Using Geospatial Data For Social Entertainment
At Spatial Networks, location is fundamental to our business, and trying out the newest GPS mobile apps comes with the territory. In our travels, we’ve found several entertaining apps that use GPS and geospatial data to make the mundane more interesting. Today, I’d like to share several great mobile apps with you that utilize real-time geospatial data to create an immersive social entertainment experience.
One of the first instances of geospatial gamification is Foursquare. Established in 2009, it was one of the earliest instances of incentivizing users to visit a location, and rewarding them with discounts and freebies for repeat visitors . Foursquare users log into the Foursquare app or the new Swarm companion app, and check in on their mobile device or scan a barcode on the door of the business, which triggers push notifications or Facebook posts to other friends notifying them that an individual has “checked in” to an establishment. Business owners can use the settings in FourSquare to offer deals to first time, repeat customers, as well as offering a special offer to “The Mayor”, or the user who has checked in the most of all users. Just recently, they added a weekly leaderboard between friends to see who can check in the most in one week.
Similar to geocaching, Munzee (derived from the German word for coin), is an app where users attempt to find geotagged stickers well-hidden in public areas. Started in 2011, the game caught on in Germany, and quickly gained a cult following among the geocaching community. When a user scans a Munzee QR code, they “capture” the location and its data is added to the players profile. Munzee’s are located outdoors or indoors, in over 188 countries, and on every continent, including Antarctica.
Ingress is a GPS-based reality game released in 2014, where users try to find, capture, and hold on to portals located near culturally important locations in a city (churches, theatres, historic buildings, etc) in real time. Once captured, a portal can be augmented with a variety of add-ons (like weapons and shields) in order to prevent an opposing team from capturing it easily. When multiple portals are captured, they can be linked to create polygons, which define and further expand a team’s territory. Ingress is owned by Niantic Labs (formerly a Google subsidiary), and has more than 12 million downloads across the globe.
The Go Game is a real-life scavenger hunt / corporate team-building game played by multiple teams simultaneously in a city. Founded in 2005, Go Game participant teams are given clues to meet costumed actors stationed in various parts of a city. After successfully participating in a challenge or puzzle issued by the actors, the actors then give teams smartphone codes that unlock other missions. Using their phones and problem solving skills, teams scramble around a city collecting codes and completing tasks within a predetermined time frame, for prizes and glory.
Zombies, Run! debuted in 2012, and quickly gained a large following among runners looking for a way to make their runs more interesting. Zombies, Run! is played by running circuits and courses around your city, while avoiding or outrunning zombies as they appear on the map. During the missions, you can collect powerups, weapons, and supplies in order to rebuild your town. With 200 missions, and over 1 million players, Zombies, Run! is becoming a popular way to have fun while getting in shape.
Currently, Father.io is in a closed Beta, but looks to be a very promising geospatial first-person shooter game. Using a lasertag-like device attached to your phone’s camera, you run around an area with friends, locating enemies through an augmented reality heads-up display. When an enemy appears, a quick click sends a laser pulse through the attachment, disabling the enemy. Be careful, enemies can pop up anywhere at anytime, making it difficult to know who could be after you.
Although not a game in-and-of itself, Overwatch gives paintball & airsoft games a more “video game”-like quality. Utilizing satellite imagery, first person cameras, and team chat, players can mount their mobile phones on their airsoft weapons or on their arm in order to track enemies and devise strategies to capture the flag more effectively. Players can collect perks, like radar jamming, making it harder for opposing teams to find them. The app is free for iOS, with an Android version coming soon.
Geospatial mobile games are slowly becoming ubiquitous, and as GPS units become smaller and cheaper, these type of apps will become much more prevalent, offering us many interesting new ways to engage and enjoy the world around us.