My daughter LOVES to use the self-checkout and eagerly grabs the handheld scanner because as she says, “it’s way more efficient AND its satisfying”. She’s pretty well spoken for an 8 year old and I suppose it’s that sense of satisfaction that comes from scanning things that is the basis around Munzee. Munzee is a location-based game that involves players using their smart phones to scan QR barcodes placed in the real world. These stickers can be found just about anywhere but as the placer you want folks to easily find them so they are usually in pretty obvious locations as a successful scan means points for both of you.
Shortly after launch many geocaching took the plunge, me included. It costs nothing to create a “greenie” which is the common basic Munzee. It does however cost you to physically print them out. After some research I found sheets of waterproof shipping stickers that could be printed on a laser printer. After some work I was able to export the QR codes from the Munzee website and space them correctly on these sheets. Once printed I used a utility blade to score the stickers so that the square barcodes could be peeled easily.
Armed with these sheets of weather resistant stickers we would canvas parking lots applying them to the back of signs, utility boxes, guard rails and light posts crammed together as tightly as possible. Each Munzee must be at least 50ft from a one deployed by another player and 150 ft from one of your own deploys. As such it made sense to pair with another player, for me that was typically Monkey Phat (Steve). After awhile I added a “Quality Control” blurb and a small security camera icon to my designs to keep Muggles from peeling them off. It must have worked as I still encounter many of mine in the field nearly a decade later.
When I first heard about Munzees there was exactly one in Kansas City, located just south of the downtown loop on an electrical box and was a one off placed by someone passing through on a road trip. I remember being excited to scan it as one of the first in a new game then it was like, ok now what? Now there are tens of thousands in Kansas City. Since they are easier to place than geocaches they have populated the metro in tightly bundled clusters or long snaking trails.
Virtual Munzees are very popular as they require no maintenance at all and provide a lot of points however they cost real money to deploy. In fact nearly all of the high point earning Munzees require a real investment. And while I admit I fell into this trap for a while it was ultimately what lead me to stop. It became apparent to me that this was a competition-based game and money was the fastest (only?) way to get to the top. When I stopped actively playing I was just barely in the top 100 but today I see I’ve fallen to 1,842nd (actually not as low as you’d expect for not playing in 7 years).
One of the things I did get a kickout of this game was creating artwork on the map with the virtual deploys. These are known as “Munzee Gardens” and some pretty intricate artwork resulted from them using specific colors and predefined GPS coordinates when deploying. They are similar to Geocaching Geoartwork but can be much larger and more tightly packed together with more variety in the color palate.
I used to say that Munzee was my methadone when I couldn’t get my geocaching hit but that’s since transitioned to Pokemon Go. I have a few friends still chasing Munzees but it seems that the craze has passed for most geocachers. Still, when I walk through a parking lot and see a random QR code chances are I’ll scan it.