Thursday, December 04, 2008

Will Work for Play

In "The Art of Game-Mastering Pervasive Games," Annika Waern of the Trans-Reality Game Lab argued that alternate reality games were determined by an "active co-creation of belief" rather than a "suspension of disbelief" lacking in engagement with the triangle of world, story, and challenge represented by games that she characterized as "technology-supported games" rather than "computer games" or "technology-sustained games." She also pointed out that such games potentially raise legal issues about privacy and surveillance that are somewhat mitigated when players willingly carry GPS tracking devices that keep unwitting nonplayers out of the panopticon.

Anton Gustafsson gave a talk about the serious game for household energy conservation in chilly Scandinavia, Power Agent, in "Evaluation of a pervasive game for domestic energy engagement among teenagers," which this YouTube video dramatizes. Like many talks about the iterative evaluation process of videogames designed to teach or change behavior, Gustafsson had to acknowledge some discouraging quantitative results.

The emphasis was on crowd-sourcing geographical data in Sebastian Matyas's talk about City Explorer, a geo-game that grapples with the fact that the aerial photos provided for geographical orientation in many cities provides little information about the actual businesses and landmarks that would be visible from the streetscape. In this Massively Multiplayer Online Location-Based game or MMOLBG play tested in Bamberg, Germany and Fujisawa, Japan, players produce geographical data while playing a game in which one wins by having the most markers on the map for establishments in categories such as "food," "church," "hotel," "historical monument," or "game center." Of course, members of the audience grilled Matyas about why such a game was necessary when people were already uploading such information voluntarily through other social media practices, such as the tag maps in Yahoo's World Explorer.

Finally, in "Using Player Proximity in Mobile Multiplayer Games – Experiences from Sandman," Janne Lautamäki described experiments with extending the emergent tag games that children were already playing with cell phones to a more structured game based on the Sandman folktale, in which one can either through sand to attack or drink coffee to defend against the soporific forays of other players.

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