Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dissertation on Location-based Games

I have now defended my dissertation on location-based games. And it went well. Now it is time for the dissertation to live its own life. I invite you to read it (link to download is in the end of this post), and hope that it will inspire, illuminate the area, perhaps provoke, and lead to fruitful discussions.

Allow me to present its contents briefly: In the dissertation, it is explored which prerequisites are necessary in location-based games to make meaningful the meeting between players and spatiality with an emphasis on physical locations. Throughout the dissertation, it has been shown that LBGs affect players’ perception of and behavior in everyday spaces, as the games reside on the boundaries between the continuums of play and ordinary, authentic and fictional, and as they merge physical and digital media. These are termed the six dimensions of location-based games. location-based games let the player explore the boundaries between these dimensions and the dimensions are related through play. The location-based game acts as a mediator for the meeting between the player and locations through the boundaries between these six dimensions. The motivation of the dissertation is to push the development of and research in location-based games toward actualizing the potential for expanding location-based games’ spatial aspect even further and to contribute with a cohesive framework on location-based games.

This dissertation consists of a review of previous research and existing location-based games, and a theoretical discussion of the elements of location-based games encompassing: 1) Spatiality: space and place, digital space, mediated spaces (physical and digital), locations as play-spaces. 2) Structure: rules, frames, fiction and authenticity, and uncertainty and ambiguity. 3) Interface: Location-aware devices, seams, and objects and players. 4) Player experience: Motivation, mobility, meaning, and finally, a discussion of flow, immersion or incorporation. The combination of these elements is used to conceptualize location-based games.

The theoretical point of departure for the dissertation is Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception and Michael Apter’s theory on motivation (reversal theory). The phenomenology of perception contributes with a framework describing our experiences of being in the world and the creation of meaning. The theory on motivation defines what motivation consists of and how it relates to our actions. This theory has been combined with theories concerning play and play culture, digital media, (digital) games, (optimal) experiences, landscape architecture, everyday practices (related to walking in the city), and the existing theories on location-based games as well as pervasive games.

The methodological approach incorporates design-based research. It combines and aims at improving design, research, and practice concurrently. A design of an location-based game – Visions of Sara – has been created and implemented. It evolved out of the initial observations and participation in three location-based games (DJEEO Education, Land of Possibilities?, and Fruit Farmer), the review of the literature, and relevant theoretical models. After creating Visions of Sara, three more location-based games were played and they are included as part of the empirical data – Ghost Patrol, Spy in the City, and Foursquare. These seven games, interviews, and observations, along with my own experiences both playing and designing are included in the analysis of the relation between locations and location-based game; the ways in which players use them to create meaningful experiences; and of the prerequisites of a meaningful meeting between players and locations.

The dissertation contributes to the field of location-based game research by offering an enhanced understanding of location-based games, and location-based game player experiences, as well as providing an expanded vocabulary describing location-based game elements. In addition, the dissertation provides design knowledge concerning creating location-based games that uses certain emergent opportunities when combining location-aware technologies with game mechanics to make use of the six dimensions of location-based games and to involve the player’s body – i.e. make a meaningful meeting possible.

The practical contribution is my creation of the location-based game Visions of Sara. People continue to play this game in Odense more than two years after its launch, and DJEEO uses it as a showcase, enabling the company to sell similar location-based games.

Please feel free to download, read and distribute the dissertation: Location-based Games: From Screen to Streets

You can also buy (the price only covers printing it) a physical version of the dissertation from the university webshop.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flook it!

Flook is a location-based browser. Its very graphical. Its is a game awarding you for augmenting your surroundings by sharing information about them. To me Flook is more playful and the more graphical approach than similar apps like GoWalla and Foursquare is appealing.

In Flook you create "cards" that tell about a place. You add text, a photo and a category to the card. Cards can be informative, express a sentiment, comment on something in the surrounding etc. Every time you share you are awarded.

Cards can be collected or shared and people befriended. The categories can be from "Funny", "Food and drink", "For sale", "Place to go", "Question", "Event" "Local secret", "Art",or "Uncategorized".

You can also search featured flookers - these are users that present specific content - such as (concerts) or EnglishHeritage (knowledge on historical sites).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Transmedia storytelling

Interested in creating a pervasive game - or tell a story using a range of media, but you haven't got a team of developers in your back or technical skills yourself? Then the "Transmedia Storyteller" might be the option.

