by Pixeleen Mistral on 30/09/12 at 10:54 pm
Role playing a GPS-enabled sensor in the ARG hive mind
I decided to join the Waze traffic map game on my new iPhone last week, after reading far too many stories moaning about how Apple should never have dropped Google Maps from the new version of iOS. The general tone of the Apple Map coverage has been along the lines of ZOMG!!! My iPhone is ruined 4evah! the Apple Maps are wrong in some places! How will life be worth living without Google?!?
This coverage overlooks certain troubling aspects of Google, the wardriving WIFI snooping Internet ad agency that keeps telling itself don't be evil - then quietly overrides web browser privacy protections. I've been limiting my contact with all things Google after that unfortunate Google+ suspension that locked up my e-mail and data until Google eventually decided I was real after all.
So I'm fine with leaving Google Maps behind - especially now that I'm experiencing a whole new form of role play. I have spent most of the week playing the part of an autonomous techno-communist node in a network of mobile GPS sensors roaming real life's highways.
It's great! Not only do I get to play an open ended augmented reality MMORPG and contribute to the improvement of the human condition, I'm being rewarded with points and a rising ranking among the other players. In return for being tracked by my phone as I drive, I can level up and marvel at how my commute has been gameified.
Best of all, I am almost past the Waze noobie avatar look - a baby with a pacifier.
I've got my eye on some much more fashionable outfits, and hope someday I will be able to earn even better virtual clothes as I drive to work and report accidents and traffic backups - the fundamental form of gameplay in Waze. Why grind in WoW when you have to drive work anyway? If you are daring, you can text chat with other players, although I'm not sure how that could work if you are also supposed to be driving your car.
While the realtime traffic condition reports are quite good, I do think Waze could use a few of Second Life's fashion designers to help with the avatars. Aren't all avatars supposed to wear impossible spike heels and skankolicious outfits?
Setting aside the virtual fashion scene and game play, Waze has an interesting business model that is something like a traffic oriented version of Wikipedia -- crowd sourcing both map updates and traffic reports. In contrast, Google throws money at the mapping problem by running dedicated Google cars wherever it can, but there are practical limits to how many cars Google can put on the roads. Waze should be able to compete with Google for at least map and traffic information at lower cost by crowd sourcing reports from people who were driving anyway.
I expect to be joined by quite a few more players, after Apple's Tim Cook mentioned mentioned last Friday that Waze is an alternative to Apple's iOS Map while the Foxconn smartphone and tablet reseller redraws their maps.
Now if we just had a real money trade for Waze points, I might be able to get that crown the cool players have a little sooner.