How Not to Play Location-based Games like an Idiot

Welcome to the wonderful world of location-based games! I see you’ve just downloaded a copy of Traveler’s Quest, or Dokobots, or CodeRunner, or perhaps you’ve got yourself on foursquare for the first time. That’s great! You’re about to discover what geotagging and GPS-enabled mobile devices can add to gaming and social media. Location-based games are a great way to explore parts of your neighborhood you might not have otherwise wandered through, or to add some fun and adventure to a daily commute.

Frisky Mongoose is glad to welcome you to the fold, and would like to make your transition as smooth and painless as possible – for the rest of us, mind you. Most location-based games are multiplayer, after all, and we all have to play together. There are a few simple tips we’d like to share with you to prevent you from acting like a total newbie; a few common mistakes to avoid in order not to make other players think of you as an idiot.

Well, maybe just one tip:

Do not put geotags and/or game content inside your home.

There is pretty much never a good reason to do this, and there are always several reasons not to do this. Oh, sure, we can understand the impulse to do it; you’ve just started the game, and you’ve been prompted to “bury your first treasure,” or “create a drop for fellow agents,” or “build your first village.” You’re probably playing the game at home, having just downloaded it over your own Wi-Fi, so you figure, hey, why not use your current location? One spot’s as good as the next, right?

No. Stop. Do not.

Think for a second about what you’re doing to everyone else, and more importantly, to yourself. The primary goal, in most location-based games, is to physically travel to the locations that the game and its players generate for you. Whether it’s to hunt for treasure, or visit a village somewhere in the real world to trade with (and then pillage), or track down the next agency objective as a smartphone-enabled superspy, the geotags you create are meant to be located – and physically visited – by others.

Putting objectives in your own home, under the best circumstances, makes you annoying to everyone else. At worst, it provides you with your very own stalkers.

Think about how this content will appear to your fellow players. They’re in your general area, playing the game, when they get a hit on their radar: Oh, joy! A new prize to track down! So they follow their GPS, happily watching that map marker draw closer and closer. Some games, in fact, will grant them bonus points if they can get as close as possible to the big red “X,” encouraging them to stand right on top of it. But then, they encounter a barrier, preventing them from actually reaching the target – your front door.

At this point, you’ve basically got three ways this can go.

Badly: “Wow. Really? You hid the treasure/target/drop point inside your own house? How am I supposed to get at it now? I guess I can get partial credit if I select it from outside. Jeez, what an idiot. At least they have a nice house.”

Really Badly: “Oh. They put something inside their own house. Good thing the game tells me the item was ‘Placed by AwesomeUser91.’ Now I can avoid hunting down any future clues from that player, thus denying them any interaction, and I can warn everyone else on the forums about this idiot player, so hopefully we can drive them out of the game. Plus now I know where AwesomeUser91 lives. Nice house.”

Oh Dear God: “Hm. In order to get the most points for this game, I need to be on top of the location. I wonder if I can get inside here.

Look! Your fellow players are here!

Hadn’t considered that last one, had you? There are plenty of ways to unwittingly be an idiot in any game, and location-based games are no different. But when you’re using the real world as your game map, every geotag you place is an invitation to every other player, saying, “This is a good place to come and play. Please come and home in on this big cheerful bullseye.”

So don’t put one inside your home. Most of us don’t want to go there – and trust me, you don’t want visits from those of us who do.

CodeRunner is published by RocketChicken Interactive, a TriplePoint client.

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  • Ellie Humphrey

    Great article Jesse. The biggest thing I see missing from the location-based games in the market right now is the ability to virtually travel. There are other location-based games out there with invite systems and travel mechanics that allow players to interact independently from their physical location. Thus avoiding those embarrassing, “Who are you and what are you doing at my house?!” moments.