They offer a content management system, that should allow you to focus on the content - not the tech stuff.

I'll be looking into this. Do you have experience with this or similar systems please do share!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From Audience to Users in Computer Gaming

In 2006 Erik Kristiansen from Performance Design on Roskilde University wrote a paper on MMORPG’s and pervasive games in relation to the role of the players. Kristiansen arguments that computer games are mass media, though they are different from other mass media in one respect: In computer games the audience are not just reacting but actually interacting with the media.

Kristiansen states that the player’s engagement in the game even goes beyond interaction, as the player is creating a game performance. Kristiansen make a distinction between three different types of games:
  1. Reactive games: These games are in a way passive as the game play is in control of the computer, the player is not.
  2. Action games: The player can act and have full control of the game though the player is bound to use the state of the game as basis for choosing the actions.
  3. Creative games: The player has full control over the game and is even creating game play by combining game elements which alters the game.
Games are more and more offering creative possibilities to the players so that the players can play on the third level. According to Kristiansen pervasive games are mass media in a new way as they can embrace many people at one time, and at the same time they take computer gaming to the streets. Also they make it possible to promote collective intelligence in solving the games and therefore they offer creative games to the public.

Media is thought as a part of our everyday life whereas play takes place in a separate space, Kristiansen writes, and at the same time play is a core activity of everyday life. In other words media is the everyday site for play. The boundary between play and seriousness is also less distinct than earlier according to Kristiansen. This makes it even more relevant to talk about pervasive games.

I find it quite interesting to discuss if player freedom is actually adding to the game experience. I am not quite sure that self configurable games are better games. This is not What Kristiansen is saying, but the theme is here.


KRISTIANSEN Erik. (2006) From Audience to Users in Computer Gaming. The MMORPGs and pervasive games as mass media. In Publics, audiences and users: Theoretical and methodological challenges in a multidisciplinary field of research, A NordForsk doctoral course, Hotel Niels Juel, Køge, Denmark.

Augmented Reality on the Android - AR going towards mainstream

Just found wonderful news on the world wild web: An augmented reality kit is available for the Android. You can download it from github.

This means that even more applications using augmented reality will be out there soon for even more users!

Looking forward to see what is coming!

Follow the developers on twitter:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do-it-yourself pervasive game

If none of the movies running are worth seeing, if you know every video game on your shelves by heart OR if you simply feel like getting outdoors and like creating an interesting game - then what about building your own game, even one that lets you use the physical environment as a playground. Yes, you can built your own pervasive game.

There are various options if you have the right mobile phone with a decent GPS unit built in.

These platforms all allow you to make your own pervasive game:

* You can download a kit with LocoMatrix
* Orbster also has a pervasive game engine
* Finally you can try out your game creating skills through the services offered at Cipher Cities

Get some inspiration playing some of the games already there - some of them are beta, others have been played a great deal. This is a nice opportunity for creative minds and academic bodies to get a hands on experience creating games that use location aware technology. And hey it might even be fun!

If anybody got a great game to recommend please write a comment!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The High Line Park (New York) - a gem

In 1980 the last train loaded with a load of frozen turkeys rolled down the High Line in Manhattan. High Line is freight train lines, which for reasons of security was raised above the ground. Or it was The High Line, because after the frozen turkeys have long since been thawed, deep fried and digested, nothing has been transported on the tracks, that have existed since the 1930s.

A demolition has been planned ever since, but prevented the train enthusiasts, as in 2002, was the city's support for pooling resources, building plans and transform the track into a public park.

The old railway High Line has not only been preserved, but opened in June 2009 as a recreation area where pedestrians can stroll along, over and under the old track from the former railway. "The High Line" park has preserved traces from the previous use, providing a unique sense of history and atmosphere! Along the paths wild grass and flowers are planted, giving a sensation of being in a park, just that it is several meters above the ground. Along the track you can find loungers, which can be moved along the track still remaining - as a reminder of what was and giving a function to what is. Along the way, we also find a station where the platform is converted into a café and meeting place. From the High Line, you can also enjoy the view over the Hudson River on one side and Manhattan on the other.

I can highly recommend the "park"! It is a gem - a beautiful example of how cultural history is preserved for and serving the people.

I 'blog' about this - though it has nothing to do with pervasive games - because it has everything to with opening our eyes to how space can be used differently, in a more playful way.