February 27, 2024

App City: The Pegleg App Sends You on a New York Scavenger Hunt



In one interpretation of New York’s history, the prosthetic leg of the director general of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, was responsible for the city’s transformation from a shabby outpost populated by drunken ne’er-do-wells into a city of boundless ambition and innovation. But according to this admittedly ridiculous story, which forms the basis of the Pegleg, a new smartphone scavenger hunt, the leg has gone missing. If the app’s users can find it, then the world will be rid of war.

The app is an entertaining addition to the Manhattan walking tour and an example of an increasingly popular concept in the technology world called gamification. The basic idea: turn history, civic action or a marketing campaign into a game, and it’ll go down that much easier. The New York Public Library created its own smartphone game to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

The scavenger app corresponds with a guidebook to the city, “New York: The Pegleg,” by Timothy Speed Levitch, which was published on Tuesday. It is the latest book from LOG607, an Italian publisher that has been producing a series of playful guides to Italian cities that combine books with games users play through text messaging. The information on the pages is scrambled, and a reader must solve riddles, sending the answers via text messages to find out which of the seemingly random passages to read next.

Users of the Pegleg choose the level and duration of their challenge. Then they are sent off to a series of locations in Manhattan. There are 40 sites in all, each with a quirky significance to New York City’s history. The app’s developer says it would take nine hours to do the entire thing.

My first clue told the story of how the family ownership of the Gramercy Park Hotel fell apart, a tale that reached its low point when David Weissberg, the brother of the hotel’s chief executive, jumped off its roof to his death. When the app’s GPS sensed that I was out front on Lexington Avenue, it gave me an “enigma” to solve. The riddle was not particularly interesting — it involved counting the number of balconies on the facade. Once I had solved it, I was given the next clue, which sent me several blocks south to the former Tammany Hall building on East 17th Street.

I visited seven sites in two hours, including the intersection of Waverly Place and Waverly Place and the site of a former apple orchard on Broadway.

“This is a great way to learn about a city,” Mr. Levitch said.

The app, released this month, is free. It serves as a replacement for the $21.95 book, rather than a supplement, a seemingly risky strategy for a publisher that presumably hopes people will want both.

The app also allows competition. Users can challenge friends to see who gets through the clues quickest. This feature is social in the pre-Internet sense of the word: you have to find friends yourself and get them organized. The publisher is planning to host a contest in late October to promote the project. JOSHUA BRUSTEIN

Have a favorite New York City app? Send tips via e-mail to appcity@nytimes.com or via Twitter to @joshuabrustein.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c01208ebbef7b065fdfa9d949919f585

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