As previously reported on ARGNet, in the last year, location-based gaming start-up SCVNGR has been taking the smartphone app world by storm, partnering with giant entertainment companies as well as local businesses, nonprofits, and cultural institutions to build “a game layer on top of the world.” Very much a driving force in the overall gamification movement, SCVNGR has just launched a new venture, LevelUp, and is moving into the realm of “local deals” ventures like Groupon and Living Social.
At a press conference in Philadelphia, SCVNGR Chief Rockstar Michael Hagan kicked off the first LevelUp deals at the “inspired” Boloco burrito chain in Boston and PYT, home of the “craziest burgers” in Philadelphia. (They probably earned that moniker because of their Krispy Kreme burger.) LevelUp brings together the check-in, the challenge, and the reward all “in one bite,” according to Hagan, and benefits local merchants in the long term by “scripting a reason to return.”
Geo-locative check-in app SCVNGR has pulled off some crazy stunts in the past few months. Modernista used the app to lead Dexter fans to a kill room set up at Comic-Con in San Diego, and the New England Patriots used it to help nose tackle Vince Wilfork recover his Super Bowl XXXIX ring. But this time, SCVNGR has gone too far: they’ve unleashed zombies.
Or at least, zombie badges. Just in time for Halloween, SCVNGR has infected ten SCVNGR players with a Zombie badge. Once infected, these hapless souls will be informed of their sad state, and are doomed to wander the streets, spreading the infection. The transmission vector? SCVNGR’s new social check-in feature, where players can earn points by bumping phones together. Normally, engaging in unprotected bumping lets players earn points, with the rewards increasing based on the size of the group. When a player bumps with a zombified SCVNGR user, all the users in the group become infected with the zombie badge.
What will you do to avoid joining the ranks of the living dead? Will you stock up on supplies at Sears’ zombie-themed sale, purchase a Faraday cage bag, or go off the grid entirely? Luckily, this is a limited engagement, so you only need to make plans to protect yourself for the next few weeks. If for some unknown reason you actually want to become a mindless zombie, email [email protected] with the subject line of “BRAINSSS!!” — the first ten to do so will be infected.
A relative newcomer to smartphone location-based gaming, SCVNGR is taking the United States by storm and threatens to shake up the geo-location game market. Similar to games like Gowalla or Foursquare, players use their smartphones to check in at locations. Unlike anything else on the market, however, SCVNGR players are presented with location-specific “challenges” that they can complete to earn points.
SCVNGR tasks might be a riddle, a dare, a question, or more, and they are customized precisely for the location. For example, I checked in to my nearby police precinct (No, I was not in handcuffs), and, in addition to the usual “Say something here” functionality common to the other geo-location smartphone games, SCVNGR offered me a few tasks related to law enforcement. It asked me what my favorite constitutional amendment was (Duh, the Fifth!), and in “The Swords & Scales” challenge I was asked to pose as Lady Justice and upload the picture. (Hm, yes well, the zip ties were a problem.)
Originally SCVNGR focused on larger institutions, launching with games created by the US Army and Princeton University. Now, a year after launching, SCVNGR boasts an impressive partner list of over 600 institutions, including universities, museums, and retail stores. SCVNGR is not just a forward-facing game, it is also a development platform, allowing institutions to purchase a number of challenges to customize and then providing them with a web-based application to create challenges. This means that third-party adventure creators and team-building event consultants, like Scaventures, can also tie themselves into the incredibly accessible platform.
Be sad for New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork (#75). Someone has stolen his precious Super Bowl XXXIX ring, and now Big Vince needs your help to get it back.
Help Vince is an local interactive marketing game for the New England Patriots that integrates SCVNGR, a location-based, check-in style smartphone app. A few weeks ago, Patriots sports bloggers received simple shirts to start the buzz, but the Help Vince game officially opened last week.
According to the official press conference, Vince brought his Super Bowl ring to his 7th annual draft day fundraiser benefiting diabetes charities. While showing the ultimate prize in American football to a lady Patriots fan, a man in a New York Jets helmet grabbed it and sped away in a vintage Pinto. In the ransom video filmed in his mother’s house, the Ultimate Jets Fan owns up to the crime and claims he just wants “the satisfaction of knowing that [he’s] smarter than the average Patriots fan.”
Launching viral campaigns at San Diego Comic-Con is no longer a surprise, and has become almost expected. Some campaigns have even managed to incorporate participation from those not at Comic-Con, allowing players at home to provide assistance to those on the ground. Showtime, however, has upped the ante with its viral campaign for the hit series Dexter by giving non-Con goers the ability to participate in their own towns. There is a caveat, however. Your town must be one of five major metropolitan areas chosen to participate: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta.
Whether or not you will be attending Comic-Con, participation requires downloading the SCVNGR application, available for iPhone and Android, in order to view the Dexter-themed Treks challenge. The purpose of the game is to record “kills” by completing the challenges located both at the Convention Center and at nearby locations, and earning limited edition SCVNGR badges that can be redeemed for Dexter merchandise. For players in the other five participating cities, the same game-play applies but with SCVNGR Treks designed for their area.
Get ready for another exciting edition of Come Out and Play! This New York-based public games festival is gearing up for its 2010 edition, which will be headquartered at the Lyceum in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood June 4-6. The Festival has extended its deadline for submitting games to April 19th, so if you have an idea for a fun game, there’s still time to get involved. The Festival planners are working with game designers to refine their ideas and make sure they fit the location and scope of the event. Past games presented/debuted at COAP include Cruel 2B Kind by Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost, as well as Jane’s Cryptozoo and the Lost Sport of Olympia, Ken Eklund’s Spy School, and TAH II, which was an extension of TAH, an alternate reality game produced by Cultural Oil.
I spoke recently with Greg Trefry, Festival Co-Founder and the author of “Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in ALL of Us,” to get some details on what to expect this year. Greg says there will be a mix of games requiring tech and not, and is very enthusiastic about location-based games that leverage tech like smartphones and apps for play. Festival sponsor SCVNGR, known for their smartphone based geo-gaming tech platform, will be presenting their own game, but CEO/Chief Ninja Seth Priebatsch was not forthcoming with details. “Well, I can’t tell you too much about what we’re going to be showing off (it’s some sweet new features) but in general it’s in the same vein as what SCVNGR’s all about; making building and playing location-based mobile games fun, quick and easy.”
Greg says that while no games have been officially accepted and announced yet, the popular “Circle Rules Football” from last year’s event will be returning, and he expects a great mix of games, including “weird new sports.” He would love to see submissions for ARGs and games that include ARG elements, as he feels location-based games and ARGs dovetail nicely by using the content of the real world and blurring the lines to enrich the experience of gameplay so you’re “not sure if you’re looking at the game any more.” The real world “is the highest resolution thing you’re gonna play,” he notes.