Earlier this week I had the pleasure of returning to the beautiful Northumberland coast to check up on the progress of the young people of Amble and their highly ambitious GPX project.The aim of the project is to create an online community-based game, using GPS technology and geocaching techniques: a very sophisticated treasure-hunt to you and me! The game will be designed to encourage local people and visitors to discover a bit more about the history of this area of outstanding natural beauty. Although played via the web, players will actually follow a trail through Amble and the surrounding countryside as well as exploring the vibrant coastline, finding answers to the clues they are given through cryptic photos, video clips and puzzles accessed from their computer. Answers are then typed in or photo-evidence uploaded via computer or mobile phone, making the game not only active but highly interactive as well.
For the past twelve months the young people have been expanding their own knowledge of the local area, while at the same time developing their interviewing techniques and coming to grips with new technologies such as digital photography, video editing and sound recording: A number of experts, both amateur and professional, have been enlisted to guide and advise the group. The project has reached an exciting stage, with plans in place to release a pilot version very soon, and discussions are already taking place about future mini-games and mobile apps. The official launch of the full version is scheduled for July 2011.
Just under a year ago I was contacted by the project’s manager Anna Williams, and asked if I would interview the youngsters and monitor the effect of the project on their literacy skills, a requirement of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation who are funding the project. At that point I spoke to them about what they hoped to gain from their involvement in the project and some of them were less certain than others. Watching them make a group presentation on the project this week, and listening to the way in which they handled a barrage of questions, it was clear that any of the earlier doubts or uncertainties had all but vanished. I’m looking forward to my next visit already!