SCVNGR hunt: using geosocial gaming for orientation and education.

In the arena of geosocial apps and gaming, SCVNGR may represent one of the top potential challengers. For end users, SCVNGR offers a rich experience combining the best features of Foursquare and Gowalla. As an app for higher education and business, it provides immense potential for created user experience.

Our college used it to implement a scavenger hunt at all eight freshman orientation sessions where incoming students formed teams and followed clues that allowed them to meet people while gaining more information about college functions and facts. The collection process involved points for texting correct clues, with bonus points for the first teams done. With the prizes being Oswego hoodies for top teams, students threw themselves into the competition with great gusto.

Students on a dead sprint = throwing themselves into a scavenger hunt with great gusto.

Students on a dead sprint = throwing themselves into a scavenger hunt with great gusto.

Brandi Ostrander, who coordinated our scavenger hunt, said the technical part was not difficult — somewhat easy compared to finding 20 offices/partners to participate (including web communication folks getting feedback on a new website). She created and put in tasks, locations and the point system, guessing about a “50/50 split” with what SCVNGR developers did for the project.

Scavenger hunters on smartphones downloaded the easy-to-use free SCVNGR app; those with older phones could text SCVNGR (728647). The game started with receiving directions to their first location, and those with the app had the added benefit of a Google Map. Completing tasks and earning points could include inputting a specific keyword, inputting any response (for an open question) or posting a photo. After the task, the program sends the next location, which can be randomized (we preferred this as opposed to all hunters converging at once, although smartphones could see a linear menu). Incorrect answers could lose points, though players could advance after a number of tries.

As an administrator, you can use most SCVNGR features for free, but if you need a lot of development help or something highly customized, you can contract at various price levels. Our Orientation Office bought a year-long unlimited plan, with the huge advantage being nearly instant support — otherwise, you have to post a question on a message board or browse the site FAQ. With our extended support, we plan to implement a similar game during Opening Week to help students learn even more about the campus.

As far as everyday end-user experience, SCVNGR is robust and impressive. At any time, users can create venues, write tips and post photos (and get points for all of the above). You can create your own scavenger hunts and point systems fairly easily, and play existing games or hunts others have already designed. Unfortunately, like Gowalla, you can get stuck with poor data hygiene if the information is wrong. And like Gowalla and Foursquare, you can find duplicates of the same venue, but with the exception of more controlled apps like Yelp, this seems a common challenge to geosocial platforms.

Did the students enjoy the scavenger hunt? “They had a blast with it,” Ostrander said. “They thought it was a lot of fun and met a lot of people.” The most important thing, she suggested, is the game coordinator needs to be very organized, have everything set well in advance and know how to do with unexpected results — like when students lost service inside our cavernous Campus Center and had to repeat some steps (they remembered the clue words, and Ostrander had them re-enter them).

“We wanted to keep it simple, but you can also do multimedia messages, like photo or video clues,” i.e. find this building or person, Ostrander said. “I don’t think we tapped into its full potential.” It is that potential — as well as perhaps the best usability of any geosocial app I’ve seen — that could turn SCVNGR into a huge player in the market.

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5 responses to “SCVNGR hunt: using geosocial gaming for orientation and education.

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