Games mentioned in this geocaching episode:
- 02:18 Sea of Thieves
- 02:49 Letterboxing
- 11:36 Ready Player One
- 13:30 Rabbids
- 16:29 Pokemon Go
- 18:09 Ingress Prime
- 19:32 Harry Potter Wizards Unite
- 20:48 World of Warcraft
- 24:06 Pikmin Bloom
- 27:29 Minecraft
- 31:13 Horizon Forbidden West
A short intro to Geocaching
This began as an episode about geocaching. And geocaching is like one of these things that in this era of like Dungeons and Dragons popularity, and nerdom taking over pop culture that geocaching feels like a poindexterous, dorky as hell thing that you embark on. But it’s really pretty fascinating. It’s the idea that you know, you take your love of puzzle-solving, of discovery, and you take it outside. There is a robust community there.
Yeah, so I know nothing about geocaching. When I first heard the term, I literally for probably a half a year or more, though it was what I now know is to be frisbee golf. And I swear, and I thought it was like, Oh, you take an app out, and you are playing with your friends frisbee golf, and it tracks it or does something, and then people, you know, kind of my understanding was like, Oh, you go to these specific places and do these things. And I did not. So I know nothing about geocaching at all. But you’ve played it before, right?
It’s hard to say you’ve played it. It almost doesn’t feel like a game. What it is, is it’s a modern treasure hunt, you know, the whole idea that you have a map and X marks the spot, find your way to a desert island, dig a hole, or perform some task. These are things you know, like Sea of Thieves brings back into pop culture, wherever you want just sails around finding treasures. That treasure-finding thing.
What geocaching does is like, take this. Well, let me rewind for a second. So there’s this idea. There’s a sort of like game, sort of global or national or large scale, scavenger hunt style activity. It’s hard to call it a game, but an activity that you partake in is called letterboxing. Right? And it’s really the idea that, in the end, is very simple. It’s like hey, man, you’ve got a shoe box, and you wrap it in some plastic or whatever, you make it waterproof. You go somewhere, put a couple of trinkets, bury them, and leave clues to their location. Hopefully, someone goes and finds it.
Geocaching is a treasure hunt
So it’s like a treasure hunter scavenger hunt.
It’s a scavenger hunt. But now like ever since like, like in 2000. It was actually the year 2000 when GPS became a readily available thing. And you can see the timeline of people partaking in geocaching increasing from those who had extremely expensive GPS devices up to 2007 when you had a GPS in your phone. And the idea is that, yeah, it’s a scavenger hunt with GPS coordinates.
And, wait, like everyone can. Everyone contributes to it. Everyone hides, and everyone finds.
Yeah, exactly. So you can just find so, so here’s the basic premise; like you, there are specific apps or lists, and some are obscure. There are geocaching lists on the deep web. And you know, it’s your access to these lists of endpoints that really is part of the game, but you know, there’s a geocaching app, you can just like to look it up, you can pull it down and basically what it is like hey, around you there’s a geocache key, or at this coordinate, it’s using like a Google map or an Apple map overlay, and there’s a pin drop. But the idea is like hey, at this coordinate which might be in let’s uh let’s go easy, right, it’s in the park.
Somewhere within 100 meters or so is buried treasure. It’s hidden there are some clues the listing might say: walk like from from from the beginning point of the coordinates like walk north 100 steps until you are under like that.
The eaves of a great oak that look right or something like and so what would happen is you go there and you like look up, and you see a, and you see like a spider on the tree, and you’re like oh shit what a big spider and you realize it’s fake. And you figure your way up to up the tree. Look under the spider.
The spider is tied by a long piece of like thread or fishing line. It’s tied to like a little fist-size package that’s in the knot of the tree. And in that package is a little keychain, something for you to take and a logbook. You document yourself. “Tim was here at this time.” And you put it back, and maybe you leave like a little treasure for someone else. But that’s it. That’s the game.
Oh, wait, wait, wait, I have like three questions. Literally orbiting around it. So who started it? And then I guess the second question is, is it possible to go to them and there’ll be nothing there?
