On the mun­zee trail

TAKE YOUR MO­BILE PHONE AND YOUR FEET FOR A WALK ‘CAP­TUR­ING’ VIR­TUAL TAR­GETS AND SOME EX­ER­CISE

Shepparton News - - FRONT PAGE - By Thomas Moir SATUR­DAY, DE­CEM­BER 5, 2015

The munzees are here, and they’re every­where! Rob Steer and his son Lach­lan are trea­sure hun­ters of a dif­fer­ent kind. They place and find hun­dreds of QR codes — called munzees — which they scan with a phone to earn points. A first of its kind mun­zee event next week aims to open lo­cals up to the hobby, which Mr Steer be­lieves holds tourism and fit­ness ben­e­fits for the re­gion.

The munzees have ar­rived and they’re every­where!

You’ve prob­a­bly walked past one, maybe even spot­ted one but just not known it.

One of them could be in front of you right now, you might even be sit­ting on one.

You can place them, you can look for them and you can catch them.

Shep­par­ton’s mun­zee pop­u­la­tion now num­bers into the hun­dreds, and one en­thu­si­ast be­lieves the mo­bile game, which in­cor­po­rates the phys­i­cal world, holds tourism and ex­er­cise op­por­tu­ni­ties for the re­gion. Okay, so what is it? It is a trea­sure hunt of sorts.

Here’s how it works. You down­load the Mun­zee app, and once you load a map of Shep­par­ton you would see hun­dreds of small, dif­fer­ent coloured icons dot­ted around town.

Each of th­ese rep­re­sents a mun­zee — lit­tle QR codes hid­den un­der park benches, on brick walls, maybe even on your let­ter­box (you never know, you could have one hid­ing in your front yard).

Some play the game by gen­er­at­ing munzees, print­ing them off and plac­ing them out in the world. Oth­ers cap­ture them by scan­ning the codes with their phone and earn­ing points. They get a de­cent walk around town in the process.

It’s fair to say the pop­u­lar­ity of munzees is on the rise. And that it can get very com­pet­i­tive. So says Rob Steer, prob­a­bly Shep­par­ton’s most en­thu­si­as­tic mun­zee-er.

With his son, Lach­lan, he places the codes on light poles, benches and walls around town and is al­ways keep­ing an eye out for new ones to ‘‘cap­ture’’. Some par­tic­i­pants have been known to travel up from Mel­bourne just to cap­ture Shep­par­ton’s munzees.

‘‘Peo­ple will travel a long way just to come to Shep­par­ton to pho­to­graph a light pole,’’ Mr Steer ex­plains.

Oth­ers col­lect and place them as a way to get ex­er­cise, socialise and sight­see.

Mr Steer col­lects points each time he places one and for each time he scans a mun­zee some­one else has de­ployed.

An up­com­ing

event

Look­ing for trea­sure: or­gan­ised by Mr Steer may open up Shep­par­ton to the game, of­fer an op­por­tu­nity to get out in the fresh air and par­tic­i­pate in a fast grow­ing com­mu­nity.

This week, Rob and Lach­lan strolled around Vic­to­ria Park Lake in search of a mun­zee or two.

‘‘I think there’s one on the light pole over there,’’ Rob said, con­sult­ing the map on his phone.

Hid­den within a small safety mes­sage, at around eye level, sits a lit­tle QR code.

‘‘Ah, we call that ur­ban cam­ou­flage,’’ Mr Steer ex­plains know­ingly af­ter find­ing it. He holds his phone up to the code and scans it.

A beep rings out, and the mes­sage ‘‘14 points, Mace Mun­zee’’ pops up on his screen.

‘‘I put them all around the lake,’’ he says.

Some of them, vir­tual munzees, are even placed in­side the lake, Mr Steer ex­plains, which play­ers do not need to swim out to to cap­ture, but rather, move within close prox­im­ity of — on the jetty, for ex­am­ple.

Mr Steer geo-cached for many years, but be­came tired of it. He ex­plains, you could spend hours look­ing for some­thing that wasn’t even there to be­gin with, or frus­trat­ingly, was sit­ting di­rectly in front of you.

‘‘Af­ter five years (of geocaching), I was ready for some­thing new,’’ he said.

So, the much more user­friendly Munzees game came along, and Mr Steer gave it a try.

Only in the past year has a

Where’s mun­zee?: de­cent fol­low­ing be­gun to spread in Shep­par­ton.

Mr Steer said about 12 months ago, it was just him and a couple of oth­ers who would place the munzees and then cap­ture them.

Now, there’s at least a dozen play­ers lo­cally, with oth­ers from nearby towns and cities vis­it­ing es­pe­cially for the game.

‘‘When I know my mates are vis­it­ing, I’ll hide an­other 100,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re try­ing to en­cour­age lo­cals to get out and get ac­tive.’’

See­ing the seden­tary liv­ing habits of peo­ple in Shep­par­ton, Mr Steer ex­plains that by plac­ing munzees he is cre­at­ing ex­cuses for peo­ple to leave their houses and ex­plore, but he is also aware of the tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties the game makes pos­si­ble.

‘‘It does get tourists here,’’ he said.

‘‘Some have stayed the night (be­cause of munzees).

‘‘Some have pumped thou­sands of dol­lars into it,’’ he said.

The driv­ing fac­tor for many en­thu­si­asts is scor­ing points, mean­ing Mel­bourne mun­zee hun­ters earn value for cap­tur­ing new, for­eign ‘‘Shep­par­ton munzees’’.

Or, if you’re the first to col­lect a mun­zee, you re­ceive a vir­tual badge.

‘‘Peo­ple want to col­lect ev­ery badge avail­able,’’ he ex­plains. Part of the in­ter­est for Mr Steer is in the way the game in­cor­po­rates the real world with the vir­tual world.

And, while hun­dreds are al­ready placed around the city, there’s al­ways room for more, Mr Steer said.

‘‘We want to grow area.

‘‘Once there’s a strong mun­zee com­mu­nity, peo­ple will come.

‘‘(They might say) ‘Do I go to Shep­par­ton or Bendigo for a Mun­zee day?’.’’

Next Sun­day, De­cem­ber 13, Mr Steer is host­ing one of Shep­par­ton’s first mun­zee events, start­ing at 10.30am at Vic­to­ria Park Lake.

There will be a release of lim­ited edi­tion munzees there, only avail­able to cap­ture dur­ing the event: spe­cial icons, with a unique Shep­par­ton feel, he ex­plains.

He en­cour­ages peo­ple look­ing for a new hobby, or any­one really, to come along and get an in­tro­duc­tion to the world.

‘‘Get some ex­er­cise, get some sun, ex­plore the neigh­bour­hood,‘‘ he con­cludes.

‘‘A good day is hav­ing a nice walk and cap­tur­ing lots of munzees.’’

the ● Visit cal­en­dar.mun­zee.com for full de­tails of ‘There’s noel in Shep­par­ton’

A GOOD DAY IS HAV­ING A NICE WALK AND CAP­TUR­ING LOTS OF MUNZEES.

— ROB STEER

Pic­tures: Holly Cur­tis

map on their phone.

Lach­lan and Rob Steer search for Shep­par­ton’s munzees by fol­low­ing a

A ‘Topaz’ mun­zee and a ‘trea­sure map’ of sorts, show­ing where some of Shep­par­ton’s munzees are lo­cated.

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