MobileQuest: How I Tricked Reporters into Learning to Use their cellphones (in a D&D-style quest)
Hint: Our favorite online mobile tools make it easy to use any smartphone to publish photos, text, and even video
We created this training exercise to show journalists how to take advantage of the capabilities of their smartphones to do online research, take and upload photos, find sources, network in the field, and publish stories over mobile and wifi connections.
We first offered this game at the Online News Association conference in San Francisco and we had so many people ask us how we created the game, we decided to write up a description to make it easy for anyone to host their own online treasure hunt, or as we call it, MobileQuest.
We offer these instructions and tips for free, but we do appreciate thank you notes and being credited with a link back to ArtesianMedia.com.
Getting Started: Keys to Making Your MobileQuest Successful
The first is to keep it fun, for more than just the obvious reasons. Throw in a little oddball humor, and your players will feel loose, relaxed, and perform much better.
Learning is an inherently stressful process – nobody likes to feel like a fool, and risking your self-esteem and your social position in an exercise in front of your peers is an exercise fraught with peril. The more you can let people laugh at something, the more you make them feel they have the freedom to try and fail. And as we’ve seen in the New Media world, nothing is more crucial to long-term success than the freedom to try and fail at new things. If you take away the risks with humor, we’ve found that our player/students are far more likely to keep plugging away.
In our training sessions around the world, we’ve found that self-deprecating humor and admitting to our own past mistakes helps reassure the audience that they are not going to be judged or belittled, that they are in a safe learning environment. If you're starting to need a little reassurance about being able to run this yourself, don't worry. Just reading these instructions will provide you with all the links and tips you’ll need to set up your own MobileQuest game.
Start by creating a theme for the game. You're welcome to use our theme, but we encourage you to come up with your own scenario, based on some recent news event or well-known character your audience is likely to recognize and appreciate.
Our theme: We proposed the preposterous story that a prominent U.S. politician had lost her pet moose in the hotel and the beast had embarked on a drunken rampage.
Use your surroundings to ground the game in reality. The ONA conference was at the San Francisco Hilton, where the pool in Tower 1 provided a recognizable setting that was easily accessed and also easy to photograph from many angles. This gave us a perfect excuse to get people moving around physically without sending them too far away.
In our playful example, we used Photoshop to add a cartoon image of Bullwinkle to a photo we took of the pool and posted it as one of our clues.
When players posted their own photos of the pool, as instructed in one step of the game, this triggered an email response that provided the next clue.
Tip: Although you could host this game alone, it's best to have at least two people so that one can respond to email and update Twitter while the other is on-site to monitor the progress of the players in person. In a pinch, your assistant doesn't even have to be in the same city. I passed the control over to the lovely and talented Janine Warner, who was able to help, even from her sickbed 400 miles away in Los Angeles. (Everyone please join with me in giving thanks to Janine. And yes, she's feeling much better now.)
Allow the players the freedom to improvise and create. If people feel -- to use the gamer lingo -- “like they’re being railroaded,” they are more likely to rebel, or simply quit and walk away. Too slick a user experience makes players feel like rats in a pre-programmed maze.
As you create the steps of your game, or MobileQuest (yeah, it’s a little cheesy, but that name is really starting to grow on us), leave some room for improvising. It makes people open up their minds, and really embeds the learning experience at a deep mental level.
Be nimble and ready to change your plans on the fly. Our final clue sent players to Cityscape, the landmark restaurant and bar on top of the San Francisco Hilton. We figured everyone could meet up for a drink and toast the winner, even though it didn't quite go as planned.
As players followed our virtual breadcrumbs and got to the last clue, Janine got an urgent email from a player that the Cityscape restaurant was been closed for a special event.
Fortunately, we had already collected email addresses as people answered clues, so Janine was able to send a quick message to all the players to meet in the lobby instead (at least there was a place to get a cup of coffee).
It’s always nice to end a game like this in a place where the exhilarated players can gather, swap stories and give you direct feedback about what worked, what didn’t and what they would like to see in a future game. Once you have a winner and a couple of runners-up, you can send out a note to everyone to come meet you at the final rendezvous spot to join in the award ceremony.
The best part of the whole game (for us)
Here’s how we knew the game had really worked: some of the players persisted beyond the point most people would consider reasonable, or even sane. Then again, these were some tenacious journalists, real throwback to “The Front Page.”
They assumed that getting into the bar even though it was closed was the final challenge and a part of the game. Despite security guards turning them back, they rode the elevator up and down until they found a floor they could get off on, and then sneaked into a stairwell to get up to the top floor.
The winner sent in a photo of the bar and then met Dave in the lobby. And we love it when the students exceed the expectations of the teachers.
Next time, we’re thinking about telling the players that the final clue lies in the diamond vaults of 11 Harrowhouse.
To all the people in the group who were persistent enough to get into the bar – Dave says he owes you a beverage, and promises to make good on this at the next ONA conference, if not before.
Here's everything you need to create your own game
Thank you, thank you, thank you (going Web 2.0)
This game, and our desire to share it with others, is an experiment in “Freemium.”
We'll be completely Web 2.0 transparent here: We’re giving away the step-by-step process for this great MobileQuest, but once in a while we do appreciate a little analog compensation for our consulting and training services.
We're happy to share this game and we hope you will use it to get players laughing, learning, and collaborating (like we said, our players exceeded all our expectations).
That said, if you want to hire us to create a more advanced game, or one that is more tailored to your audience (perhaps involving paid sponsors or local advertisers) , please call us at 323-935-0115 or drop us an email (see our contact page).
Thank you, thank you, thank you,