Waylosing, or, how I learned to embrace the art of failure
This article details my experience playing the location-based alternate reality game Wayfinder Live, designed by artist and academic Troy Innocent. If you are interested in knowing more about Wayfinder, or location-based games in general, consider reading Part 1 first!
I played a version of Wayfinder in April 2019, when the game was offered over the course of a few days in Tampere, Finland. The game revolves around finding urban codes in the form of laser-cut objects hidden in specific locations across the city in question. Players advance in the game and collect points for their team by scanning these codes with a smartphone app. Due to the limited time and my other obligation (and admittedly a lack of skills on my part), I failed to complete the entire game and consequently did not qualify for ludean citizenship. Nevertheless, and in bold negligence of these shortcomings regarding my personal authority, I shall in the following offer an account of my experience with the game.
After I downloaded the Wayfinder app, a short video clip introduced me to the gameworld, Ludea, in which three factions compete for dominance over the city’s map. Choosing to answer a number of test questions (rather than picking a faction myself), I was assigned to the blue team: “remake”. Roughly put, “remake” is the most future-oriented of the three factions, embracing technological visions of urbanism.
Switching on my phone’s GPS, I received my first hint: ‘look for blue elephants to the north’. Enthusiastically, I set out on what turned out to be a desire path leading nowhere in particular. I backtracked, tried a more official road, and – again failing to encounter any elephants – tried comparing the Wayfinder map with the google maps version of my surroundings.
In the end I had to admit that I was as yet unable to decipher the code of the Wayfinder map. To make matters worse, I had no idea whether my failure to find the first marker was due to technological or personal deficits (I am glad to say the former was at least partly to blame). A little dejectedly, I finally decided to try the official starting point, the Vaprikkii museum, since this is a location easily found via more official versions of navigation – such as mobile navigation tools or, indeed, physical signposts for tourists.
At the museum I finally encountered my first marker. With a little more confidence, now that I knew what I was looking for, I set out once more in search of the obstinate proboscidians. Having crossed a bridge over the Tammerkoski, I arrived at a gateway leading into the Finlayson factory area. Unsure of whether I was trespassing, I looked for an alternate route but, lacking this and with the app stubbornly insisting on pointing onward, I carefully ventured through the gates.
You can imagine the joy I felt upon discovering, painted on the pavement in hues of blue and purple, a parade of stylised elephants! I had indeed finally cracked the code. Sure enough, I discovered my second, and soon after my third marker in quick succession. Number three turned out to be extra special (so the app told me upon scanning) because it was connected to a geocache and a minigame involving a box of coloured chalks. A little wary of the passers-by – some of whom regarded my unruly activities with sideways glances – I set to work, adding my own interpretation to the bursts of creativity already visible on the pavement.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed how the game challenged my perspective on the city. A significant detail is of course the fact that I played the game as a first-time visitor, wholly unfamiliar with the city. For me, each street, building, or object therefore constituted a new discovery in some way, whereas for the (long-time) inhabitant, Wayfinder might mean more of a rediscovery; of learning to see a familiar place from a new perspective resulting in effects of surprise, astonishment, or even the uncanny.
Nevertheless, engaging with Tampere through the Wayfinder Live app did result in an experience that was different from the ways I usually go about familiarising myself with a new place. Following the cues on my phone, I took an at times circuitous, and often at first glance uninteresting course through the city. And while printed blue elephants would, even under normal circumstances, be sufficiently odd to arouse my interest and cause me to follow their trail, I do not usually ponder longer than a few seconds the aesthetic qualities of a somewhat battered-looking door, whose brittle red paint mingles with the colours of fading graffiti and dirt…
Sources/ Further Reading:
Innocent, Troy. Wayfinder Live. Version 3.0.4. Android. Last updated 2 April 2019.
Innocent, Troy, and Dale Leorke. “Heigtened intensity: Reflecting on player experiences in Wayfinder Live!” Convergence 25.1 (2019): 18-39.
Troy Innocent: http://troyinnocent.net/
Wayfinder Live: http://ludea.net/wayfinderlive/