SXSW – Pervasive Electronic Games

Pervasive Electronic Games

Julian Bleecker (USC/Near Future)
Dennis Crowley (Dodgeball/Google)
Aaron Myers (USC Interactive Media)
Kevin Slavin (Area/Code)

This panel presents and discusses unique aspects of the design issues and technologies involved in developing “pervasive electronic games.” Pervasive electronic games are experiences that move game play into the real world, outside of the usual venues in which electronic gaming occurs. Moving from sedentary venues (living room, video game parlors) into more quotidian spaces is made possible by the proliferation of mobile communications devices, ubiquitous network access, global position sensing and electronic location tagging.

Julian: motivaton for these come from play forms, from children’s games, before electronic games etc. Been looking at different kinds game gestures; noticed that gestures are similar to electronic games. the RL gestures can inform online games. also been looking at how game interfaces have evolved. looking at how RL activities can them become a game.

Aaron: representing MobZombies, a game with a simple premise. you are guy with an exposed brain being chased by a bunch of zombies. you move around in RL to move character in the game world. Use 2 sensors to co-ord motion – a digital compass and an accelerometer. there is a continuing growing hoard of zombies you need to avoid and bombs to stop them. we are working on a version that can work i=on a mobile form. it works on a Sony Vaio thing now but looking for a phone version and a streamlined version of the sensor rig. looking to release as a kit for people to build own games etc.

Kevin: (reprised his PSFK talk – but the audience seems to be more appreciative). underneath pervasive games is an instinct to lie radically about where we are or to develop instinct. Games meet a need; most places are real, most stories are not. But places are becoming fictional. the need for stories does not stop with tech. You see geocaching, superstar, Games with computers in them, not the other way round.

Dennis: Dodgeball is about knowing where your friends are, where they have checked in, encourages rendezvous behaviour. Developed as my thesis project, working on games with Kevin to pay the rent. tried to take some of the game elements and add them to Dodgeball. mainly stats. introducing some of these competitive elements drove usage. Grew up on games; competition with brother. So how do you make real life into a video game; made Pedometer wars; record the stats and see who ‘wins’ by walking the most. has potential to change the way you experience a public space. got to elevator or stairs…then you may win more..walk more. condition you to change behaviour. but the pedometer was dumb, not networked, got boring. At the same time or so Nike+ came out; tracking through shoe, you can see your runs etc, lots of stats so I’m in love with this. then started adding multiplayer stuff, can make challenges. Extra motivation to run! Then started to be able to plot runs – but not really location aware so have to plot on maps. One day I was running and saw a graffiti and thought about the ability to run at graffiti and get super special powers…but got lazy and did not work out. Now go skiing most weekends…now in competition for skiing, eating, runs etc. Bought GPS, on phone and garmin. Got data off..every 15sec takes a reading and gets a download. Collected all the points, mapped out the mountain. now I can map myself or others to the map and turn the skiing into a game. Thought about RC PowerAm…putting those powerups and putting on the mountain…play games about getting to the powerups etc. No real time feedback etc but looking for it next year. Waiting for NIke+ plus GPS plus connectivity to enable this game to go to next level.

Audience Questions

Q: when is Dodgeball coming to SaltLake City
Dennis: don;t know but looking to expand all the time!

Q: How much does it cost and what traffic. are they happy with ROI? (Sopranos)
Kevin: yes, rest take offline
Q: what were the measures?
A: a new way if talking about it etc..take offline

Q: there are blurring of lines between these and ARGs?
Aaron: our games have tighter link to digital games; response to your actions. ARGS typically don;t have this dynmic, physical to digital
Kevin: 2 things that are different – a lot of args focus on puzzle solving, collective intelligence, not ness the types of things that we focus on, we look at systems that people use to play instead of constructing distributed narrative.

Q: How do you solve the discovery, how do you let people know it is OK to play?
Kevin: one is event based and one is pervasive in on all the time. and there is something all the middle, ie an infrastructure for ad hoc events, always available for people to take part. so how do you discover you have tetris on phone? it;s business problems; another is to have a physical aspect.
Dennis – it;s difficult to do as pick up games at moment as equipment is niche, as they tech becomes more ubiquitous its gets easy
Aaron: not sure if mobZombies can be pickup. one of our motivations was to make people look silly and not sure where to go now.
Kevin: with Plunder, the resolution of real world is large and the likelihood of people being together is low; so proximity foes not have to synchronous, it can have what happened here at some time.

Q: where do you see this going?
Dennis: I see NYC as a whole bunch of magic squares, geographic triggers, when you go by something will happen. van get more people to interact with the world, with people in same areas. it;s all about location, all the work I’ve being doing is on this. We are still closer to this, but soon devices will be location enabled.
Kevin: the phone is location aware, but we cannot access. it is not tech problem but a business problem. I want to see the business problems solved.

Q: any general principles to bring people between real and virtual?
Dennis: nned to get dots on map and then you can start things happening.

Q: will location based devices stop you from exaggerating and lying about where you are. any thoughts about this?
Kevin: the goal is to misrepresent yourself, not to lie to others. the question is about how to harness for imagination, not flase information.

Q: In Perplex City we started looking at location etc, in the UK we can get access to data but in the US there is a major business problem that means we could not do it here. we started looking at making it ourselves.
Kevin: you have to understand how retarded we are in the US with all this stuff. there are very few reasons to be optimistic in the short term. the handsets have gps, but a problem in city. we like wifi positioning its free and you can get pretty accurate.

Q: a lot of these games are multiplayer, looking at engaging communities. what about multiplayer for mobZombies and how can running across a mushroom augment your running
Aaron: single player etc, tech reasons affect multiplayer.
Dennis: for a single player it can be power up…but still applicable as compete against yourself. Potentially looking at interactive, letting location elements give me a different experience.

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