A few of my coworkers and I have recently gotten hooked on a little location-based iPhone game called Gowalla. The game was created by a company called AlamoFire (formerly known as Firewheel Design) which is well known for the popular PackRat game on Facebook. While there are a few similarities between PackRat and Gowalla, one of the most outstanding is the refinement of the icons and interfaces. These guys know how to create beautiful vector imagery and have certainly stumbled upon a formula for creating addictively fun social games as well.
What’s a Gowalla?
Essentially, Gowalla is Geocaching, but without actual physical caches to find. Yes, I know, most of you have probably never been Geocaching, so you probably need a better description. Let’s try again. It’s a virtual scavenger hunt for cool landmarks, restaurants, vineyards, coffeehouses, parks, museums, colleges, bars, offices, churches, towers, sculptures, aquariums, caves, diners, and big blue wet things. If someone has an iPhone with the Gowalla app installed, they can add a spot from one of the above categories to the system which instantly becomes visible to everyone else with the app.
The homepage of the mobile application is the Passport. As you might expect, your passport keeps track of your travel stamps – the places you’ve been to. From the Passport you can either “Check In” to a spot you’re at or add a “New Spot”. To see what’s around your current location, click on the 2nd button on the bottom of application: Spots. The Spots page lists all the places nearby that other Gowallaers have created. If you live somewhere with a lot of marked spots, you can narrow down the list into categories by clicking the browse button at the top of the screen.
Creating, finding & checking in at cool places is only part of the fun though. When you create an account, you start off with 3 or 4 “items” in your bag. These are little digital trinkets that you can leave at the places you visit, trade for other items or stash in your vault. By leaving an item at a spot and not taking something in exchange, you become a “founder” of that spot. By doing this though, you will quickly run out of items and the only way to get new items is to check in at other spots. Every time you check in, you have a chance at finding a new item.
With the addition of friend management in v1.2 of the iPhone application, things just got a whole lot more social. Now you can easily add your Twitter and Facebook friends and see what they’re doing while you’re out and about. Another recent addition is the status message. Instead of simply checking in to a spot and trading some icons, you can announce what you’re doing there and share that information with the world. Last night for instance, I checked in at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Why would anyone want to know that? Well, I answered that question when I checked in: “Checking out the Columbia Greek Festival!”. While I can’t check in at an event, I can check in at the location of the event. That makes answering Twitter’s “What are you doing?” question an integral part of the game.
You should! It’s a fun game, a free download from the iTunes App Store and is constantly being improved. It’s come a long way since it was first introduced at SXSW this year and the recent improvements have made this game one I think everyone will love to play.
- @Gowalla on Twitter – Follow Gowalla for lots of great information and announcements. This is also where they announce the new items which come out each Tuesday
- The Official Blog – Great source of information about what’s going on with the app.
- Gowalla Tools – The mobile web app helps you find your missing items by the places they are likely to appear and the desktop site let’s you view Gowalla spots on a map and even shows what items have been dropped there. Awesome!
- The Wiki – A growing resource for all things Gowalla.
- Street View Bookmarklet – A clever bookmarklet that displays Google streetview below the map when viewing a spot.