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Get in the game: How to playfully discover new cities

Interview with Wendy van Leeuwen, Co-founder of Secret City Trails

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European Business: Your games cost between 17 EUR and 30 EUR. In many cities people can participate in low-cost or even free walking tours. Why should someone choose Secret City Trails?

Wendy van Leeuwen: Great question. It's true that people can choose to do a free walking tour (where they are expected to 'tip' approximately 10 EUR per person, so they are not really free) instead of our self-guided city discovery games (which only cost 4 to 6 EUR each when playing in a group of 5). What makes our discovery games a - we think - better alternative to a free walking tour for exploring the city are the following reasons: first, our city games can be started at any time, no need to show up at a fixed time, say 10am or 2pm (when the group tours start).

Perhaps it's raining in the morning and you want to explore outdoors in the afternoon, or you found an amazing brunch spot and want to have another latte. We offer flexibility. Not only with the start time, but also during the experience. On a walking tour it's the guide who sets the pace, which can be frustrating when you see a cool spot where you would like to take a break in or a gallery you might want to check out. With Secret City Trails, you explore at your own pace. Our riddles guide you around. Along the way, breaks are suggested near cool local spots, but you can stop at any point and continue where you left off, even up to two weeks from starting the game.

Another important benefit of our discovery games is that they take place in small groups - we recommend up to 5 people instead of 15 to 30. And in small groups you explore quieter streets, and lesser-known areas of the city. In short, our games take you much more off the beaten path than walking tours. Also, the smaller groups are less of an 'annoyance' to residents of a city. Other reasons for choosing Secret City Trails is that you playfully unlock stories about the city, its history, culture and art, this means you learn as much as during a tour with a guide! Also, along the routes of our games, you unlock local recommendations!

European Business: What requirements do people need to play a city game?

Wendy van Leeuwen: All you need to play is your smartphone and a tiny bit of data. Our games are played via a web app so no downloads are needed. The games are made up of text riddles and stories, in total a game requires only 2 MB of storage space. To access the game, all you do is open the link from the email (after payment) and your game opens up in your phone's browser. Of course, you also need a bit of wit and creativity to solve the riddles!

Wendy van Leeuwen
"Choosing Secret City Trails allows you to playfully unlock stories about the city, its history, culture and art, this means you learn as much as during a tour with a guide!" Wendy van Leeuwen

European Business: Who develops your games and what do your developers need to take into account to fit in with your overall concept?

Wendy van Leeuwen: We collaborate with locals to develop our games. Many former customers/players have become game builders or creators. We work with (retired) tour guides, bloggers, entrepreneurs, art historians, musicians and more. From our own experience of building games in the first eleven cities, we have built a framework that explains what it takes to develop a game from A-Z, it includes examples and checklists. We also do an on-boarding call with each creator. Quality is super important to us, we want our customers to have a great experience in every city they play with us. We review each game and give feedback for improvements before routes are play tested. All creators receive a share of the revenue of each game sold. If you are interested in becoming a creator, here is some information about it.

European Business: How do you guarantee that the information in the game is correct and up to date?

Wendy van Leeuwen: All games are checked by their creator once every six weeks or in the case of customer feedback about parts of the route that my be under construction, painted over, or anything else. Cities are living things, so most customers understand that things can change.

European Business: Which game would you recommend for a hen night (eight girls aged between 25 and 30 years) in London?

Wendy van Leeuwen: Hackney & Shoreditch! This colourful game starts at a city farm where they serve a super tasty brunch and then ends near Brick Lane, with loads of great spots for food & drinks!

Interview: Vera Gaidies | Photos: Secret City Trails

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