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There are kittens in Frimley Park

Cute little kittens are rampaging all over Frimley Park, just waiting for our technology-savvy children to track them down. But while they are finding them, they will need to avoid the Bad Fairy.

Magical Park is a virtual reality game aimed at six to 11 year olds (think Pokemon Go for children only better), designed to be used in urban parks. The use of it by councils is being promoted by the New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) to encourage greater use of parks and physical activity.

It was trialled in Wellington earlier this year and was an instant hit. “It’s been really popular both in high and low socio-economic areas,” said Wellington City Council parks, sport and recreation spokesman Tim Park.

The potential for the game was seen by Hastings District Council staff, who have set up the game in Frimley Park.

The app Magical Park is free from App Store and Google Play. With it comes two games, Augmentia (the gathering up of kittens without being caught by a bad fairy) and Dino Land (collecting eggs while exploring the park and avoiding dinosaurs). Seasonal games can also be added, with a Christmas one live at the moment.

On the safety front, Magical Park is set up so that it works in a confined area within a park, with the game content disappearing as the device holder reaches the pre-set boundary.

That safety factor was of the utmost importance, said Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule.

“And the second most important thing is the fun factor. The experience of other councils is that Magical Park attracts children to parks to play the games but they end up playing in the playground, playing chase and exploring the park – potentially more fully than they would on a normal visit,” he said.

“It is the perfect mix of technology and outdoor play. Many of us older ones may not understand it but this is the future and it is a good match for our parks and a fun way to encourage our kids off the couch.”

One of the big benefits is that the game can be shifted from park to park to ensure children in all neighbourhoods get turns. At the moment, it is in Frimley Park in the open area just east of the sunken garden. Initially it will be there for three months with the next venue yet to be decided.

The best option is to download the Magical Park app where a phone can connect to wifi – if children don’t have access to that at home they can head to the Flaxmere, Hastings or Havelock North libraries where they can connect for free. Once it is downloaded, the amount of data the games use is very low and only used to find the player's position on Google Maps. The app is compatible with most modern hand-held devices.

4 October 2017

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