An Italian Gardens game?

When I first devised Invisible Buildings, the thought was to follow much the same line as Time Team – find some evidence of a building and dig it up! Hence our first project was hunt the Roman Villa. And why not, it fitted in with the, as then, part of Key Stooge 1. With the arrival of our “game designer” component we have had the power to create new games, or variations of games, rather more easily. Hence we were able to turn out a prototype for a Lewes Priory game and more recently Victorian Explorers (played for 15 days at 3 English Heritage properties). Furthermore we have been surprised by how we can create exciting and varied narratives whilst essentially playing the same games.

It was whilst we were visiting one of the EH properties, Wrest Park, I was told by one of the children that there had been “real archaeology, we learnt it at school” taking place in the park. Then, talking to one of the curators when we visited the house, we learnt the “real archaeology” led to the (re)discovery of an Italian garden. I am now thinking that this would make a really good Invisible Buildings project. It has the basis for being a game that could really be played by the whole family as it would combine the excitement of digging up, with the more adult activity of gardening. It would also be easy to prototype as we have rediscovered gardens in our local Brunswick Square in Hove. It also fits in with our commitment to make “learning local” (e.g. see here).

I’m off to do some more research and will report back if and when we get this one off the ground. Invisible Buildings, Invisible Footpaths, now, Invisible Gardens – hey, I’m becoming the Invisible Man


Guardian: ‘Secret garden’ Wrest Park reopens after restoration
English Heritage: Case study
The Landscape Group

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New: Game Zero

As readers of this blog will know, the original Invisible Buildings featured 3 games: Metal Detecting, Geophys, and Mole Dig (this was an idea that we seemed to have passed on to these cute little animals: Moles unearth Roman artefact at Epiacum’s ancient fort). There was also a classroom “drag and drop” game where the dug-up items were put together, but when we moved from smartphone to tablet, we created a version that could be played in the field. This could either be done on the screen, or by manipulating the items by moving around – naturally we called this “run and drop”.

We then used this technique for a game that allows you to differentiate between “good” and “junk” items; using animal terminology we have called this Squirrel Sort. Not content with 5 games, we are now adding another with the provisional title of Game Zero – because it will be in front of all the other games.

Game Zero allows players to define the site on which they will be working. Obviously this has a close correlation with real archaeological surveys, but as important for our purpose it allows the team to check that the GPS is working properly on their tablets, allow them to get a sense of direction, to establish themselves as a team, and to orientate themselves with the surrounding scenery (previously, and now optionally we used a map overlay to do this but quite often on a field there are few significant features to map – it’s just grass!). A good sense of orientation is essential for the games that follow.

The order of play in Game Zero is to establish and mark the NW and SE corners of the site, to use the best available area of the field (not too big though, otherwise you will be running around for hours. And not too small either – a football pitch is ideal). Then to reinforce a sense of the area, the players in turn start to drop virtual markers off, around the perimeter. These can be augmented with real markers such as cones.

Once that’s done, you’re off on your adventure!

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Metal Detector Evolution

The latest model of the Invisible Buildings Metal Detector attachment was spotted this week at Wrest Park.  Although still utilising the same tablet holder as the previous version, this sporty model now comes with wheels, multi coloured power cables and is finished off with a new sensor crafted from a paint pallet and wooden disk.

Initial tests have proved positive and it should only be a matter of time before the blue prints are available in the “Builders” section of the website.



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Victorian Explorers AKA Tomb Raiders

An exciting new game pack has been produced for Invisible Buildings and is set to debut at a series of Awesome Archeology events being held at a number of English Heritage sites this Summer.

The story is set during the reign of Queen Victoria and revolves around Lord Curmudgeon who travelled the world collecting treasures and artefacts. When he returned home he hid the valuables in an underground museum the location of which has been forgotten. The objective of the game is to find the museum, uncover the treasures and return them to where they came from.

VE_Dig VE_Map

Invisible Buildings will be staring in Awesome Archeology events on:

Monday 4th August to Friday 8th August at Wrest Park

Monday 11th August to Friday 15th August at Framlington Castle

Monday 18th August to Friday 22nd August at Audley End House


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For Players

You are ready to start playing a game of Invisible Buildings. Not so fast! Have a little look here to help you get going.

As we put the finishing touches to the new version of Invisible Buildings, we have doubled the number of games that form the app up from 3, to 6. These are Site Survey, Metal Detection, Squirrel Sort, Geophys, Mole Dig, and Diggory Drop. Each of the games has individual instructions but we are also preparing step by step videos that show you each in more detail.

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