Virtual gaming within the Tower of London

Sometimes historical locations need a little modern twist to make them more interesting for tourists.

Take the case of the Tower of London. I visited this landmark about ten years ago and wasn’t terribly impressed. Sure, it was sort of cool and certainly had some interesting history about it, but, for the most part, it lacked the excitement and sense of adventure that such a storied structure deserves.

Dragging the Tower of London into the 21st century and making it interesting has fallen upon the shoulders of Historic Royal Palaces, the charity group that manages the site. Its docents have worked in conjunction with Hewlett-Packard to create a GPS-driven Tower of London game that is played with a PDA and a radio transmitter.

The concept is simple and brilliant. As visitors walk around the Tower of London, the GPS unit activates various audio feeds which virtually insert the user into historical events which occurred at the location, such as prison escapes. Aided by the PDA flashing images of the past, gamers are fully engaged in the unfolding stories as voices from their headphones cry for help, shout out directions, and navigate them through the historical twists and turns of the ancient structure.

Wow. This is a very cool example of active learning and a perfect way to really educate students without it seeming like a chore.