Digital adventures in wonderful places

Joanne Bartley lives with her family in ‘an old house that needs attention’ in Whitstable, has a successful marketing career and is writing her first novel. As if that isn’t enough, her ‘mad inventor streak’ has led her to develop PlayMaker , a game app for creating treasure trail and scavenger hunt games. 

She writes about some of her favourite places in Kent and how her app might enhance a visit to them.

I’m lucky enough to live in Whitstable which is a beautiful place and many would say it doesn’t really need any digital enhancement.  My perfect day would involve a long walk on Seasalter beach, lunch at the super family friendly Beach Cafe, followed by some browsing in shops like Frank, and Pearl and Hemingway. Then a spot of crabbing with the kids and an ice cream from Sundae Sundae. That’s a good day in anyone’s book.

I also like the idea of adding a digital layer to places so there’s hidden fun to explore and the app I’ve developed will help people create treasure trails by adding their own clues to maps. This means anyone using a mobile device can seek those clues to explore their surroundings and play.

Kent is a beautiful county and I don’t think games are needed to make anywhere better, but I like the thought that secret clues might encourage exploration, or transform places, helping people see them in a new light.

HarbourStreetClues-1

For example, I’ve created a history trail on Whitstable High Street that involves seeking out dates on buildings.

A lot of my games are about noticing details when you visit places.  If I see a faded 1905 date stamp high up on a building in the High Street, I think that that place must have been unveiled by some proud local figure. Mostly we just walk by and notice the shop front, or things to buy in the shop, but I hope my game might make people look at the town differently.

My app uses a lot of pictures and I’d love to source historic photos to make a game about Kent then and now. I could then make a game about seeking out the places from the pictures.

JoanneBartleyandfamily3

My kids are a little ‘plugged in’, like a lot of children these days, which is another reason I developed the PlayMaker app. I like nothing better than exploring churches, the countryside or Kent’s beautiful coast, while they prefer playing Mario Kart 8 on Wii U. I think my game is a bit of a compromise. It helps me get the kids out of the house, and is a creative reason for bringing along the iPad!

Our favourite Kent places include Perry Woods, Broadstairs (especially Morellis Ice Cream Parlour), Botany Bay, and Reculver. We love to go to the coast when it’s windy and wet, and dare each other to stand close to the waves when they break. My husband complains that I have a habit of making games out of everything, even splashing waves!

If all goes well I’ll have a game to launch during Whitstable’s Oyster Festival in July. It will involve hiding picture clue cards around the town – the more you collect the more chance you’ll have of solving the mystery and finding buried treasure.

I was a big fan of Masquerade in my youth, this was an amazing art book with a Golden Hare prize. My family and I spent many happy hours trying to solve the riddles and find it! I won’t be creating a £30,000 jewel encrusted hare (sorry Whitstable) but I will ask my favourite craft jeweller Ortwin Thysenn of  Canterbury, to create a Golden oyster! It will be buried somewhere in Whitstable, and a PlayMaker game will reveal the secret location.

My app lets anyone add clues to places, and I hope Kent people will use it to make games about their favourite locations. I like to think Kent could become the worldwide capital of hidden clue games!

Follow Jo on Twitter @TootingJo and join her at the Kent treasure hunters Meetup to get involved in testing the Playmaker app.

The Whitstable Oyster Festival is a modern revival of an ancient holy festival and takes place from 26 July – 1st August 2014.

Broadstairs Folk Week is a celebration of music, song and dance by the sea  from 8th -15th August.

The Churches Conservation Trust is a national charity that has saved seventeen historic churches in Kent that are open to the public.

 

 

 

 

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