Recently a friend introduced me to Geocaching. My initial reaction was lackluster at best, as I described it as orienteering without the orienteering (or orienteering without the thinking). After experiencing a bit of it, I would have to dramatically soften my initial criticism.
Esentially it is a game of hiding geocaches or searching for caches hidden by others. Typical caches are small tupperware containers with a log sheet and other items inside which has been hidden in a relatively public location; although micro-caches, consisting of a log sheet in a tiny ziplock bag, are quite popular as well. After hiding a cache, the creator registers the name and GPS location on the Geocaching website. Information about the location and hints can be included as well.
Traditional orienteering involves checking compass directions and distances in order to arrive at the proper destination. Most people looking for caches are using GPS devices (including smart phones), so there is no calculation involved in getting to the location. Although this gray matter engaging process has been removed, there are other creative thought process needed. Many caches are magnetic, so they can be hidden under a railing or such. One time I discovered a cache inside an aluminum railing with velcro. Sometimes they are in disguised containers looking like a rock or a vent or something. While this may occasionally turn into a Legend of Zelda type of mindless trial and error, there are also opportunities to try getting inside the mind of the owner.
A little light fun is added by including presents or tradable items in the caches. For tradable items, the searcher may place a new item in a container and remove a different item. There are also “trackable” items with log numbers. Generally the owner wants the searcher to move this item to another location and log it on the internet, so they can follow their item around the world. Mostly these activities are just dressing on an idle pursuit.
My friend who introduced me has pointed out that many of the locations are historic sites which he would not have otherwise known to visit. Due to my pedantic nature, I haven’t seen anything near my home which I wasn’t aware of already; however, if I venture out another 10 or 20 kilometers, I should learn about local history a bit more. The average person of moderate curiosity would most likely enjoy this aspect of the game.
We are going to a presentation in Kyoto Saturday. I will probably seek out a couple caches within walking distance of the meeting place.
For the hobbyist, this game could carry great excitement from the aspect of creating caches. My friend has already placed a few caches and his kitchen is filling with PVC pipes, cements, magnets, etc. When I look for his creations, I should be amused.
One group whom I would definitely recommend this game to is parents. My friend’s two year old is already going on about the treasure they are hunting. Keeping kids curious and outdoors and active is a tougher and tougher battle in the age of PSP and DS.