The view from Yavapai Point on a winter’s day. We came here for a virtual geocache and left with some great photos. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon 10 times or more over the last 30 years and it never ceases to amaze me. Since I’ve taken up photography, it has been a never ending source of material. Sunlight, shadows, color, clouds and terrain make the canyon landscape a natural kaleidoscope. Take a shot, wait five minutes and another great shot will appear. In case you were wondering, this photo was taken at GPS coordinates N36.06599, W112.11670.
The evolution of the geolocation stashing game continues as technology advances. First, there was letterboxing. Created in Scotland in the 1850’s, it involved hiding a box somewhere then providing written clues on how/where to find it. It was 150 years before the next generation appeared – geocaching in 2000 – enabled by the Internet and GPS. Both of these activities involved finding a container and signing something in it. Now even that simple task has been rendered obsolete by techology.
Say “hello” to Munzee. It’s the latest entry into the geo-game realm.
In letterboxing, you need a compass. In geocaching, you need a GPS device. In Munzee, you need a smart phone with the Munzee app.
This is a Munzee. It’s a registered QR code on a sticker, a magnet or a tag. When you find it, you scan the code with your smart phone Munzee app, digitally signing and recording the find. How cool is that? You can make your own Munzees to put out there through the web site or you can buy them from Munzee, all ready to go. We ordered 50 stickers. It cost $17.50. No sign or guardrail is safe now.
The word Munzee comes from the German word “mûnze” (moon’-za) which means coin. Originally conceived using coins for game pieces, it evolved away from that but the name stuck.
Munzee has only been around since 2011. It’s the brain child of a group of hobby geeks in Dallas, TX. They originally thought of the idea in 2008 but QR technology wasn’t ready for prime time yet. Now apparently, it is.
Munzee sticker on the back of a sign. You’ll also find them hanging from things or as magnets on metal. Whatever form it takes, the QR code will always look like this.
In many respects, Munzee is like geocaching (although none of the developers had ever geocached before). It uses GPS to place and track down the munzees. The entire gaming environment is run by a central web entity – munzee (dot) com. It does, however, have its own language. Munzees aren’t hidden – they’re deployed. Munzees aren’t found – they’re captured. People who play the game are called munzers. People who don’t hunt munzees are muggles. Munzers find deployed pieces on the Munzee web site, then track them down with the Munzee app on their smart phone. The capture is done through the app, which opens the QR reader for you.
Natasha captures a munzee.
Although the parallels are obvious, so are the differences. Munzees can be hidden anywhere. A word of advice – Be careful and selective about your munzee hunting locations. People have deployed munzees helter skelter everywhere including very public locations and private property. The world being what it is today, people get understandably nervous when they see someone snooping around with a cell phone and taking pictures. It can be very suspicious looking. We had an encounter several years back with the manager of a Cousins sub shop who wanted to know what the f— we were doing in “his” parking lot. If you stick to parks, ball fields and outlying areas, you’ll be fine. Rest areas on the interstate highways are hotbeds of munzees. We haven’t been to one yet that didn’t have some. It’s a great way to stretch your legs.
Also be aware that munzees have a high casualty rate. They get scraped off, painted over, bleached out by the sun and various other fates. If you go for one and it’s not there, don’t take it personally. There’s lots more where that came from.
Some geocaches have munzees in them – a twofer.
The entire Munzee environment was designed with an eye towards competition and rewards. Munzers rack up points. Families, teams and corporations have had Munzee competitions. Businesses have seized on Munzees as a way to market themselves. Unlike a geocache, a Munzee can easily be put inside a business, which will bring munzers inside. Restaurants put them on menus. Boutiques put them on shelves. Some businesses offer discounts or deals for getting Munzee points at their establishment. Munzee has opened up a whole new world of possibilities previously unheard of in geo-games. Or, you can just go out and have a good time with it, which is what we do.
Consistent Internet connectivity is crucial to munzers. The game is played in real time. That’s why you won’t find any back country munzees – yet.
Coming soon to a fence post near you?
One other thing – Munzee is free, initially. You don’t pay anything for membership or the app. So if you are content to walk around and scan the occasional QR code for five points each, it’s free.
However, some people take this real seriously. There are different kinds of Munzees and different ways to capture or deploy them if you are so inclined. They all have one thing in common – they cost money. If you get serious about points or set up teams or get involved in contests, you can spend all the money you want.
So that’s Munzee in a nutshell. We just stumbled on to it five years ago. As soon as we tried it, we were hooked. It’s a natural extension of geocaching with some new twists. Now we do both. When we visit with our grandkids, the first thing they ask is “Can we go munzee hunting”? They get to run all around and use a smartphone. How can you resist?
Munz on … Boris and Natasha
It snowed in Tucson today. We didn’t get much on the valley floor, which is around 2,500 feet in altitude. Above 3,000 feet though was a different story. They got hammered. I expect we’ll wake up in the morning to snow capped hills all around.
I love shooting landscapes. A snow covered desert has to be one of the best subjects for a photo. So being from Minnesota, snow or not, I was out looking for a shot with my trusty Nikon SLR. The challenge of shooting the desert winter is that it doesn’t last very long. You’ve got to shoot on the fly, with not much time for setup. I got some. An hour later, they were gone.
Here’s another one. Ya gotta love the snow in the palm trees. The picture is a little fuzzy because of the ice fog rolling in.
This would be a great shot for a Corona beer commercial – or not.
About a mile away in the background of the pictures are the Santa Catalina Mountains. They jut up from the desert floor to an altitude of up to 9,000 feet on Mt. Lemmon. Today, they are completely socked in by the storm. It’s supposed to stay cold tonight and be sunny tomorrow. Could be some great shots in the early morning.
Tomorrow it will warm up and the snow will be gone. Even the higher elevations will be gone in a week. All that moisture will make the desert explode in color in a few weeks. More work for the Nikon.
Cheers … Boris and Natasha