, and dependent of the nature of, a city and a separate game for the countryside but these games should be able to be played in any city anywhere and be sufficiently flexible to retain its identity and still be fun.
- Customisable: The last point notwithstanding I think that if the games do have the potential to be customised to be made specific to locations they could be made more fun. Think along the lines of the different versions of Monopoly.
I am going to add to this list as things as they come to me and if you have any thoughts yourself leave them in the comments. As with most of my ideas, if I can think of it then I am sure someone else has thought of it which leads me to ask where I can find them. Answers in the comments please.