Forums/Building on SCVNGR/Builder Basics

SCVNGR Style Guide

posted this on July 21, 2011 10:26

SCVNGR Style Guide

This document focuses on how to build great challenges (and treks) on SCVNGR. We’ll start off with a quick refresher on playing SCVNGR, but the best way to really understand SCVNGR is to play it yourself. If you’re not yet playing SCVNGR, go to and get started! It’s really fun.

A quick refresher on SCVNGR:

SCVNGR is part awesome location-based mobile game and part really really powerful mobile gaming platform.

Playing SCVNGR is really simple. It's all about going places, doing challenges and earning points, right from your mobile phone. It's compelling, competitive and social. You visit a place and are presented with a list of challenges. One asks you to take a photo, another to solve a riddle and yet a third to order the most highly caffeinated item on the menu and then drink two! You pick a challenge and do it. Players earn points, start unlocking badges, share their activity with friends and play on.

Building on SCVNGR is equally easy. Enterprises and individuals build on SCVNGR by creating custom challenges at specific locations or by building treks that connect places and challenges into themed, branded experiences.


What can I build on SCVNGR:


The core unit of SCVNGR is the challenge. The challenge is a quick, fun thing to do at a place. A challenge might ask a player to take a photo, solve a location-based riddle, scan a QR code, complete some activity, simply check-in or really anything else you can come up with! Challenges are highly flexible and can include text, images, audio and even video! A good challenge should be fun, quick (possible to complete in <6 seconds) and clear. A challenge must be tied to a physical place. (Generally that place has an address or is easily found) 


Treks connect places and challenges into themed and branded paths. For example, the “Boston’s Best Baristas” trek is a set of all the best coffee houses in Boston with a challenge featured at each one. Treks can be done casually over time or all at once. Players can choose to visit the places and do the challenges in the order listed, or in whatever order they choose. Each trek has its own leaderboard and activity stream.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Building Challenges: (well, actually just the first two…)

As more and more people and institutions are building on SCVNGR we’re seeing more and more creative challenges. The listing below is by no means complete, but is definitely a good collection of the things that make challenges good or bad. There is no need to include all (or even any) of these elements, but they are good ways to think about what makes good challenges and what should be avoided.

Good Challenge Qualities

Bad Challenge Qualities



Seems basic, but always be focused on the “fun”.

Never ask a player to do anything illegal. Period.


Busy Work

Good challenges can be done in <6 seconds.

Don’t make players do busy work.

Clear and Specific

Vague / Unclear / Inaccurate / Impossible

Make sure your challenge is unambiguous.

Unclear challenges lead to frustration.

Activity Oriented


Get your players to do something at the place.

Trivia (or q’s that can be solved anywhere) is a minus.

Self Reflective / Group Oriented

Involving Strangers

Getting players to do things with their groups is a plus.

Asking players to approach strangers is generally bad.


Uncomfortable / Sketchy / Awkward

Making your challenges humorous will increase fun.

The line between humor and sketch is a tight one…



Players will reward you for creativity in challenges.

Don’t use the same (or similar) challenge over and over.


Overly Commercial / Asks For Personal Info

Challenges should easily be accessible for free.

Don’t ask to spend money or give up personal info.

Fun Once, Fun Always

Fun Only Once

Make doing your challenge again fun the second time!

If it can only be done once, will only be done once.

One Time Due To High Level of Discovery

One Time Due To Boring Nature

Sometimes challenges should only be fun the first time.

If a challenge is boring, it will only be done once.

Reasonably Accessible

Excessively Time Restrictive

Should be accessible within sensible hours. So for stores, most of the time while they're open.

Only available during random (unlisted) time periods.



Great challenges are easy and clear. One step only.

Don’t build single challenges that have multiple stages.

Present Tense

Past Tense

Challenges should ask people to do things now.

Don’t ask players to recollect something previous.

Include Examples

Bland Writing

A good example can really help get people thinking.

It’s meant to be fun! Use your creativity in writing.

Involve Other People As Necessary

Disobey the Laws of Physics

Suggest that a friend snap the pic, if necessary.

Snapping a pic of yourself can be tough in some cases.


Good Challenges

Any Burrito Shop: Make your best origami out of your burrito wrapper! Can you make a crane, a dog, a turtle? Snap a picture of your creation for two points.

Boston Common Coffee Shop: Check out the “coffee bean inspired” art on the wall. Which is your favorite?

Any Restaurant: Time to play with your food! Mash up your main meal into the shape of your state! Snap a pic!

