We Are Near

We Are Near is a Location Based Mobile Game and an iteration on You Are Near. In this game two competing teams try to localise and surround a digitally simulated object that randomly moves through the city’s streets. The digitally simulated object (one for each team) is visualised as a big red or blue dot on the player’s phones.

The prerequisites for playing the game is that you are outside and carry a mobile phone with 3G and camera incorporated. Three apps are used for this game: A compass, an internet browser (Safari for iPhone and Firefox for Android), and WhatsApp. Before preparing the phone, the game administrator creates a group WhatsApp in which all players are included. The player has to make sure he/she can easily switch between the apps. Now two teams (a red and a blue team) are created. Each team has 10 minutes to discuss their communication strategy. Each player’s mobile phone has to be set as follows:

• Location Services turned on for the browser. Settings > privacy > location services >  on for browser.

• Screen auto-lock off. Settings >  general >  auto-lock > never

• Go to the website performativemapping.net > Select You Are Near #3 > Select Login in the upper right corner. If not registered, select register first. You can use an alias and fake email.

When all players have set up their phones the game administrator creates a new game with a timer for when he/she wants the game to start. After doing this each player goes to the browser and selects “play the game”. The screen remains grey until the game starts. Now players switch to the compass app and start walking in different directions. After a couple of minutes of walking the players switch back to the browser. As players continue to walk in the same direction they wait for the game to start. It can take a few minutes, but if it takes much longer the page should be refreshed.

Red and blue dots are visualised on each player’s mobile phone (representing the players) and a big red dot and a big blue dot representing the digitally simulated objects. Both teams aim to surround their virtual object. When players manage to fully surround their own object (meaning that they block the object from all sides) the team wins. In that case, a message appears on all phones stating the team that has won.

In the grey field, players have to find out which dot belongs to them and they have to figure out where their object is located. As the players move they reveal their walked GPS tracks. Team members can communicate via WhatsApp but both competing teams use the same chat. If someone is able to disclose the location of the opponent, then that person is disqualified. Players furthermore have to be on the lookout for members of the competing team as a player can shoot another player with his/her camera and share it in the group WhatsApp. After a player is shot (s)he cannot participate anymore in the game and therefore cannot take a picture back of the opponent. The game administrator keeps track of who is disqualified and communicates this via the WhatsApp. The streets where the players have walked are not accessible anymore to the virtual object. This way, the city’s game-board becomes gradually smaller as the game progresses.

The game was first played in spring 2015 with students from the minor Mobile Communication (Utrecht University) in the city of Utrecht and again in autumn 2015 with the researchers of Charting the Digital (Utrecht University, University of Manchester, University of Warwick and RCA).