Good question about the starting, so letterboxing as a game started in the 1800s. This is a thing that people did treasure hunting, you know, this, like you can imagine a couple of dorks like me and you walking around before the Civil War clearly far in the north. And we’re like, boy, did you read that Robinson Crusoe. It’s like how fun would it be to like to bury some treasure, and you’re like, “but I did bury some treasure Schofield onward!”
And that’s where it began.
So the other thing is that this is governed by, like, by ethics, right? So there is a strong ethic that you don’t fuck up, or you don’t steal it, or you take a thing, and you leave the thing and stuff like that 100%. You can get there. It’s no longer there. Because it’s our nature, like maybe, you know, maybe like someone like literally chop down the tree oops.
The game you’re playing has an agency or a federation basically that says like, hey, when you do this, you have to leave this or when you do it, like checking in on the site or whatever. So there’s like an agency and rules.
Yeah, so, the organization is like around you know, the provider of the list and the coordinates, but these providers can be decentralized like there for a while, there was like a whole like 4chan decentralized letterbox game there, you can find others that are coordinates based off l blockchain geocaching so that there is no central authority there.
Yeah, and it’s one of those things that get increasingly more difficult. So my example of the park is fine. That’s fun. And in a way, you can imagine that if you had a real treasure map that literally everybody else had, the treasure would be picked over or whatever, but some maps are hard to get.
And you might find them up, like midway up a mountain, or 100 feet under the sea, right? Where the adventure ultimately becomes the journey to get to this coordinate.
Yeah, but once you get there, it’s like a 300-yard area, like cents a square foot.
It gets you there physically. And then you have to kind of not just look, but then also take the clues or whatever you had, and you had legit have to search.
There are different kinds. So like, the coordinates might just get you to clue one, right? You can imagine this is some kind of like riddle verse, and it will tell you the next location is like in a forest, three miles to your east. And that location is not on the map, right?
So it’s one of those things where it is really up to whoever goes in and places the cache, and kind of like the ethics of the list that you’re adhering to, how I don’t know how much hand-holding you give the person.
The thinking is that there’s a Yeah, it’s a gamified thing with an actual leaderboard to get to a point. And that leaderboard might just be some notes inside a very rare cache or, you know, activity and like that’s, I’m like, that’s part of the app. But it forces you to go hiking for the most part.
Yeah, this reminds me so much of Ready Player One to where it’s like, well, we can give you a clue. The clue just gets you there. But then you have to find the key. And then, once you have the key, you have to find the gate that the key unlocks.
Yeah. So it’s very cool. So there is the scenario that you were describing with the spider? I mean, can you describe what something you said is? You’ve played this before? What was that something that you experienced? Yeah.
So that was one of my first ones. I had one that was in the median between an expressway, which was kind of like dangerous to get to. I’ve never actually found an ammo box; like often, there’s like an ammo box if you look it up. And it’s totally waterproof.
And it’s full of shit. Everything that I find is like, you know, like a fist-sized, plastic-wrapped dice pouch full of, you know, stuff and like, they’re small. And they’re wedged into some weird spots.
That’s cool, though. Still cool. Yeah. Now I’ve never done it. And I’ve always wondered what it was. And so
Ready Player One is very, you know, it’s the whole like, gumshoe three clue thing, right. It’s the is the idea that there’s a puzzle. And at a glance, the idea that like, Oh, here’s a GPS coordinate, and right there is a treasure.
I mean, that doesn’t seem super fun. But you find those that lead to other caches that lead to other caches, and you end up going down kind of like a rabbit hole. Like some of this is like, coming up in pop culture. There’s a whole game there plus a story called Rabbids where Rabbids? Rabbits, not Rabbids.
Some lists are dangerous to play. Oh, right. Some are occult-based lists, where what you’re doing is, the equivalent of like, learning how to open the puzzle box and Hellraiser or you’re going like, or you’re going to like haunted locations.
The Geocache Killer
or like a crazy serial killer put out an elaborate thing, and then you followed t.
Oh man, that That’s amazing.
The Geocache Killer: Design Thinking games 2020
Watch out for our next game
one of the other things we were talking about like as fitness you know, this is getting you outside, so this topic has turned into like like it was kind of like an augmented reality game, but it’s like a fitness game, or then there’s the whole topic of like the gamification of exercise and fitness and eating and then exploring the physical world outside of your house geocache.
