Making a game that blends the physical with the virtual

Making a game that blends the physical with the virtual
Today’s Internet users are famously multi-taskers. They can have lunch, take a train, walk in the park or even cross the road while keeping their heads tilted down and faces glued to their tiny phone screens.

Digital addiction is real, and the result is often a lack of awareness of what is physically around, even if it’s right under their nose.

This was one reason why Hidden SG founders Lim Yee Hung and Loh Jun Wei set out to create a game that sought to blend the physical with the virtual.

The big idea: Could there be a form of digital interaction that encouraged people to explore their physical world more instead of being glued to a screen?

While the idea may seem simple, the technology and effort behind are not.

It first has to involve placemaking, which Yee Hung has experienced during 14 years in Britain developing and analysing the property market there. How valuable, interesting and compelling a location was often eluded people who lived in the area, he recalled from his experience overseas.

And thus, Hidden SG was born with this idea of finding interesting nuggets of information and experiences about a place. After all, when Yee Hung returned to Singapore in 2022, at the end of the Covid pandemic, he discovered so much new - and old - about his hometown.

Together with secondary school buddy Jun Wei, he set out to turn this into an interactive experience that could attract thousands of people to explore various corners of Singapore, a small yet interesting city with so much to offer.

Indeed, there was so much potential with the inherent interactivity of a virtual game world, yet connecting it to the real world has always been a challenge. The biggest issue was ease of use.

To overcome this, the Hidden SG game does not require complex and expensive equipment like virtual reality goggles. Players don’t even need to download a separate app on their phones.

Instead, Hidden SG makes use of the common WhatsApp chat app to give out intriguing clues to a game world that is set in real life.

Following these clues given by a chatbot character called Void Deck Cat, players explore and discover more about the many hidden gems in some of the most storied neighbourhoods in Singapore.

Call it a treasure hunt, an escape room experience or simply an outdoor team building exercise – the game is easy to get into and start playing.

Launched in May 2022, it now extends to areas such as Holland Village, Toa Payoh and Tanjong Pagar, and even Changi Airport. More than 30,000 players have foraged around various parts of Singapore, discovering for themselves new gems that they never found before.

Players range from executives seeking to gather in a corporate team building exercise to couples finding a different outing from the usual dating locations. Students these days are also learning about Singapore’s rich heritage through an interactive experience provided by the Hidden SG game.

Much of what it offers extends beyond technology. By helping people find hidden gems, it could also enable them to discover and support heritage and homegrown businesses, including the famous Killiney coffee shops and traditional Chinese teahouse Tea Chapter, which have partnered Hidden SG.

In the coming months, Hidden SG will be unveiling more locations for both residents and visitors of Singapore to check out.

Also in the works: A virtual game that lets students explore a location and its heritage on a tablet and find actual physical clues there. It will be a rich, new learning experience ready for today’s digitally engaged audience.

More cool things are coming from Hidden SG soon. Stay tuned!