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Real world gaming with a GPS-capable mobile phone

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December 6, 2004 The growing utilisation of GPS technology in mobile phones has spawned an interesting new form of real-world interaction with with the announcement of the "RayGun" a fast-paced location game from Glofun. RayGun combines the mental intensity of a video game with the physical intensity of a sport, where the real world serves as the game board.

Making Fun of GPS

In order to "make a move" in location-based games, the player must move in the real world. Most location-based games make use of relatively low-precision location data derived solely from cellular technology. As a consequence, their real-world play spaces are large (typically an entire city), and the players' movements must be correspondingly large (typically a city block or more). The large scale of such games means that they are relatively slow-playing. RayGun makes the most of the handset's GPS, tracking the player's location, bearing, and velocity precisely and rapidly - throughout the game - which increases a game's mental and physical intensity: The physical area of the game can be reduced to a more human scale and played entirely within an area the size of a soccer field, or even a suburban backyard. Smaller scale translates into faster game play because players' moves are measured in seconds rather than minutes, creating an immediacy that's not possible with yesterday's location technology.

How to Play

A mobile phone loaded with RayGun software emits "spectral" energy that lets you attract and track ghosts. Unfortunately, the energy also annoys the ghosts, so you'd better "ionize" them before they get to you. To aim the raygun at a ghost, you move toward it. Moving quickly increases the raygun's range. You can adjust your beam to long and narrow (good for zapping ghosts while they're still far away) or short and wide (good for zapping them when they're closing in on you). The longer you play, the more ghosts you attract, and the faster you have to move to stay ahead.

The future of GPS locator games

The RayGun GPS location game follows on the heels of similar prototypes for "augmented reality" games like "Human Pac-Man" that involve GPS and mobile phones for real-virtual gaming interaction. Other GPS based real-world games are gaining in popularity, including "Geo-caching" and "Geo-Dashing" that reinvent the concept of the scavenger hunt with digital technology, and "Swordfish" from Blister Entertainment. Analysts at Frost & Sullivan predict that the mobile gaming market will jump to almost $7 billion in 2006. IDC expects the number of wireless gamers to grow from 7.9% of all U.S. wireless subscribers in 2003 to 34.7%, or 65.2 million users, by 2008.

RayGun currently runs on the Nextel i710 and i730 handsets and is expected to be released early in 2005.


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