Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Playing On Planet Google

Spanner Spencer | 4 Jan 2011 07:50
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Runways have been spotted on top of narrow buildings in the middle of the city, jumbo jets have been seen poking their gigantic noses out of forests, jet fighters parked in shopping mall car parks and graveyards of aircraft are all reality irregularities that no one spotted before the world went digital. Optical illusions caused by these time-delayed aerial photographs have made planet combing into something of an internet meme, which doesn't stop with aircraft.


Scouring Google Maps and Google Earth for real-world anomalies has revealed some fascinating facts and even more fascinating conspiracy theories. Elaborate shapes hewn into the face of the world that only the gods (and Google) have previously been able to see; elaborate crop circles and offensive mega-messages cut into fields; a 50 mile-long obelisk jutting out of a Greenland tundra; dead bodies and UFOs aplenty.

Strangeness-spotting from a pseudo-satellite is an increasingly popular hobby, but more direct methods of misusing Google Maps are also growing. Real World Racer drops a basic bird's-eye-view driving game onto your locale, with checkpoints attempting to keep you on the streets rather than driving DeLorean-style over the rooftops. Strategists can take the planet to war in the Risk-based Global Skirmish game, should you like to dabble with an Afghan invasion of Russia, or see what it would actually take to bring peace to virtual Israel.

Plane Map takes a similar concept by overlaying a mouse-controlled biplane that takes off from various real-world airports, with rough-hewn altitude controls, statistical information about your trip and a waypoint route after the inevitable crash. It's clever stuff, and clearly a lot of effort has been lent to these games, but it's hard to escape the notion that Google Maps is just a moderately dynamic wallpaper behind the action.

Monopoly was even given a Google Maps backdrop in 2009, when Monopoly City Streets offered a live, worldwide version of the popular boardgame using GMaps to provide the famous real estate. As epic as this event sounds, it came and went without much fanfare. But the idea is undeniably solid, and begs the question as to whether we need a big development company to actually put the pieces in place.

Before videogames, we used our imagination to shape the real world into something fantastical, and surely that knack hasn't been lost after only a couple of decades of digital dreaming. With some degree of preparation and a few borrowed concepts from RPG gaming, a custom Monopoly board can easily be fashioned from Google Maps.

A laptop or iPad in the middle of the table, centered on your area of choice (could be your neighborhood, could be central London like a real Monopoly board, or it could be a collection of craters on the moon) would serve as a property ladder for players to avariciously climb.

Moving pieces around might require the most imagination, but using GMaps' built-in route planner, a ragged, circular path could be highlighted that runs alongside each property for all the players to follow. Determining the value of this property is up to you; an estate agents' website would offer current market prices, or you could take more entertaining financial liberties as you monopolize the property development industry.

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