HIDE AND GO SEEK
Humans are, among other things, a very playful animal. Give us a tool and some leisure time and we'll find a way to make a game out of it. Heck, don't even give us the leisure time, we make games out our work. We even make games out of our games. This is a topic that fascinates and entertains me. I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll probably mention it again. I mention it today because my brother recently received a GPS receiver.
A GPS receiver has only one real function – to tell you where you are. In theory it can do so to within six feet although in practice the error tends to be somewhere around 50 feet. Some receivers can do complicated things with that information, such as display maps or determine your average speed, but all these tasks boil down to the fundamental ability to tell you where you are.
At first glance, knowing where you are doesn’t seem like a very good game but it turns out we’ve been making it a game for a long time through orienteering races, road rallies, and the like. The game there, however, isn’t really knowing where you are it’s figuring out where you are and figuring out how to get from where you are to where you want to be. The GPS receiver pretty much gets rid of the “figuring” part and a GPS can do this without using landmarks, without references, and without even knowing where you WERE. That’s new, so it requires a new game, but what kind of game can you make out of that? In two words or less: treasure hunting. In one word or less: geocaching.
Geocaching is a game designed specifically for GPS receivers. X marks the spot where X is a member of the set of Cartesian coordinates. It works like this:
One person hides a container and then posts its coordinates online. The seekers put these coordinates in their GPS receivers and then head to the listed location. Once there, they start searching about for the container (unless the hidden container is about 50 feet across, just the coordinates won’t be enough to find it). Sometimes there are items in the container (key chains, knickknacks, Happy Meal toys, etc…) sometimes it’s just a log book. If you find it, you’re supposed to take an item, leave an item for the next person to find, and record your visit in the log book.
This is what my brother and I did last Sunday. We went into the woods (although these things aren’t always hidden in the woods – you’ll find them pretty much anywhere you can get a GPS signal) armed with coordinates for three different caches. It turns out that 50 foot accuracy still leaves a lot of ground to cover. We couldn’t find the first one on our own and had to call his girlfriend so she could read us the hint online (we were, perhaps a bit cocky, and didn’t bring any of the hints with us). The hint wasn’t really that helpful. It directed us to look near a fallen log. It also mentioned bark and leaves. That’s about as useful as giving someone an address for a house in
It took us less than twenty minutes to find the second one (we left a kinder toy and took a crab pin). By that time it was starting to get dark so we left the third cache for another day.
It was a good day – admittedly frustrating at times, but we ended with a victory (and a list of items we intend to bring in the future to make things easier). I’m looking forward to our next attempt.