Michael Stroud reports in wired.com that in Scandinavia people have found a new use for their cellphones: playing wargames. A taxi driver in Stockholm with the alias of Taxi31 spends his free time between passengers shooting people. In Copenhagen, street battles are constantly taking place between dozens of young men with cellphones as their only weapons.
The games rely on new cellphone technology that allows mobile phone users to pinpoint other users? positions within ?cells? formed by their phones? locations relative to nearby transmitters. In the United States, that capability is now required for all mobile operators so that rescue workers can locate mobile users who are in trouble.
These technologies allow the creation of games that bring people close, but not too close. ?If someone could actually track you down and find you, that would be too scary,? says ?It?s Alive? CEO Sven H?lling. The company?s most popular game is BotFighters, which H?lling says has between 7,000 and 8,000 players in Sweden and Finland. The game will soon be launched in Ireland.
In BotFighters, users role-play being robots. They can choose all kinds of extras like laser guns and missiles, using play money called ?Robucks.? But once they start firing at each other in the real world, they pay real money?about 20 cents per move in the game. Their cellphones can receive missions from the company?s servers, scan for nearby enemies and ?fire? when they find the enemy.
Since intense battles often involve many moves, the games can quickly increase your phone bill. Taxi31, for instance, has had phone bills as high as $4,000. ?He?s crazy,? says H?lling. ?He has four phones in his taxi. He even brags on the website that he?s driven 30 kilometers outside the city to get in battles.?
People don’t ?die? in the games, they only have their robot batteries depleted. They can recharge and keep on fighting and, of course, spending more money.
?It?s Alive? launched another game called X-Fire last fall, based on a popular paintball TV competition in the U.K. 11,000 people in England signed up before it was temporarily shelved after September 11.
To check out BotFighters from the Swedish company ?It?s Alive?, click here.
To protect yourself against cellphone radiation, click here.
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