Locative games don't have to involve the latest high-tech phone and hosted service.
Yury Gitman, a "wireless artist" formerly based at NYU, created the game Node Runner: a race to connect to and photograph the most wireless nodes between two points. The original Node Runner was a two-team race to collect as many wireless nodes as possible between the Eyebeam studios and Bryant Park in New York City in two and a half hours. Node Runner is also a great way for hackers to get outside and get some exercise. Participate as a laptop-bearing tribe of gargoyles, rushing about the city to find free net access, and take pictures to prove you were there.
At the start of the game, each team gets a laptop with a digital camera and net stumbling software that scans for wireless network nodes. The teams get one point for every five nodes in their scanner logs, and five points for each set of two pictures that they upload via an open access pointa picture of a landmark near the access point, and a picture of a team member standing there. Note to the wireless cognoscenti: the picture requirement eliminated the otherwise winning strategy of playing from a tall building using a large grid antenna.
Figure 9-1 shows the latest web interface for watching noderunners upload pictures in real time. The game was recently played again in Paris with PDAs and local base map data, and it is starting to look very sophisticated. http://www.noderunner.com is a redeveloped version of the site, containing the full rules.
Figure 9-1. Web interface to Node Runner
A few months later, at the Cartographic Congress in London, we played our own local version of Node Runner. http://downlode.org/noderunner/ shows the rules and results for our modified version. We bent the rules a bit to fit our local situation; as Wi-Fi coverage is not as good in London, we awarded a point for each scanned node. And in a free-for-all spirit, we allowed more than two teams to compete. We also required GPS coordinates for each access point the teams logged on to. One team cheated slightly by photographing themselves by three access points within 15 meters of each other! The winner optimized his strategy by charging around a downtown business district that wasn't really on the way from the start to the finish. Used to sedentary wireless access in coffee shops, you may have more difficulty negotiating on city streets with a digital camera and a laptop with attached GPS. Gadgets galore!
9.2.1. Rich person's location finding
You can use your GPS unit to take latitude and longitude while you're taking photographs. Better yet, connect your GPS unit to your laptop and get a continuous stream of geo-annotated Wi-Fi stumbles from a program like kismet for *NIX, kismac or MacStumbler for the Macintosh, or netstumbler for the PC. See [Hack #7] and [Hack #92] for more details on stumbling your own maps of wireless access points.
188.8.131.52 Poor person's location finding
You don't have a GPS. But you have the Internet! A local mapping or geocoding service can help you figure out where you are. In [Hack #79], we show how to use http://geocoder.us to provide latitude and longitude for most U.S. addresses, as well as intersections. In the UK, you can get this information from http://www.streetmap.co.uk/. Sadly the big online mapping services like MapQuest and Multimap no longer give latitudes and longitudes for free. At the time of writing, Maporama still does, as detailed in [Hack #37]. One of the authors of this book used the Maporama geocoding service to look up the locations of his hotels for a trip to Italy and then enter them into his GPS.
Instead of recording places with latitude and longitude, you could just record the URL of a mapping site pointing to that location. [Hack #1] contains tips and tricks for forming and reusing URLs on several popular web map sites.
9.2.2. Other Wireless Games
We hope Node Runner will give some people ideas for other, more complex, free wireless/locative games. For example, you could design a game to collect virtual objects, "simjects," that are only accessible if you're near a particular place. Node Running is also a fun way of collecting geospatial data about access points to use as a base map for Wi-Fi location-finding software programs, such as PlaceLab. Some of the 3G mobile-service providers now provide simple role-playing games that rely on physical exploration of space. Using the techniques outlined in [Hack #61], you can make spatial games over phone networks very cheaply.