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You’re it: The world of biketag comes to Calgary

It may be a bit of a puzzle at first, but a new way to get active outside has arrived in Calgary.

It’s Biketag: a combination of scavenger hunt, bike ride, urban exploration, and game of tag.

Originating in Minneapolis in 2007, the game gained more of a mainstream foothold in 2018 when a dedicated website for the game was built by web developer Ken Eucker.

This was made for use in Portland, Oregon originally, but the open-source nature of the website has allowed it to spread to other cities.

As of May 2021, 33 locations around the world host a recognized biketag game.

Far-flung places like Islamabad and Vienna have adopted Biketag. Calgary is the latest addition to the Biketag family.

Calgary launch

The city saw the launch of its biketag community on May 25. Seulkiro Park, the Calgary biketag ambassador, who brought the game to Calgary, said that despite the challenges of starting this in a new city, he’s pleased with the interest so far.

“It has been less than a week since launch. I’ve only put a couple of posts on Twitter and Instagram. I haven’t even done all the work I wanted to do, like putting up posters to get the word out. Still, people noticed. The second mystery location is up already. This weekend will hopefully bring even more people since it’ll be nice outside,” Park said.

Park recently moved to Calgary from Vancouver, which already has a decent biketag community. While looking for the game in Calgary, Park came up disappointed when he realized there wasn’t one established yet. He decided to change that.

“I was living in Vancouver, and I came across biketag. I thought this was so cool. It allowed me to explore all over the city while playing the game, and I found so many cool places, sometimes never finding the places people were posting about,” Park said.

“So, I looked for something similar to what I found in Vancouver and was disappointed to learn there wasn’t anything. I reached out to Ken Eucker about starting something in Calgary.”

The inaugural image that kicked off the biketag game in Calgary. CONTRIBUTED: SEULKIRO PARK

What is biketag

But what is biketag? Descriptions of the mashup conjure wild ideas of what Biketag entails. In short, it all starts with one online post which reveals a “mystery” location with a bike pictured there. The goal is for participants to find the location where the bike was placed. When someone eventually finds it, they are essentially “it.” After they post their success and it’s verified, they are clear to find their own mystery location for people to hunt down.

Ideally, this is a never-ending process. People will continue the cycle leading the way for more people to join in the hunt.

This can be seen in American cities like Portland. The game was first introduced in 2013, eventually taking off with a bang in 2016.

Biketag in other cities

Ken Eucker, the web developer for the biketag website, heard about the game from his friend in 2018 and was instantly hooked.

“My friend approached me in 2018 and said, ‘hey I’ve been playing this game called biketag. It’s a little cumbersome to play online with Reddit forums. What do you think about making it easier?’ I was into the idea in the first five seconds of the conversation,” Eucker said.

“Now it’s a big part of my life, and I play the game a lot. Since I’m on the admin side, I see it all day from across the world, getting all the notifications from all the new tags. I’ve put 5000 hours of work into this project. It is something I’ll keep playing this for the rest of my life.”

While interest fluctuates year to year, Eucker and a few other enthusiasts keep the game alive. Biketag is something that lives and dies by its community.

“It was a slow burn over the first few years with around 30 tags. Then we introduced the app, which immediately jumped the number of tags from 30 to 100 in the first few months,” Eucker said.

Interest in the game waxes and wanes based on a variety of factors, he said. If there’s good weather, tags go up. Poor weather, they go down.

“They’ll be eight tags in a single day in Seattle and then a week without a tag. Portland has gone for months without a tag sometimes. Every once in a while, people will discover it, and the game will have the newfound energy,” he said.

Biketag does have a few rules. Locations have to be easily accessible with a bicycle.

The location also has to be something recognizable. Not something entirely obvious, but the photo can’t contain features that are easily applicable anywhere. Bland office buildings, chain businesses, or residential neighbourhood houses aren’t acceptable as they can be anywhere.

The future of biketag in Calgary  

Calgary has now moved onto its second round with a new location posted. Eager adopters of biketag in the city can look to cities like Portland and Seattle for a glimpse at a possible future. Respectively they’ve had 425 and 403 rounds of biketag since the main website was created.

Early Calgary bike tagger Matthew Hicks hopes they’ll achieve this sort of success in a few years.

“It’s not going to be as much fun if it’s just me and two other people. This is definitely a word-of-mouth thing. I can see this being a way for friends to compete with each other, and you just have to find the right people who want to form that community,” Hicks said.

For those who wish to get involved, look to biketag Calgary on Twitter. More information on how the game works can be found on the biketag Calgary website provides explanations and info on the current round.

There is also an app to download.