Last time, before vacation, I started a series of posts about the relationship of games and places. The first topic was how games can change physical locations. Geocaching (and other similar alternate reality games) is more about changing the player's perspective and perception of physical locations. Explained very briefly, the entire hobby is about finding caches hidden by others, and logging your finds. Anyone can also hide caches, if they follow a few simple rules (mostly common sense). The entire truth is a bit more complex, but we can go on with this description. Read more here. There are many cool aspects. This time we're going to focus on places though.
Quite often geocaches can take seekers to interesting locations they never knew existed. Cities, towns and villages have a lot of cool places that are not in tourist guides nor can anyone realize their coolness by looking at a map. It's a good way to find interesting spots in one's home city. It gets even better when visiting a less familiar city. Geocaches are often found in places with the best scenic views and the most interesting terrain. It also gives more meaning to places. There's no need for me to take photographs of places I've been geocaching in, because I have truly experienced these places. I can easily visualize these places in my mind afterwards and I have much better recollection of a city's layout after looking for caches there.
For a geocacher, certain aspects of places have meanings other people don't really think about. Places can be classified by the types of hiding places they offer. Bridges are to be ducked under. Trees for climbing. Loose stones hide something behind them. Metal structures make one look for magnet caches. At night it is easier to avoid the gazes of geomuggles (people who are not geocachers). Each time I encounter a new cache type my world view expands. Discovering something new is akin to enlightenment. Sometimes it's not just about finding the cache, but also the actual physical challenge of getting to it. I've had to climb trees and navigate building mazes.
Geocaching is not beneficial in a larger scale, but on the individual scale I think it is. For me it has changed the outdoor experience into a much more interesting one, and I get out of my apartment a lot more than I did this time last year. It can also be a social activity. Adult geocachers can go out with their entire family and there's fun for everyone. Some geocaches are quite hard or even impossible to get alone. As with any other game, geocachers can also tank endlessly about their hobby.
In short, geocaching expands and transforms the way the world is seen by an individual. They discover new places, and new aspects about the places they visit.