BELLAIRE - Frank Manteau is an avid geocaching enthusiast. He's also always on the lookout for fun activities to do with his family, especially those that require getting up and out of the house.
A few weeks ago, Manteau came across information online about a new branch of scavenger hunting that takes the the principles behind geocaching, tweaks them a bit and further takes advantage of the growing usage of technology.
What Manteau discovered was Munzee, described as a "real world scavenger hunt game where items are found in the real world and captured using your smartphone."
FRANK?MANTEAU displays the Munzee app on his smartphone while his son Eric holds a Munzopoly tag.
An example of the look of the Munzee app.
Deploying a Munzee is as simply as scan and stick.
Created by the Texas foursome of Aaron Benzick, Chris Pick, Scott Foster and Josh Terkelson, the premise of Munzee is that it takes the fun of geocaching while discarded a lot of the tediousness involved.
The Munzee name itself means "coin" in German. Benzick had originally planned on using poker chips with serial numbers to house the QR barcodes that hunters would scan to locate the Munzee pieces.
As Manteau explains, the benefits of Munzee are in its simplicity and ease of use. You don't have to worry about remembering your pen and signing a log book. You don't have to wait until returning home to hop on the computer, log your cache and making comments. There's also no need to have a cache box to hide the Munzee in, although doing so is still a possibility.
To get started playing, simply go to www.Munzee.com and sign up. Download the app, which is available on both Android and I-Phone platforms, and turn on your GPS-enabled smartphone. Then find the Munzee, scan the barcode and poof, you're done.
The Munzee Web site automatically logs your capture and awards you points for the find. It's that simple. You receive points for both capturing and deploying a Munzee and also when someone else captures one you deployed.
''It's a complimentary service to geocaching,'' Terkelson said. ''Because you can deploy instantly and capture instantly, it allows you to get your highs out there very fast from the fun of the hunt.
''Plus it's always fun to get points and level up.
''We have a lot of stuff in the works as far as expanded stats, turning points into prizes and rewards. We're just trying to develop the game, develop the fan base and get feedback from our players.''
Manteau said that when he originally signed up July 20, there were roughly 800 players. Saturday night, a total of 2,539 players had deployed 2,728 Munzees with 4,051 captures recorded thus far. It's a number sure to grow.
So Manteau became brainstorming and came up for an idea for a sub-game based off the Munzee platform, combining Munzee and the board game Monopoly. He posted his thoughts on the Munzee forums and received a quick response from an Australian national living in London, England.
''He sent me a message that great minds think alike,'' said Manteau of his first conversation with James Finger. ''He created a template and has started displaying these Munzee tags throughout London.''
And Munzopoly was born.
Finger did the tech work, designing the templates for the Munzopoly Munzees and making them available for download on the Munzee Web site. Manteau has set ought to designing the game board, rules and related information for the game. He's also created a Web site, www.Munzopoly.com.
Manteau's first project is a completed Munzopoly game board for the Village of Bellaire. He's already set to placing Munzee's about town at key locations and is working on drafting a proposal letter to take to area historical societies and chambers of commerce.
The idea is to highlight historical locations, businesses and other key points along the Munzopoly board and have players work to capture all the game pieces.
"They can turn in their game board and show they've found all 28 pieces and possibly receive any type of prize the organization wants to award people,'' Manteau said. "If they are here in town to do a game and see the history, they will spend money, get gas, get a drink. If they can get something out of it, they will be more than likely to come back to the city.
"That's my ultimate goal."
For example, say the owners of Rigas Restaurant in Bellaire allow a Munzee to be deployed outside their business. A person comes by, captures the Munzee and in turn, receives a discount off their meal. That's the basic premise.
Once a Munzopoly Munzee is scanned, an informational piece is brought up about the business or location so the scavenger is doing more than just scanning a tag. They are learning about the community. And if they can receive a slight reward for their trouble, that's all the better according to Manteau.
Like Munzee itself, Monzopoly is still in its infancy. But Manteau noted it's already being played in Bellaire, London, Dallas/Ft. Worth, San Diego, Chicago, Bismark, N.D. and a few other cities.
Terkelson is all for it as it will only help Munzee grow.
"The more players we continue to get, the more the game grows,'' he said. "People like Frank are coming up with really smart ideas and I can help and work with them. It's really neat to see the entire community growing."
Hughes may be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org