It's "Punch Buggy," but without the pain. As part of a new marketing campaign, Google Street View is being used to bring the classic Volkswagen Beetle "Punch Buggy" game to online customers around the globe by displaying Street View images taken in Cape Town, South Africa, and asking viewers to click on the VWs that they see.
And instead of getting punched when another person sees a VW in the image, participants click on VWs that they seeâmarking them with "pins." The idea is to collect points for each vehicle they see in weekly contests so they can try to beat out other players in an online tally, according to a post Aug. 23 by Google Maps API Product Marketing Manager Carlos Cuesta, on the Google Geo Developers Blog.
Called the "Volkswagen Street View Quest," the game is playable online from anywhere in the world, but only participants in South Africa will be eligible for prizes that will be awarded to the top points earners, said Cuesta's post. Participants must access the game through Facebook, where they fill out a brief registration (Hint: Type in a single zero (0) when asked for your phone number so you can register) and can begin their quests for VWs.
"We really like this creative approach to interacting with Street View imagery," wrote Cuesta. "This Google Maps API implementation shows us that [there] are still many different ways to take advantage of the imagery offered in the API."
The online version of the game is modeled after the classic in-car travel game that millions of people played when they were growing upâbefore the Internet ever arrived.
"Using Google Street View imagery via the Google Maps API, Volkswagen found a way to translate this old tradition into an online game that you can play anywhere in the world without actually having to be in the car or punching anyone," wrote Cuesta. The old-fashioned game, which is still being played in cars everywhere, is known by other names around the world, from punch bug to punch dub, piggy punch, slug bug, beetle bug and more.
The object, of course, is to be the first one to spot a Volkswagen Beetle and then loudly scream out "Punch buggy!" then quickly rewarding your opponent with a healthy punch in the arm. Ah, the joys of childhood.
The online game is organized into four weekly challenges that began in July and end this month with a Grand Final Challenge in Cape Town, where the top point earners from each weekâand their friendsâwill compete in a real-life game of Punch Buggy on the streets of that city, according to Volkswagen's YouTube game teaser video.
"The difference this time, though, is that the pinning takes place in real life," says the video's narrator.
For Volkswagen, this experiment with Google Street View could be very popular. The old-fashioned Punch Buggy game is so beloved around the world that there are many Websites dedicated to its rules, history and fun.
On Beetlemania.org.uk, a page displays "Punch Buggy: The Official Rules," laying out the groundwork for the in-car game, from definitions of what exactly can be considered a proper Punch Buggy to lessons on how to score the game and how to play a "non-punch" version.
"I've been playing Punch Buggy for
at least Thirty-Four over forty-two years," writes the site's author, D. A. Kenney. "That makes me somewhat of an expert on the subject, at least in my opinion."
Another Website, PunchBuggy.org, claims to be the "Official site of the World Punch Buggy Association," but sadly, it has no links or information other than a brief seven-point list of rules and an email address to send for more information.
There's even a simple online version of the game playable at ThePunchBuggyGame.com.
A Facebook page taken from Wikipedia offers descriptions and a history of the in-car game.
The car game even took on a life of its own in 2010 when VW ran a television ad aired during the Super Bowl that featured a humorous game of Punch Buggy, playing along with the audience.
The first official Volkswagen Bug was imported into the United States in 1949 after the cars were popularized in Germany before World War II, according to a history of the marque from Edmunds.com.
More than 21.5 million of the classic "old" Beetlesâwhich inspired the Punch Buggy game in the first placeâwere built around the world before the last one rolled off an assembly line in Puebla, Mexico, in July 2003, according to RideLust.com. That last car, the 21,529,464th one to come off the line, is reportedly on display at a museum in Wolfsburg, Germany.