Gamifying Travel Experiences

Gamifying Travel Experiences

Before working in the gaming industry, I was an ESL teacher and a freelance writer. The love of travel that made me choose those professional paths is the same thing that steered me to create Travel Buddy Games.

This isn’t a rehash of The Travel Buddy Games Origin Story; rather, it is meant to be a segue into thinking about the kinds of games that TBG makes.

You see, I maintained those positions to give me the freedom to discover the world, even if it meant living on modest means (and it often did). But it also let me explore some amazing places and see some amazing things. The places I loved and the experiences I had are exactly the kinds of things I want Travel Buddy Games to share with new audiences.

So much of life and travel and experience can be gamified, I am truly surprised at how few games tap into the joy of traveling. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have much design experience. Creating something from nothing is not a skill I have perfected.  As a game developer, I think of myself as an editor. My skills shine when I can help turn something good into something great. Designers are authors through and through.

Even recognizing my inexperience as a game designer, however, I often find myself puzzling over how I might turn some of the things I love in the world into games. Some of the things that constantly creep into my consciousness as subject for gaming are the following:

Chinese Garden Temple

Chinese Gardens

I love the winding paths, the rock formations, the ponds, and pagodas. Chinese gardens give a rare feeling of peace in cities that often feel crowded and hectic. I think of Yu Yuan in Shanghai and am left with a sense of wonder that I might feel meditative in a city of 24 million. It is more believable that Suzhou can pull it off with just over 4 million people but the gardens are no less impressive for it.

I think a tile laying game that allows player to create their own Chinese gardens and then score based on what elements are valued in that particular game would be a lot of fun. I love when a game gives me an opportunity to create something so that when I am finished I can admire what I have built.

Dutch Cycling

European transportation in general is a thing that brings me joy. The ubiquitousness of trains as common transit resonates to me as so satisfying as an American who can count the number of times I’ve traveled on a train in the US on a single hand (excluding subway rides in major cities). But trains are very much an “everywhere else” phenomenon and bicycles are so quintessentially Dutch.

Having dedicated lanes for bicycles, complete with stop lights, is charming to me – and so foreign. When I lived in the Netherlands, I would often see Dutch people performing miraculous feats on their bicycles with apparent ease. Can you imagine an American riding a bicycle, in heels, while holding a potted plant and talking on the telephone? No chance!

I would love to play a game about riding my bicycle around a typical Dutch city (Amsterdam? Utrecht?) while pushing my luck to see how much I could carry without something toppling into the canal. I think this would have to be light and fun with the number of items you carry (and their usefulness) taken to ridiculous extremes!

Bicycles in Amsterdam
Heaven (aka coffee, croissant, and nutella)

French Café Culture

Obviously café culture isn’t exclusively French, but there is a romantic feeling associated with enjoying a perfect cappuccino on a Parisian sidewalk. Or sipping un noisette while enjoying a view of the French countryside.

There are already games about making the perfect cup of coffee but what about finding the perfect cup of coffee? I’d love a game that showcased the best cafés in France. Maybe a set collecting game of some sort. A kind of rummy that tempted me with superb coffee and snacks with a goal to having the best experience (and art that really made my mouth water!)

Singaporean Hawker Centers

These marvelous collections of street food are truly to die for. The fact that I can find so many delicious dishes under one roof is essential heaven on earth for me. That the prices are so dang reasonable gives me a reason to never leave. (It’s a shame the rent in Singapore isn’t so accommodating!)

A game that emulated the endless variety of Singaporean food culture would excite me to no end. Imagine a game where players are either foodies or chefs, trading ingredients to find or make the perfect dish. Hawker Chan’s Michelin starred Soya Chicken tells me the world is already tuning into Singaporean cuisine. Maybe I can be the next Hawker Chen – if only in my games!

Asian Barbecue Food Stall (Not Hawker Chan's)

The list could go on but two food entries in a row tells me I should cooking instead of blogging.


Can you add to the list? What are some of your favorite travel destinations or experiences? And do you think they could be gamified?


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