Already popular in Italy, the ‘whaiwhai’ series of interactive-game tour books provides a new take on full-immersion city touring.
Each book lets users play the storyline, from location to location, across five Italian cities – Venice, Florence, Verona, Milan and Rome – interweaving the fictional and the factual to create a new high-tech adventure in city sightseeing and touring.
Recently, the New York Times called whaiwhai “a high-tech Italian touring game that is part ‘Amazing Race’ and part treasure hunt, with a bit of Da Vinci Code-style storytelling mixed in,” according to Select Italy, the exclusive distributor of the whaiwhai books in the United States.
In preparing to play the game, first, the pages of the Whaiwhai book are cut into parts, making the stories jumbled. To start the game, players need to activate the game by sending a code, using the texting feature (SMS) of a cell phone to receive a starting hint to re-assemble the pages for the first part of the story.
Users then receive clues and send answers that move them across the selected city, tracing and uncovering the city’s secret history along the way, helped by the whaiwhai city map to reach the specific places indicated thanks to the codes received by SMS.
The plot aims to immerse the player in the atmosphere of the city. Stories are crafted so that the adventure does not follow the usual tourist routes, but rather leads to the myths and legends that let travelers understand a city better than more conventional tours. The stories are encrypted and can be read one at a time, using codes that are obtained by solving the puzzles in a journey undertaken in stages.
Users can also tailor whaiwhai to their own speed, interrupting and resuming it at will. They can play by day or at night (each story is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week) or split it for two or more teams.
Five whaiwhai game tour books are available. The Ruyi Venice tells of an ancient magical scepter lost with the tomb of Marco Polo; The Ruyi Rome finds signs of the passage of the same scepter in the Eternal City. Florence 2054 reveals connections between beauties of the Renaissance. Verona Amor explores the romantic secrets of the city of Romeo and Juliet, while Milan Diamond charts a path through the city’s labyrinth of byways to a stolen diamond worth 12,000 ducats.
In the U.S., the whaiwhai game tour books are on sale through Select Italy. Based in Chicago, with branches in New York City and Shanghai and representatives in Italy, Select Italy has offered Italian-tour travel expertise since its establishment in 1997 by Andrea Sertoli, the company’s Italian-born president.
Sertoli discovered Whaiwhai at a trade fair in Venice. “After only one morning of playing, I had learned a tremendous amount about Venice … anecdotes, legends, untold stories … I’ve found that not only is the information valuable, but it is delivered in a flawless and enjoyable way,” he says.
“Whaiwhai ‘s versatility is as innovative as its content: You are never locked into any schedule but your own,” adds Sertoli. “So I made it a point to ensure Select Italy would be the first to bring whaiwhai to its customers [in the United States] and share the experience.”
The whaiwhai tour books are priced at $33.95 each. “As for the cost of the book, it really is one of the most affordable experiences you can have,” claims Sertoli, “and one that makes everybody happy: there’s no gender or age limitation.”
Designed by the Italian company LOG607, the whaiwhai series of game-tour books is now on sale through Select Italy and its website www.selectitaly.com. For more information about whaiwhai, call (800) 877-1755 or visit selectitaly.com.
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