Innovations That Matter

Location-based games lure kids off the couch

Work & Lifestyle

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the developed world, and the widespread obsession with sedentary computer games certainly doesn’t help. Nintendo’s Wii has been applauded as a step in the right (more active) direction, as have gyms that integrate gaming. Now a UK-based firm is gearing up to go a step further—and right out the door. LocoMatrix, which is still in beta, has developed location-based games kids can play outdoors using their GPS-enabled mobile phones. Fruit Farmer, for example, is a game in which one or more players run around a real environment such as a park, football field or beach collecting virtual oranges (visible on their mobile phone screens) while avoiding virtual obstacles and killer wasps. Multiple levels of play are available, and users can even create their own versions using a special program on LocoMatrix’s website. In Treasure Hunt, meanwhile, the player follows a set of pictorial clues to find a series of locations. The game can be configured to display information about the destination locations, while its “warm-ometer” feature shows pictorially whether the player is getting hotter or colder in relation. As with Fruit Farmer, users can produce their own customized versions. Coming later this month is Locix, in which players capture territories by running in a circle around that area. If another player enters the circle before the first player has completed it, he or she has to start again. All games are free to play during LocoMatrix’s beta phase, but it will soon begin charging a small fee. Ultimately, the company plans to adopt a subscription scheme in which users pay a monthly fee for access to games and more, such as the ability to enter teams into competitions. LocoMatrix hopes to expand its offerings into role-playing games, strategy games and games of cooperation. It is also working on making its platform open so that other developers can create their own games for it…. Ideas, anyone? Spotted by: Bryan McAndrews



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