The city of Chicago put itself on the map last month when it announced an official partnership with Foursquare, the GPS-enabled game that lets its users “check-in” at sites across the country. Now visitors to the Windy City can earn Chicago-themed badges, like the on-location “Bueller Badge” for visiting sites from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or the “High Fidelity Badge” for cruising the record shops featured in the film. There are also badges for visiting the city’s many blues clubs and for sampling its iconic hot dog stands.
“We really wanted to give people an authentic sense of what real people in Chicago are doing,” said Sarah Best, the web specialist for the Chicago Office of Tourism, who helped establish the partnership with Foursquare. “Geolocation is such interesting technology, and now that so many smartphones are equipped with it, it seemed like pairing it with game play was a good fit for us. We focus a lot on getting people into our neighborhoods.”
“By partnering with a city entity, we’re offering Foursquare players a new angle on discovering the city around them,” says Tristan Walker, Head of Business Development at Foursquare. “Adding these Chicago-specific badges encourages users to try out new businesses and promote lesser-known landmarks.”
In order to take part in the “official” Chicago badges, Foursquare users have to follow Explore Chicago, which has created over 60 check-in locations and over 200 tips throughout the city. The tips, Best says, are some of her favorite elements, as they help provide context about the sites featured in the game. So when you check in at the site where Ferris Bueller sang in the annual Von Steuben Day parade, she explains, “We let you know that you can go to Lincoln Square to experience Chicago’s German-American culture year round.”
Best says that the Chicago partnership has been noticed by other cities, and that tourism reps from Los Angeles, Austin, and Memphis have all contacted her about setting up similar games. We’re looking forward to playing.
- Nat Geo Expeditions