So I’m wondering, you know, there seems to be with some with geocaching, is there a point where you get to the location or that you’re using an app or that you’re using it more so in you know, kind of more than just getting to the 300-foot area?
That’s sort of where like Niantic comes in. Right? So if you think about like Pokemon Go, it’s not dissimilar. There’s more of a browsing quality where you’re looking around and hoping that you stumble upon a Pokemon, but there are specific locations and gyms.
Gradually word gets around that you know a certain corner of like a University has a certain Pokemon. You know, these parts are different circles on a Venn diagram that definitely overlap. So the Geocaching apps I’ve only ever used just map right that like have little coordinates on it, but it’s kind of the same thing as the Pokemon Go.
The Harry Potter-like all the Niantic things, I never played Ingress. But it was not dissimilar, except, you know, that leans more into the augmented reality thing, but you’re still scavenger hunting around. There’s more of a game or more of a video game aspect to it, more of a competent competitive aspect. Whereas like geocaching is the journey more than a result.
Yeah. And I know that there’s also like geocaching trails, right, like places you specifically go to. And you know, there’s also like places that I’m assuming that also can happen at places that you want to visit outdoor people place of like, beauty or significance or waterfalls or Yeah, and so the thing that conversely, and I’ve played Ingress, PokemonGo, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and I’m currently cracked out on Pikmin Bloom is that, that it was exciting and new. I think when it was my Niantic, it was amazing.
Don’t get me wrong. Their partnership with Nintendo is phenomenal. I’m here for it. I am not. I prefer Pokemon the actual role-playing game you know versus the card game or Pokemon Go? Yeah, so just not a Pokemon Go person. Because you just like obsessively catching and bat. Yeah, there’s nothing else to it. But when Ingress First, you know, when Ingress first launched, I love the fields that you could draw areas and you were on teams and you’re trying to protect areas and the longer you can protect areas, the more energy and resources you get.
And then it soon became apparent that okay, this is every post office, every city building every statue, you know, or money or monument, right. And then people could submit their own. I submitted two or three, two Ingress when I played which was like, there’s a memorial statue at a town close to me locally. I submitted that and it got added.
Wow. So it was kind of definitely the data that’s building out like okay, memorials and places that didn’t now I found that when you kind of go to PokemonGo Harry Potter wizards unite and even Pikmin bloom it’s just like, oh, this is now a gym or a wizard tower dual place. I can’t remember with Harry Potter.
Yeah, but it Pikmin bloom it’s like a place where like a fungus infestation can happen, you know, so then you so it’s neat. But I think now like being when I hear you describe and talk about geocaching, right, getting you to an area and then actually having a look at interact, solve riddles and clues. Versus I know where the gym is, I know where the post offices there just seems to be. It’s more about grinding, right? And so Pokemon to me is just like, grinding, grinding, grinding. And then there’s all these rules. People that say once you get over level 20 Like it’s horrid. Like it’s just so bad.
Pokemon Go is rough at higher levels
Oh, really? Why? What’s bad about it?
Well, most people, because it takes forever. And you have to be very strategic about what things you do to get experience because it takes so much experience to go up to like level 30 or higher or whatever. And then it just becomes well, why are you playing now?
Like, sure you don’t get anything you know, and it’s just like, they could always add another 10 levels to it or World of Warcraft it like add another 50 levels, you know, but I mean, I will. Having said that though. I liked Harry Potter. It was cool. I like Pokemon that kept me there. Ingress was the whole sci-fi secrecy thing.
And the whole thing about Ingress and the success of it, kind of as it relates to geocaching, I think is the exclusivity of it. Like it was a year that they only gave limited invites out it was kind of like Facebook strategy, right? And then you wanted to get chosen you wanted to win a survey or do all this stuff.
And so they had all these people who were like, chomping at the bit to be users and they were just like, oh do surveys for us do this for us build our spread our social media like it and it’s just like, oh my god, you just created an army of people because they want exclusivity to do marketing.
