A few years ago, Chris Langer, a cofounder of Operation CMYK, was hanging out at a bar with a good friend of his. He made the statement that it was a safe bet that there were four spots in the city where you’d probably find his friend on any given night. That notion led to them talking about how you could use that information and mobile technology to play a sort of real-life game of the classic board game, Battleship.
That was three year ago. In the middle of last year, he started developing Phone Tag!, an IRL digital game that allows two to four players to set digital traps for each other around real space. Langer explained the basic ideas behind it to us in an email.
Each of the players drop two “bases” in your area of the city where you frequently go – places like your home, work, school. When you are “inside” that base, you can’t get tagged.
As soon as all players do that setup, the game starts and you can start to drop “Tags” on the map and try and hit your friend – any time and any place. You can tag people (a 500 ft radius around a certain point on map), lay a tripline (a geofenced point that, when walked on, hits you), and drop a “super tag” (a tag with a .5 mile radius).
To help players find each other and help with game play, You can use a “recon” which will give you there potential areas where the user is at that particular moment.
Each player has 5 lives. When they are gone, they lose. If you win, you get to take a bragging photo that everyone is forced to look at as well as a “super tag” for you arsenal.
As Langer points out, this is a game that you play on an ongoing basis just by living, which has amusing implications.
Langer said, “We imagined playing the game, being at a restaurant, and having to get up and run down the street to get away from being hit because you only had one life left and didn’t want to die. I loved the idea of having a purely digital experience interrupt reality in a completely imaginary way.”
The revenue model for the game is purchasing in-app weapons, toys and traps. Things like Super Tags and Trip Lines. There are more to come. “We developed it so we could constantly add new types of tags/weapons/and toys for people to use. We have a bunch waiting in the wings, but we are just seeing how this first stage of the game goes before we push new things out,” Langer told us.
The company has been beta testing the game for a while. Langer said this was helpful in figuring out some key user experience aspects of the game. They realized by beta-testing that push notifications were key to people’s enjoyment and engagement, that people cheat by turning their phones off and that game is so different from any game most people have played, it needs a pretty heavy tutorial (that’s still in development).
The game’s user base is still small, in the hundreds, but the Phone Tag! team has seen tags dropped as far afield as the Galapagos.
Operation CMYK is a creative agency based in Gowanus that does a mix of client work and in-house projects.