Scouting Around For A GPS Game

With the sudden appearance on the scene of the geologging game Munzee and the impending release of Geoching Challenges there has been a lot of interest in alternatives to the traditional geocache lately. What some folk may not know is that GPS alternatives have been around for quite some time.

A number of alternative GPS activities can be found at GPSgames.org, which was set up by Scout in 2001 after he became disillusioned with geocaching and found other games limited. “DCP [Degree Confluence Project] was another GPS activity that appealed to me, but it had the drawback of having only a fixed number of targets to search for, the close ones all having been visited by others already,” he says

The most popular of the sites games is Geodashing where “players use GPS receivers on a playing field that covers the entire planet“.

Each month, the waypoints – known as dashpoints  – are randomly selected. The object of the game is to get to as many dashpoints as possible within that month, logging each find and accompanying journey story online.

“Geodashing was designed to solve that problem [of limited targets]. Also, at the time, many areas of the world didn’t have any geocaches. Geodashing was designed to work anywhere, whether there’s anyone else who has heard of GPS within a thousand miles of you or not.”

An example of a dashpoint log from Geodashing gives an excellent idea of the adventure involved in the game:

This D-point is located on the edge of a wetland near Linnuraba. I parked my car on Varbola-Rapla road, put on my snowshoes and went for a hike. I had researched the area beforehand and was planning to start my hike on the Varbola wooded meadow, take the D-point, continue to an abandoned farmhouse to reach floodplain forests and take the Vardi river back S to complete the circle. Hike started interestingly right from the start as I spooked a 9 member herd of wild boar from their hiding place. There were lots of boar tracks and sleeping places all over the area. The weather was awesome and it was good to feel the warmth of the sun after a long winter.

That’s Geodashing in Estonia with Chief

Other games on the site include:

  • Minutewara game of capture-the-flag using the whole world as the playing field and GPS receivers for navigation.
  • Geogolf in which players use GPS receivers to navigate to 18 randomly placed waypoints (or 9 in a short course).
  • Geopokera GPS game in which players try to assemble the best poker hand by being the first to find a moving container holding a GeoPoker log.
  • Shutterspota game in which some players take photographs and other players are challenged to find the exact spot where the photographer stood when the camera shutter clicked.
  • and good ol’ Geocachingthe GPS Games search engine includes caches from a range of geocache listing sites.

A fantastic shot from Geodashing game #25

Scout, whose handle comes from his involvement with the Scouting movement, first became interested in GPS activities when he was given a GPSr for Christmas in 2000. A second GPS unit was won through an early Magellan geocaching competition.

“… they would hide a geocache, somewhere in the US, then dribble out clues day by day that, if interpreted correctly, narrowed the location, first to a state, then maybe a city, until the final day when they revealed the actual co-ordinates. The first to find won a lot of nice freebies, including a Magellan GPSr. I loved solving the puzzles, even for the ones that led to geocaches far away in other states. Luckily, one contest was near enough for me to actually win.”

And Scout isn’t finished developing unique GPS games. “I think the next big game is going to be something you can play with your smartphone. An app that knows not just your location, but all about your surroundings, including the ‘things’ and ‘people’ who are around you, too. It’ll be interactive in that you’ll interact with other people.”

So what does the man who has invented so many GPS games think of the current Munzee craze?

Basically, these are just cleaner versions of geocaching. Similar ideas were around already in 2001,” he says.

“Munzee solves the ‘container of waterlogged junk’ problem that the current version of geocaching has. It also opens the game up to more urban locations (hopefully, more interesting than lamp-post micros). And, because the finds are confirmed by scanning the  barcode, it opens the possibility of commercial usage with bigger prizes. Best of luck to them. Same for BITcaching.”

Having been in GPS games for 10 years, Scout has a long history. He recalls that his most memorable cache, one of just nine he found back in 2001, was a multi-cache – however, this was before he knew anything about multis and it was listed as a traditional.

“He did talk about bridges and a river. But the co-ordinates he gave seemed to be far away from any water. I was puzzled and frustrated. My GPS receiver kept telling me to look over here, but the written description kept pulling me toward the nearest river. After going back and forth several times in this mental tug-of-war, I happened to find a hollow tree near the first co-ordinates. Inside (you had to actually step inside the hollow trunk of this still-standing tree to see it) was attached a small wooden board engraved with a second set of co-ordinates that led, sure as can be, to the river and a bridge, under which the real geocache was found. That ‘ah ha!’ moment, that ‘Eureka’ moment as I realised what the hider had done, creating the first multi-cache that I had seen, was priceless.”

Summing up this experience and, dare I might add, articulating what most cachers feel about geocaching, he adds: “I live for those moments of discovery, of figuring something out, of having it all come together. That was one of my first while geocaching and is still the most memorable.”

 * Have you played any of Scout’s GPS games? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.


  1. geodasher

    I started Geodashing in August 2003 when looking for a GPS game that was not so focused on numbers like geocaching had already started to become. Geodashing attracted me with its unique combination of random locations, reporting with words and photos, interaction with teammates and other teams around the world, and monthly competition. The game became an interesting focus for many trips and helped get me off the beaten path. I have dabbled in some other games on the website but none have quite the same appeal.

  2. Grahame Cookie

    Haven’t been a regular ‘dasher’, but I do keep an eye out for possible ones close to where I live in NSW, Australia. It seems that the automation of arranging the dash points does not take into account ‘quality’ of the Australian bush, or the lack of cooperation of locals. When a possible when does come up (within 2 hours drive) I usually give it a go. There has been a few closer that are deep in the forests – doh.

  3. Jim, the other half of chaosmanor

    My wife and I have been actively caching since April of 2001. I “discovered” Geodashing in October of 2003, and have visited at least one DP each month since then: nearly 100 months in a row. I also actively play Geovexilla, have several Shutterspots posted and play most of Scout’s other games now and then.

    For me, these games are a great way to “get more bang for the buck”, as we Yanks say. I make a point to combine geocaching, dashing, etc, and sometimes other activities, such as benchmark recovering for the NGS. I can then better-justify the cost of petrol, which is no small thing. The randomness of some of Scout’s games can be tremendously frustrating at times, but that adds to the satisfaction when I reach one. And American mapping, both on-line and off-, and including satellite photos, is generally pretty good, enough to tell me if any particular waypoint is worth trying for. Well over 90% of the time, I reach a point that t think I can while sitting at home, doing research.

    Bottom line is that Scout’s games, as with the Degree Confluence Project, appeal to a small segment of the population, but for those who truly believe that it is *not* all about the numbers, they are worth a go. I’ve introduced several people to them; one of them is active in Geovexilla, and will pick up the occasional Dashpoint, usually when we are out caching together. The others either expressed no interest in continuing, or stopped after one or two months.

    Oh, one thing that I would like to add to your description of GeoGolf is that this is the one game where the user gets to set up some of the parameters of the waypoints generated. As you noted, a choice between nine and eighteen “holes” can be made, but the center of the course and the radius of it (thus determining the farthest from the center any hole can be) are both chosen by the player. In addition, s/he can choose whether the “holes” will fall (or not) on streets, thus making it easier to actually get a hole-in-one. Many players, including myself, choose the “street” option for walking or bicycling in the neighborhood. And, each course can be played by anyone, not just the person who generated it. I am currently working on a course set up several years ago in a town about 120 kilometers from home. The original player never finished it; I find myself up that way once or twice a year, and I pick up a hole or three each trip.

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