Yeah, you’re right. There’s, there’s kind of like an element of like the niche, right? Like, you can imagine that like, oh, you know, because it’s weird to get into or hard to find or hard to get access to.
The high friction point of getting into the hobby itself that suddenly you know, everyone who all the players are bound a little bit closer together because they kind of you know, made it through that hurdle. Yeah, that’s really interesting because like I remember when like Pokemon GO came out.
I still know people to this day that you’ll be out in public like visiting a museum or something and they’ll just be on their phone like catching Pokemon.
Pokemon Go and small businesses
It was like one of the first the the first zeitgeist, I can remember where meat like media outlets were actually talking about like, oh, yeah, all these like pasty kids who’ve never seen the sun are finally wandering around the park, or wandering into traffic or wandering off cliffs.
On the small business side, it was cool. Like on the small business side, it was just like, hey, come in, get this Pokemon-flavored drink or whatever, we have a pokey stop next to us feel free to kick out because you can only kick in like three times. But they were just like, oh, show us your highest level Pokemon. And if it beats our daily average, we’ll get you a Free Milkshake or you know or stuff like that everywhere.
Yeah, and I will say this like, I l Pikmin. I love the game. Are you familiar with Pikmin? At all?
Yeah. Familiar with Pikmin? Yeah, I have not played Pikmin Bloom, though.
Pikmin Bloom is awesome
Okay. Yeah. So I loved Pikmin ever since I played it on GameCube. You’re this little alien guy who lands on a planet. Then you basically have all these little plant people who want to work for you and love you. Basically do this, like, you give them nectar and they will do fruit for you or battle, or get fruit for your battle stuff. I love the sequels.
I’ve played all the games and when I actually like Pikmin bloom better than Ingress, PokemonGo, and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The reason why is because it is an AFK kind of game, like a casual while you’re walking, you can plant flowers, and collect fruit. And it’s nothing, it doesn’t even require me to look at the phone a lot while I’m walking.
But it gives me credit for walking. And it’s like, oh, you’ve walked this far. This is how many flowers you’ve planted. And then you can kind of keep walking and add new flowers and colors and types of flowers. And you can make your actual neighborhood or your yard or whatever. Actually, the digital looks like a digital garden and exert control – that sounds like nefarious, exert power. No, but actually, like creative tickles that creator kind of thing. Are you like oh, cool, I can make my own garden.
It seems like whereas like Pokemon GO and Harry Potter, you play by going to a locale so you’re but you’re still like consuming. You’re on the receptive end of like, whatever content. Yeah, so in Pikmin us you can actually like create, you have creative powers.
Pikmin at PAX East
Oh yeah, when I was at PAX East, everyone was playing Pikmin. And the entire Boston Convention Center looked like this lush, verdant flower garden. That was beautiful. They had all these different types of flowers and giant flowers.
It was like filled with fruit and like so when you walk through it all your Pikmin are like grabbing fruit, and you’re paying for planting flowers so I can see what you’re doing. You can see what I’m doing in regards to planting flowers. And I think and between Niantic and Nintendo, I think this is gold. So AFK games are games that you can get on usually on a mobile device: plays itself and auto levels up itself, you’re just kind of log in every so often make choices, design stuff, whatever. Then you can just let it play itself.
Pikmin Bloom is like this nice, great, cool area where there’s a hybrid of an AFK game, and a walking game and the Nintendo worker placement game, right. And so, in that sounds very complex, like hey, you can create your own garden you control your workers, you do work your management, but it’s also you don’t kind of have to be there to play because it counts your steps.
It’s a kind of an AFK game and things will grow themselves and you know, and so it’s I’m really liking it and so that’s why I’m geeking out about it and talking a lot and it gets me out I have noticed walking like I actually want to walk because of it.
That’s the hard part, man like I love the idea that you can plant a garden. The promise of the HoloLens like back in the day and how you could take you know your Minecraft server to the real world. There’s something that’s really attractive about the idea that either through, you know, the window of your phone or in the future maybe a pair of glasses you slide on that you decorate your space and You can see the decorations of others. And there’s something that’s Ultra attractive about that. It’s almost as if I feel like a game, right? It feels more like collaborative art, you know?
