I finally got the opportunity to put a new mobile phone game called Glofun RayGun to the test, and I was pretty surprised at the workout I got. Glofun RayGun is advertised as the first "high-intensity" location game for cell phones. You play it on a J2ME and GPS-enabled phone like the Motorola i710 and i730 for the Nextel network. Nextel is currently the only mobile carrier in the USA with GPS enabled to the handset.
Glofun RayGun is one of the only GPS applications available in the U.S. that is not aimed at business logistics. This country is far behind Japan in this regard. In Japan carriers deployed GPS gear on their infrastructures a while ago and location-based mobile phone services are really hot now.
The game is played by walking or running around an open space while facing in a direction that will allow you to intercept ghosts that appear on the screen of your mobile phone. You as the player are always in the center of the screen, so the RayGun game screen has a similar appearance to a RADAR screen.
In the the first screen shot, there is a ghost approaching (green blob) that is due north of your present location. You can attack it by running to the north and pressing the "OK" button on your mobile phone once the ghost is inside of your "energy cone" (the yellow pie slice-shaped area on the screen).
The further you move in a single direction (according to the GPS), the bigger your energy cone gets. This allows you to target and kill multiple ghosts at one time, if they are approaching from the same general direction.
In order for the game to recognize your motion, you must move at least 3 meters (10 feet) and keep moving in that same direction in order to remain oriented long enough to fire your ray gun. Ideally you move 10 feet in about one second in order to maximize the number of firing opportunites.
This is where the physical effort akin to a good workout comes in. Using my Polar S720i Heart Rate Monitor I was able to burn about 800 kilo calories per hour playing the game. That's pretty close to the effort per hour I'd expend biking, officiating a youth hockey game of moderate intensity, or in-line skating.
The surprising part of playing Glofun RayGun for me was that I realized this is a good cross-training activity. There's only so much running, biking, and in-line skating that I can do during the ice hockey off-season without getting a bit bored of the routine. A game like Glofun RayGun would be a fun alternative. It's also a bit of a different type of movement from those other training activities, which I think helps improve fitness and strength by emphasizing different muscle groups.
The biggest drawback I saw to the game was how much space is needed for a trained athlete to play it. In order to test out the game I went to Cranbury-Millstone Park in Cranbury, NJ on a Tuesday afternoon when I expected no one to be around. This park is a rectangle of open space about 0.2 miles by 0.1 miles (320 x 160 meters). That's about a 13 acre space-- big enough to contain a large soccer field, a baseball field, and a parking lot for 30 or 40 cars.
I was able to traverse most of this park's length and width several times during half an hour of play. Maybe other people who don't run as hard while playing a game like Glofun RayGun would not cover as much ground, but I had to stop running a few times in order to avoid crossing busy Old Trenton Road while looking at the display on my Motorola i710 mobile phone.
I think Glofun RayGun is an impressive first effort at Location Based Services gaming in the United States. If I owned a GPS-enabled phone, I'd keep a copy of this game and play it regularly. It's definitely good cross-training for athletes looking for a change of pace that helps maintain a high level of cardiovascular fitness.
I've collected a number of photos, as well screenshots from the game and from my Polar Precision Performance training diary in a Playing Glofun RayGun photo album. I hope they help you to get a feel for what it's like to play this fun and interesting new game.