Monday, 3 November 2014

Big Games

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series

Using a device to track player location as they move through an urban environment, turning cities into the game board.
Fig. 13. pacmanhattan (2005)

Fig. 14. Ghost Op One (Pac Manhattan) (2008)

Earlier games such as Pac-Manhattan (2004) remapped arcade games onto the streets of Manhattan, when players physically run in the streets with a device (see fig. 13). Live wifi signals are sent over the internet to control their character in the virtual game. The game becomes a broadcast to a group of people viewing the virtual representation at the game headquarters (see fig. 14).

Fig. 15. 2.8 Hours Later (2010)
More contemporary storytelling games like 2.8 Hours Later (2010, see fig. 15) by Bristol based Slingshot is a large game of zombie themed chase for adults. This type of game is good when initially describing a pervasive game. However, it does not bring together physical and digital. Adding a digital layer into a game like this would not add any extra meaning to the game. As an example of how the definition of pervasive play is arguable, 2.8 Hours still utelises social media by asking people to review, share and post pictures of experiences building marketing to new audiences online. To me this does not fully define a pervasive game (in terms of my research), yet these types of platforms are important to make this sort of gaming accepted in public places.

A documentary about social and pervasive gaming filmed in the UK by Pop Up Playground's Robert Reid and Sayraphim Lothian:

Big games are usually only suited to adults, due to the nature of safety of being in a public space. But in our busy stressful lives - a place for adults to play is very important and should become more frequent.

Uncle Roy All Around You

Uncle Roy All Around You from Blast Theory on Vimeo.

Uncle Roy All Around You (2003) by Brighton based Blast Theory is an early example of this idea of big games.

Players on the street (see fig. 16) and online (see fig. 17) play together at the same time to direct the street player to find Uncle Roy’s office, much like a scavenger hunt. The street player is given a GPS tracking device which also has the ability to send and receive text, sound and video messages both from Uncle Roy and the online players.

Online players can move around a virtual version of the city playboard to help track down the office and then attempt to guide the street player in the right direction.

Once the street player reaches the destination there are a set of questions directed both at the online and offline players, these questions are structured in a way to perhaps physically bring the players together in real life, and remind us we have been interacting with real people.
Fig. 16. Uncle Roy All Around You, Participant (2003)

Fig. 17. Uncle Roy All Around You, Interface (2003)

Uncle Roy All Around You is an experiment how players online and offline can work together to reach a final goal.

It is interesting to see how bystanders react to the gaming in environments not designed for play. In this situation it works quite well due to the location, an area of London that is busy with tourists, so asking for directions would not be out of the ordinary - the player wouldn’t feel out of place or in any danger out on their own. If there was a different goal to the game, or the game was played at night, there may be different structures required to make the game work.

Yet, to me there is a sense of loneliness in this game, more recent examples by Blast Theory including I’d Hide You (2012) show a much more social aspect to the games. However I chose this example as it displays the fundamentals of what these types of games are striving to achieve.

There are lots of examples although none have reached a better place to explain and discuss the idea of big games. So much are in an extremely experimental phase with testing both how to deliver a game like this, and also how to use technology as an advantage of the game.

Read more at Part VIII – It's Not All Fun & Games

Part of a series exploring Pervasive Play - see the other posts in the series

Giannachi, G., Rowland, D., Benford, S., Foster, J., Adams, M. and Chamberlain, A. (2008) Blast Theory's Rider Spoke, Its Documentation and the Making of Its Replay Archive. Contemporary Theatre Review. 20 (3), pp.219-257. Available from: [Accessed 14 March 2014].

Montola, M., Stenros, J. and Wr̆n, A. (2009) Pervasive Games: Theory and Design [online]. Amsterdam; London: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann. [Accessed 13 March 2014].

Salen, K. and Zimmerman, E. (2004) Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. London: MIT Press.

Figure 13. Crowley, D. (2005) pacmanhattan [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Figure 14. Ghost Op One (2008) [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Figure 15. 2.8 Hours Later (2010) [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Figure 16. Blast Theory (2003) Uncle Roy All Around You, Particpant [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).

Figure 17. Blast Theory (2003) Uncle Roy All Around You, Interface [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 29 April 2014).