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Late to the Game(s): Exploring your town, with augmented reality mobile games

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

I spend way too much time on my phone, and I’m sure I’m not alone. When I’m not “doomscrolling” as the kids call it – or spending an inordinate amount of time reading bleak and depressing news stories – I’m playing games. A lot of this is pretty sedentary activity, so not particularly good for me. But there are games that can actively encourage you to get up and explore your community more. 

These games – known as augmented reality for the way they overlay game material onto the “real” world through the use of your phone camera – aren’t anything new. Pokémon Go might have been one of the first to really hit the mainstream. That game, which is rapidly approaching the fifth anniversary of its first release date, proved immensely popular, but it wasn’t the first augmented reality game, and it wouldn’t be the last. 

My augmented reality gaming obsession, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, is approaching its second birthday. The game is interesting because, while it is a game you are playing on your phone, like Pokémon Go it has elements that encourage you to explore your world. In Pokémon Go you hatch your Pokémon by walking with their eggs. Different eggs require different distances. Wizards Unite borrows this idea, only instead of hatching eggs, the gamer must walk different distances to unlock portkey portmanteaus that “teleport” player characters to different locations in the wizarding world where they can snoop around and collect resources. There is also a daily assignment to walk at least a quarter of a kilometer. This resets bonus rewards and awards the player with experience. 

But it isn’t just walking around. These games often highlight unique locations around your city. Sometimes places you might not have noticed. In Pokémon Go these are gyms you use for training your Pokémon. In Harry Potter they are inns where you can restore your energy for battles and other spell casts, greenhouses where you can collect plant resources for brewing potions, and fortresses where you can confront enemies in battle. 

Park Street in Grayson, between the Grayson City Building and the Grayson Gallery, is a great place to start. Not only is the city building a fine greenhouse for stocking up on potion ingredients, but the park, historical markers, and the gallery are all inns where gamers can recover their energy. The tourism building is also a fortress, where gamers can team up to battle different threats – dark wizards, werewolves, pixies – for rewards. You could walk the circle around that block, getting in your quarter kilometer, refueling your character as necessary and as inns cooled down and reset, and picking up traces (non-combat spell casts) or engaging in fortress battles. 

But you’d be missing part of the fun if you only stuck to that one block. Look in the background while you walk around the park and you will see, on other streets, other inns. Other fortresses. Other greenhouses. All of these are associated with some political or community gathering place, like a city hall or a church, or with a business. Checking out those other spots that appear on the map can be a great way to explore your city. 

Like Grayson, Olive Hill also has a number of fantastic spots to visit, from their city park to the Beckham County historical marker, and historic church buildings and graveyards. 

So, no matter which city you live in, if you need some motivation to get out and walk, and want to find public locations you might not otherwise be aware of while getting a few steps in, consider checking out one of the many augmented reality games available on your app store. They all have interesting things to offer, and they all reward you for getting off your couch and moving. And that’s pretty cool. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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