And yeah, I’ve always loved the Sci-Fi grid. Like, I love sci-fi movies. And I love it when they render like the internet or computer user interfaces and sci-fi movies as being like an overlay on reality. But all the user interfaces kind of seem to be like augmented reality over real space out and you’re out in the real world. Like, you don’t have to be limited to electricity or cable internet.
Geocaching takes us on a tangent about being technological optimists
Or tied to a monitor to a keyboard. This is like, the science fiction thing of like, technology, ultimately liberating you from like, a cubicle you find yourself in weather that’s literally in a business office, or, you know, kind of like the, like, you know, many of us are remote now, I, we’re, we’re confined to the house. That’s where that so this shit is.
I travel and work all the time. If I actually have if, if I’m going on a trip, I will use my phone as like a wireless hotspot, you know what I mean? Or cars now have wireless, so you can actually work and get Wi-Fi in the car, but it just connects through a cellular connection, but can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot? I definitely feel like we are now at a more time than ever, historically, where we could actually, be completely mobile work on the go, we could actually, you know, kind of do that. And so, I love it.
I love the idea of being a you know, these things like untethering you from your devices, you know, games that you can play without having to be next to a console or to your like, powerhouse machine or, or something like that I like really attractive, especially the ones that, you know, have some sort of like community aspect.
There’s a kind of like weird gamification to co-working spaces, right, and like finding one near you and going in, again, working order. There’s a weird kind of gamification to the whole, like, digital nomad lifestyle, but how nomadic can you actually be?
I’m for fast, like, I’m totally like, utopian, not dystopian. I’m trying to have a positive outlook. And, and the thing is the fact that people can work with wireless hotspots, they can move, it doesn’t really matter. Then you have an office offices being structured now to where they have hotel desks. So you can just kind of go in use a desk for the day, but you don’t have to be back at that office.
Maybe you’re not back at that office, I don’t know. But then with apps and games, and I think there’s this kind of version, it’s like, oh, with computers and stuff, we’re all going to be like matrix plugged in to where we’re just like our bodies have atrophied or they’ve gotten really obese, like Wall-E the Pixar Disney film. And so and I love this, it’s like no, it’s more like for sure Horizon Forbidden Dawn, take the tech with you. I’m into nature, you know, and you can exactly the Wi-Fi and yeah, I love it.
I definitely waffle back and forth between between, you know, being a technological optimist and not and like, you know, generally I don’t think I don’t think a matrix is before us. But I think, you know, the first step to that is like re communing with, you know, the actual outside and nature and real people, and what the tech is is just kind of like an extension of like function so like, you know, you can meet with your buddies and continue the conversation at you know, at any kind of distance but it’s not at the expense of ever meeting with your buddies or ever going outside or, or anything.
Yeah, so yeah, so like, like, the moment you find me as a technological optimist, I definitely waffle the other way. But I’m with you, I think I think this kind of thing is like really interesting as the devices in our pockets become increasingly more powerful and like interconnected interdependent with like, like our stuff, you know, the ability to like, you know, like pretty leaderboards Rob, just kind of like random shit. Just like really kind of like attract those of you who enjoyed this or any of the prior episodes, give us a star heart favor on designthinkinggames.com Or your podcatcher of choice.
We’ve got robust to backlog go back and listen to it we also offer some ads. Perhaps you you heard a good one just like a few minutes prior they’re super affordable so if you got something you want to promote to like-minded audience look us up and we’re on all the social media largely Twitter and Tik Tok as Design Thinking Games. We’ve been talking a lot about like a newsletter, and I think we actually have like some content from like interviews we’ve been working on and you know, some stuff like that. To subscribe to our newsletter if you want to hear more from us.
Outro: thanks for making it this far
Thank you for listening to the Design Thinking Games podcast. You only have so much time and it means a lot you shared it with us. To connect with your hosts Michael or Tim, visit Design Thinking games on TikTok twitch and Twitter DMs are open. You can also check out designthinkinggames.com where you can request topics, ask questions or see what else is going on. Until next time, game on.
This geocaching episode is brought to you by SEO, and the need to say “geocaching” about 23 times. For good measure: geocaching, geocaching, geocaching.