BEWARE: Trashure Hunter is coming to a city near you!


Trashure Hunter is a location-based game which uses the aesthetic element of photo taking to make tourists or citizens aware of their (clean) environment.

About the team

Formed in April 2012, during the Game Studies course, the Trashure Hunter team is an international collective of ambitious students. All students are currently MA students in New Media and Digitale Culture on the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. The power of the team is in its variety of nationalities. The team exists out of three Dutch members: Geert Bukkems, Roos Vermeulen and Rommert Zijlstra, and is completed by one Chinese member, Jie You, and one Greek member, Despina Skordili. The mutual respect between all team members has been the incentive for great creative sessions and lots of great ideas. The concept of Trashure Hunter can be seen as the perfect composition of all those ideas.

The road to Trashure Hunter

The first thing we all agreed with, was the fact that our concept must be something useful. We did not want to create some ‘nerdy’ game in which the 7scenes environment served as another reality. We must admit that the tendency to come up with another dimension popped up multiple times, but in the end we came up with something that was really helpful for society. This did not happen in one afternoon, but multiple meetings were needed to achieve this. Before we will start describing this process, we cannot leave out our gratefulness to our teacher, Nicolle Lamerichs, who sometimes cheered us up, when our creative minds had been blocked by the difficulty of the task.

How to do something with a location-based game that has not been done yet? There is something about the roots of location-based games that they always tend to ‘feel’ the same. This is a pitfall that we had to evade and a task that was not easy. Scholarly research has shown that participating in a location-based game requires an extra action. In the beginning we came up with an idea of adding a fitness element to our game, but sports and location-based games don’t go fit together pretty well. In a ‘running’ game for example, a user has to stop every time he wants to do something in a location-based game. We tried to work around this setback, but we did not came up with a solution.

Our ‘big idea’ occured when we switched to environmental issues. The problem that we pinpointed was the ownership issue in relation to public places. In the Netherlands, our cities and public services suffer from a great lack of ownership. People do not care about thrash which is on the sidewalk, people do not care about chewing gums left in buses and people often do not even think about throwing away their stuff in a fast food restaurant. This is a serious problem, and it has to do with awareness. People are not truly aware of the trash they leave. People are not really aware of the taxes they pay for the public space. People are sometimes not even aware of the public space. We wanted to do something about that and Trashure Hunter was born.

But, this did not mean the end of our brainstorming sessions. In the weeks that followed we added two interesting things to our concept, which made it even better. The first thing is the exaggarated way of showing trash. We were looking for ways to show people how messy their environment is. The first option we thought of was just throwing some trash on the road and taking a picture of a messy place, but this was not allowed by the government. So we thought of a new signifier for ‘trash’, the good old grey trash bag. If there is one thing in human minds which means ‘trash’, it is a trash bag. Although we were really enthusiastic about this idea, we were not satisfied yet. Our concept was still lacking what lots of other concepts about awareness were lacking: they did not make people aware of something properly. They just ‘spot’ a problem and that’s it.

At a certain moment we started thinking about the ‘non-aestheticness’ of trash. If you are on a vacation and you are visiting a monument which is on your wishlist, you do not want to have a trash bag on the background, if you are taking a picture. Holidays are one of these moments when the aesthetic of your environment does matter. The moment we realized this was the moment we were able to finalize our idea. Your mission in Trashure Hunter is to take pictures of you and your friends of ‘clean places’. The aesthetic, which naturally is in taking pictures; we use this aesthetic element in our game to make people aware of a clean environment.

In our game, Utrecht, Amsterdam or whatever city in the world, is completely trashed with ugly trash bags. You can ‘virtually’ clean it up by taking pictures of well-known locations with you and your friends. By doing this you earn points, and most important, you have a lot of fun.

Possible applications

Our concept becomes most tangible when we talk about possible applications. In the tourist sector our concept can be extremely useful, because when people are on vacation, the importance of ‘aesthetic’ pictures becomes even more vital. Tourists can book a ‘Trashure Hunter’ tour (another name could be more appropriate in this case) and can explore the city and experience the beauty of the streets. It would be nice to add a city promotion aspect to the game. If people finish the game, they can pick their best picture and create a ‘We Love Amsterdam’ postcard or something.

Another application that we would like to mention is a more ‘gamified’ application. By adding leaderboards the game could get a very substantial competitive element. Who gets to make the most clean picture of the Dam Square? The winners get a trashure. You could also make this a competition between two groups, in which one group, the native inhabitants of a city are going to compete with tourists and in the end the ‘Trashure Hunt’ will get a winner, who gets the trashure.

The last application that we want to discuss here is the application in relation to a ‘micro-payment’ structure. This idea came from one of our first sessions, in which we talked about relating a charity to our game. If people finish our game, 1 euro (or any other amount) will go to a charity. Of course, this charity must be related to the theme of our game, in our case, city environment. So, 1 euro could go to the local cleaning fund.

Concept Design

As communication students, we do not have so much experience with designing graphics. Only one member, Rommert, is specialized in design and so we gave him the task to design a logo, which you can see at the front page of this document and on top of the next page. An important role in the logo is filled in by the ‘recycle’ mark on the A of ‘Trashure’. This mark adds some recognizability to our logo and concept.

Another important part in designing our game was adding the pictures of ‘trashed’ places in Utrecht. We went out and took some pictures of well-known places in Utrecht, including trash. You can have a look at the result of some:

Fountain at Janskerkhof Square

McDonald’s Utrecht

At the Speelklok museum

Those are the places that the gamer should ‘clean up’ by taking pictures of it.

Check our 7scenes prototype below.

Conference goals

Our concept can be brilliantly adapted to Amsterdam and/or the surroundings of the PICNIC conference. The only thing we need to do is take new pictures of ‘trashed’ places and put them in 7scenes, together with some new catchy texts. We think our concept is a good idea, but it is not perfect yet. At the conference we hope to learn from other (more design-oriented) students how to improve our game.

By clicking on this link you can have a look at our 2-minute pitch slides at the University of Utrecht:

Team 15 BSiT @ PICNIC ’12: Trashure hunter