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If you follow my Twitter feed or you’ve gone anywhere with me recently, you know I’m kind of taken by this iPhone app called Gowalla.  It’s a game that encourages you to explore the real world, and I think it’s an example of a brand new category of games that link your actual location to some sort of a game world.

I’m going to explain Gowalla to those of you who haven’t heard of it, perhaps in hopes of getting you to play, then in my next post I’m going to post the Gowalla Rules I play by.

With Gowalla, the basic idea is you go to a place in the real world: a park, a restaurant, a school, a business, a statue, a lake… and you then check in with Gowalla.  If the spot doesn’t exist, you can create it first. Here’s are the check-in screens:

Once you’ve checked in somewhere, you can see if there are any “items” there—virtual icons of interesting things.  If there is something interesting there, you can trade something you have in your Gowalla pack for something there, or you can just leave an item there—and by doing that, you become a site’s “founder.”

There can be only 10 founders, which means there can be only ten items at a spot.  Items don’t have any particular value, but it’s fun to collect sets—Susie collects food items, for instance.

Sometimes, just by checking in, you’ll find a “bonus” item, and so you can grow the number of items you have (you start as a new player with 4 items in your pack, and your pack can hold only 10 items.)  Here’s my home screen now:

If there’s an item you particularly cherish, you can put it in your vault—but it’s a one-way trip; items added to your vault can never be taken out and put in your pack again.

When you’re standing someplace, you can look and see a list of nearby spots.  It sorts in order of nearest to least near, and looks like this:

And of course, one of the coolest things is it’ll show you those spots on a map, so you can easily visualize what’s around you.  Green pins are places I’ve checked into before; red pins are places I’ve never checked into.

One other thing: if you have 10 items in your pack, you’ll never find any additional bonus items, so it’s to your advantage to occasionally “found” new spots so you have room in your pack for new things.

There’s more to the game: special trips, featured spots, and item numbers, but there’s really just one other aspect that’s important: if your friends play, they can link to your account, and then you can see when each other check in.

That turns out to be a really interesting way to be able to keep in touch with each other, and reminds me of what I *used* to use Twitter for—to tell my close, real friends exactly what I was up to.

In my next post, I’m going to list the Gowalla rules I play by.  Check it out!

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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