Commercial Urban Treasure Hunting

Treasure hunts are games that require players to follow instructions to find something hidden. “The act of traveling to new locations specifically because of gameplay closely resembles the behaviours encouraged in Geocaching” Frith, 2013, p 251, and with more complex technologies available urban treasure hunting has responded with the inclusion of other forms of social and locative media along with GPS. Locative technology, such as GPS has “allowed for multiple cartographies of a sense of space in which the geographic and physical is overlaid with the electronic, the emotional and the social” p357, a situation well suited to remediate treasure hunts into location-based mobile games (LBMGs)

The examples I want to highlight are both by the Australian agency ‘One Green Bean’: Firstly, “I Love Levi’s” 2009, was an integrated promotional campaign, in the form of a multi-modal treasure hunt. Social media coupled with locative technology was extremely important to the game play as players utilized Twitter to find/share clues as to the whereabouts of a person wearing a specific pair of jeans, if they were the first to find them then the person gave you their jeans.

and secondly “Game of Phones” 2014, a Virgin Mobile location based alternate reality mobile app played out in Perth, Australia, where players had to follow clues and get physically close to a prize, then defend it from other players who might steal it. The goal for the brand is for increased awareness and engagement through game play.

However treasure hunts can fit into a number of the subsets of urban gaming as well as being LBMGs, such as  ‘big games’ (Hjorth), because “the game space interrupts the flows of everyday urban life” (Hjorth, 2011, p361) and the game approaches “the role of people and the importance of place in the navigation of co-presence” (Ibid), where the “forms of co-presence include: virtual and actual, online and offline, cerebral and haptic, delay and immediacy.” (Ibid). The instructions or clues are accessible, and the ‘treasure’ is discoverable, if the player has engaged with the appropriate (digital and non-digital) technologies, geographies, activities and communities.

Souza e Silva and Sutko suggest that the “tropes of urbanity emphasize the activity of knowing urban spaces by exploration”p8 Treasure hunts allow for consideration of “the relationships among urban spaces, playful behavior and mobility” p6. They also ask “[h]ow does this merged physical / digital reality influence the way we move through cities and access information while on the move?”p8, which is a particularly good question when you consider the opportunities of integrating urban games into marketing.

My words = 291


de Lange M. (2009) The Mobile City Project and Urban Gaming, Second Nature 2: 161-169

Frith J. (2013) Turning life into a game: Foursquare, gamification and personal mobility, Mobile Media & Communication 1: 248-262

Hjorth L. (2011) Mobile@game cultures: The place of urban mobile gaming. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 17(4): 357-371

Souza e Silva A. & Sutko D. eds (2009) Digital Cityscapes: Merging digital and urban playspaces

Whitson J. R. (2013) Gaming the Quantified Self. Surveillance and Society 11(1/2): 163-176

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