Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bringing Computer Entertainment back in to the Real World

I have just read the paper “Pervasive Games: Bringing Computer Entertainment Back to the Real World” (2005) by Carsten Magerkurth, Adrian David Cheok, Regan L. Mandryk and Trond Nilsen. This is an outline of this paper. Please have in mind that I have focused on what I have found relevant for my study in the outline.

In the paper pervasive gaming as a research field is introduced. According to the authors pervasive games can vary in approaches and the technologies that are used, but they have in common that they are games that make use of a blend between real and virtual game elements in order to create an game experience.

The authors first compare traditional games with computer games. According to them computer games have some advantages over traditional games, which is why they are more popular. These advantages are:
  1. Computer games create an illusion that the players are immersed in an imaginative virtual world through the use of graphics and sound.
  2. The goals of computer games are mostly more interactive than that of traditional games, this supposedly engage the players stronger in the game, and therefore they have a stronger desire to win the game
  3. Computer games motivates the players by provoking their fantasy, challenging them and stimulate their curiosity
Unfortunately, it is said in the article, computer games has a tendency to make players physically inactive, as the game make them focus on the screen and links them to the control (controller, keyboard, mouse or similar). This problem is addressed through developing more physically challenging games, which makes pervasive games a relevant new genre of games. Pervasive games are defined as games that: integrate the physical and social aspects of the real world into the domain of computer games. They also agree that a goal for pervasive games is to: create context-aware applications that will adapt their behaviour to information collected from the environment.

The authors describe five different forms of pervasive games in order to give an idea of the scope and diversity of pervasive games. These genres are:
  1. Smart toys are toys augmented with pervasive computing technology. The technology that is embedded in the toys, these are often sensors linked to computer logic. Actually the smart toys are not games, as they are not bound by certain rules or limitations in their use.
  2. Affective Gaming has as a goal to adapt the game environment to the feelings of the player.
  3. Augmented Tabletop Games integrate the physical state of the players into the game. Through augmentation of tabletop games they can be less static than the traditional games according to the authors. On the other hand the augmented tabletop games retain the social aspect that traditional tabletop games have. This aspect gives richness to the game.
  4. Location-Aware Games regards the physical world as a game board and the players as unpredictable “pieces” in the game.
  5. Augmented Reality Games work as an overlay on the real world, as the players see 3D objects merged into the real space. This is possible through use of different devises such as head-mounted displays, projectors and hand-held devices.
These genres use very different technologies and result in very different types of games. The question is if pervasive games can be considered a genre at all?

Why writing about this?
The article presents some interesting examples of pervasive games. Also the comparison between digital and traditional games is somehow inevitable, though I do not agree that one is better than the other - but they do have different features and offers different possibilities.

MAGERKURTH C., CHEOK A. D., MANDRYK R. L. and NILSEN T. (2005) Pervasive Games: Bringing Computer Entertainment Back to the Real World. ACM Computers in Entertainment Vol. 3(No. 3), 19.

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