Terrible Challenges

Any Burrito Shop: Purchase a burrito for 2 points. Mmmhmmm… Overt commercialism tastes so good!

Boston Common Coffee Shop: Look at all the art on the walls! (What am I going to do? No idea!)

Any Restaurant: How many items are on the menu? Still counting? I thought so…

The Triumphs and Tribulations of Treks:

Treks are collections of challenges. 

Each challenge must be tied to a location. There must only be one challenge per location! 

Building good treks mainly consists of building good challenges, but here are a couple unique things to bear in mind.

  • Number of Places: Average treks have between 5 and 15 places in them. You can, of course, go outside of these bounds, but a trek with 100+ places is not a good idea.
  • Treks are Done Over Time and Out Of Order: Bear in mind that most treks are done over time. So make sure that your challenges don’t depend on one another.
  • Select Places That Go Together: Treks should link places and challenges into themed sets. Top 10 coffee shops, best sites, top bars, historical places etc… Make sure your places share a common theme.
  • Vary Your Challenges: Don’t do the same challenge at each place. Mix ‘em up!
  • Geographical Proximity: Treks should contain places in the same geographic context. “Top Sites in Boston”, “Best Coffee in the South End”, “Midtown Bar Crawl”. If all your places are in Boston, don’t include one in New York!
  • Time Sensitivity: If your trek is time sensitive (a fair, festival, conference etc…) be sure to deactivate it once the event is over! No one likes trying to play a trek for places that no longer exist.
  • Paths: If your trek follows a famous path or should be done in a specific order, order the challenges appropriately and then highlight that fact in the trek description. For example, the “Freedom Trail” trek in Boston.
  • One Challenge Per Place In A Trek: Each place in your trek should have only one challenge associated with it. This gives players one thing (the best thing) to do at that place as part of the trek, and then they can move on!


Good Treks:

Boston Barista Trek: 15 of the best places in Boston to get your caffeine fix! Be sure to try our featured challenge at each one! Do them over time or you’ll over-energize for sure!

Freedom Trail Trek: This will trek you lead you in order (from Back Bay to the North End) along the Freedom Trail with historical facts at each place. Best done over a leisurely afternoon.

Top 10 Sites in NYC: The best places to go (and the best things to do) in NYC. You’ll be a local in no time at all!

Movie Mania in LA: Visit the 8 top movie locations in LA. We’ve got the clips of the area in the movie at each spot! Have fun!

Terrible Treks:

Random Locations Across the U.S: This trek contains 20 random places that I think are modestly interesting in the United States. Be sure to bring your private plane to make it to them all!

Every Coffee Shop in Seattle: This trek contains all 189 coffee shops in Seattle. Visit them all and OD on caffeine! Woot!

Sketchiest Locations in Newark, NJ: This trek will bring you to all the sketchiest spots in Newark, NJ. Be sure to bring police protection and don’t do it at night.


How to Speak About SCVNGR Accurately

This sections discusses how you should speak about SCVNGR.

In general, most people either play SCVNGR, by going places, doing challenges and earning points. Or build on SCVNGR by building challenges at their favorite places or by building treks on SCVNGR that connect challenges and places into themed and branded paths.

Quick Descriptions of SCVNGR:

SCVNGR is a game about doing challenges at the places you visit, right from your mobile phone.

SCVNGR is part game, part game platform. People play casually by going places, doing challenges and earning points. Others build on SCVNGR by adding challenges to their favorite places.

Acceptable Phrases when referring to SCVNGR

  • Play SCVNGR.
  • Play us on SCVNGR.
  • Play our challenges on SCVNGR.
  • Play our trek on SCVNGR.
  • Build on SCVNGR.
  • Build challenges on SCVNGR
  • Build treks on SCVNGR
  • Go places. Do challenges. Earn points!
  • Go places. Do challenges. Earn points. Play SCVNGR!

Unacceptable Phrases when referring to SCVNGR

  • SCVNGR Hunt (just wrong)
  • SCVNGR games (There's really only one game, and it's called SCVNGR, but everyone can build it out at their favorite places)
  • Play our game on SCVNGR (see above)
  • Play the SCVNGR game. (see above)
  • SCVNGR challenges. (Should be challenges on SCVNGR)
  • SCVNGR treks (Should be treks on SCVNGR)


Where to learn more!

We're always updating this document to make it better and more comprehensive. If you have comments or suggestions, let us know at

Have fun playing (and building!) SCVNGR! 

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