Gotta pass ’em all: Pokemon Go meets The Amazing Race in Hong Kong’s inaugural District Race

Hot on the heels of Nintendo’s augmented reality hit, Pokemon Go, comes The District Race, a mobile scavenger hunt

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 4:13pm

The Pokemon Go frenzy – or Poke-frenzy – did not take long to eclipse Hong Kong after Nintendo’s revolutionary augmented reality (AR) mobile game was launched in the summer of 2016.

Perhaps you passed by dozens of players congregating at ‘gyms’ or a lone ranger rooted to a ‘lure spot’ – or more likely you were one of them.

Regardless, this May sees the introduction of the District Race, an urban exploration experience with shades of both Pokemon Go and The Amazing Race.

“People have talked about this as a cross between the two and you can see the obvious parallels, but ultimately I think it’s a unique experience,” said Martin Capstick, the race’s co-founder.

“The golden thread that runs through it all is the idea of exploration – that innate desire in everybody, the appetite to learn new things about themselves and their environment,” said Capstick, who oversaw the race’s first ever event in Singapore in March.

How it works

Using the District Race mobile app, participants will have two hours to clear as many of the 80 virtual checkpoints as they can. Checkpoints are scattered across eight districts from Sai Wan to Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island and there are no set routes; you create your own map or ‘grid’ and try to rack up as many points as you can.

Types of checkpoints

1. A basic pass-through checkpoint, in which players receive a notification on their phone when they reach the corresponding area

2. A quiz, in which players must answer a multiple choice question specific to the location

3. A time trial, in which players will be told where next to run and how long they have to get there

4. A scan, in which players must use the in-app AR scanner and point at surrounding objects.

How to win

Participants will be released in batches at the start launchpad in Central Harbourfront and must return within the allotted time. They will be able to keep track of how many checkpoints they have completed, their overall score and their place in the overall rankings.

The beauty lies within the customisation of it all, according to Capstick.

“There’s literally something for everyone. You plot a route that suits your level of fitness or understanding of your environment.

“We’ve had super fit athletes notching up thousands of points, but also people who had never entered a run in their life before – both had equally as great an experience.”

Singaporean Neyton Tan competed in District’s inaugural race, finishing first in his wave and fifth overall.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I signed up without any expectations but the race-day atmosphere – getting ready at the launchpad – you could feel the adrenaline pumping through your veins.

“The app kept me in suspense with the counting down, entering codes and selecting which wave to run in ... it felt a lot like I was in a spy movie, actually.

“Singaporeans also caught the Pokemon Go craze and it definitely changed the way we go about our lives. I see the similarities but there are subtle difference such as the time factor that keeps you on your toes.

“It was a totally innovative experience for runners in Singapore because it allowed participants to become immersed in their signature landmarks,” Tan said.

There’s a great new reason to return to Pokemon Go

Hong Kong has a few landmarks of its own; a melting pot of new and old, urban and rural.

“Part of the experience is to take you to parts of the city you might not know,” said Capstick. “Hong Kong’s topography is really interesting. There are hills and flat lands along the harbour – it’s tailor-made for this city.”

And having witnessed first-hand the success of Pokemon Go and the various AR games following in it’s footsteps, Capstick is certain locals will enjoy collecting points and climbing leaderboards.

“The whole system is gamified. Your phone will ping and you get that nice little hit of dopamine with each checkpoint.

“It’s incredibly flexible and in future we’d love to have people creating their own grids in different areas of Hong Kong, where people can see your grid and take part. There’s no reason why this can’t be in every city in the world.”

Expats fight to compete in South Korean Pokemon tournament

District Race Hong Kong happens on May 13 at Central Harbourfront. Regular tickets start from HK$450. Participants will then receive instructions and a race pack one week before the race. All finishers will receive a medal.

The ‘District Race’ mobile app is free to download across all major mobile platforms. There is also

the ‘District Mission Week’ from April 9-15 for a preview of what District Race is all about.