There are a few cell phone games that use real-world GPS data to control your in-game character.
The most well-known are probably the two games by Niantic, Pokemon Go and Ingress, in which you physically walk around in order to move your in-game character.
However, no one has yet implemented a smaller-scale version of this idea.
This proposal is for a simulation game that is played on a portable device (probably a cell phone) in which you are the pilot of a large crew-operated vehicle; perhaps a train, a 17th-century galleon, or a futuristic starship.
The vehicle will have several physically-separated “stations” that all need to be manned (by you!). For a galleon, this could include following: the wheel, the sails, an anchor, and the cannons.
In order to operate each station, you (the player) will have to physically run around your house to different locations. Your cell phone GPS will figure out where you are, and will give you the appropriate controls.
- So if you want to operate the sails, you have to run upstairs to the “sails” station in the second floor hallway.
- If you want to operate the cannons, you have to go to the “cannon” station in the kitchen, etc.
See Figure 1 for an example of a possible house that this game could be played in, and Figure 2 for an example of a spaceship-ification of the same floor plan.
Fig. 1: A regular floor plan for a house. We will turn this into a spaceship; each different room is designated (by the player) as being a different crucial spaceship component (see Figure 2).
Fig. 2: We have overlaid a spaceship onto this one-story house. NASA guidelines strongly discourage the conversion of a 2-bedroom house into a spaceship, due to the unsuitable floor plan. See artist’s rendition of this architectural fiasco in Figure 3.
Fig. 3: Although this spaceship has a terrible layout and extremely poor atmospheric handling, it may be the best that could be done given the layout constraints (see Figure 2).
Addressing GPS issues
Realistically, GPS may not have the required resolution. It also has a hard time with elevation, so it might not be able to report whether you were on the first or second floor of a multi-story dwelling. It might be possible to use WiFi signal strength to fix this, but we also have a more low-tech version that should work.
Instead of using the GPS at all, we just draw a set of symbols that can be easily identified by the cell phone camera.
- Draw a triangle on a plain piece of paper. Put that piece of paper in your laundry room. Now it’s the “engine room.”
- Draw a circle on a piece of paper. Put it in your kitchen. Now it’s the “control room.”
So when you travel to the correct room in your house, you briefly hold the cell phone camera up to the marked piece of paper, and the phone then knows which room you’re in.
Of course, someone could cheat by putting all the cards together on their desk, but that’s probably not worth worrying about.
We could also use proximity-sensing NFC-enabled cards to prevent having to use the camera, but this is a much less low-tech solution than drawing a triangle on a sheet of paper.
Bonus possibly actually-useful feature:
Instead of being totally frivolous, this game could actually incentivize you to perform useful real-world tasks! Useful tasks that involve walking around a home could include the following:
- Replace your home’s fire alarm batteries
- Find the emergency natural gas line shutoff (and the wrench you might need to close the valve)
- Find the emergency water heater shutoff
- Check your home for poor drainage around the foundation
- Water your plants
More difficult tasks:
- Water a lawn
- Mow a lawn
- Re-roof your house (this is the equivalent of taking your galleon into dry dock to scrape barnacles off the hull). (For advanced players only)
PROS: Brings new exercise opportunities to otherwise indolent game aficionados.
CONS: May be difficult to integrate the location-determining aspect without ruining the flow of the game. People would probably also trip and fall down the stairs while playing it.
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