Tuesday, 4 November 2014

It's not all fun and games

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

With new type of play and experimentation come new issues, whilst sometimes these issues need to be developed and addressed, emerging problems have made artists think differently about how games are played - this changes the future of how games are designed.


How can rules be delivered effectively in a pervasive game? When complex rules need to be delivered in a concise way to a large group of people - sometimes things get missed.

The video below show a set of rules being delivered for a game called Stag Hunt at Hide&Seek festival in 2008.

Stag Hunt Rules from nikkipugh on Vimeo.

It is possible to learn the rules through observing others at play? Would a game still be as engaging if it was made simple enough for people to start playing without being recited lengthy rulesets?

Players may try to break the rules, instead of seeing this as a negative aspect, we could look at it as the players imagination and inventiveness to complete a task. Players are creating their own response to the game, their own play within a game. This is most commonly known as cheating.

"Imagine the reaction of the average bystander if, say, a hundred people spontaneously broke into a coordinated dance in a public area. Now imagine how a bystander may react to seeing a Killer player brandish a realistic looking toy gun in a crowded park and run after another player. In the former scenario, bystanders might react with pleasure and surprise; in the latter bystanders could respond with fear, alarm, anger, or even seek to prevent the perceived attack from taking place." (Patton, 2014)

Due to the public locations of some games, it is no surprise that non players will get caught up in the gameplay. They may not realise a game is being played and could be shocking depending on the nature of the game. Bystanders may not be happy about gameplay if it affects their day to day lives. It comes down to common sense and playtesting.

But what if they want to join in? Who is then responsible for them? Do they know how to play? Do they know the rules? Depending on the type of play there may have to be some ‘play police’, but does this say more about our society than the actual game that is being played? Why is it not possible for everyone to join in?

Technology limitations

We are not at a place where we can rely on technology to form the completely reliable part of a pervasive game. I really don’t think this is a bad place to be, the day that we fully rely on technology I believe the world will lose something in the creativity that comes out of the issues it causes. Issues mean a game has to be playful to work around them. Limitations make us develop the use of technology and how it fits into a game in a way which adds value - not just there for the sake of being there.

The most obvious issue is the battery life of a device, but how is changing a battery any different that say, reloading a gun in a ‘shoot-em-up’ computer game?

Device reception, GPS and wifi signals when perceived to be all around us, do tend to be quite unreliable. Players could use these dips in signal to ‘hide in the shadows’.

Calibration / Jitter (2009) Nikki Pugh
In 2009 Nikki Pugh wrote this blog post about testing GPS signals - by walking a set path with two devices and recording the traced path on a map to get an idea of how much deflection there is from buildings and how much the body disrupts the signal. Makes a quite interesting drawing but clearly shows how unreliable it is for exact tracking of location.

The issues have been observed out of my initial research, these are meant to be posed as questions which are not answered in this series, perhaps all areas of future research, but are certainly areas which are currently being researched and developed by artists.

Read more at Part IX – Keeping it Fun

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

Gramazio, H., The Soho Stag Hunt. Available from: http://severalbees.com/staghunt

Patton, A., (2014) Why Pervasive Games ar Dangerousl [online]. Available from: http://thegamehaschanged.net/why-pervasive-games-are-dangerous/[Accessed 4 Nov 2014].

Pugh, N., (2009) Drift [online] Available from: http://npugh.co.uk/blog/drift/ [Accessed 4 Nov 2014].

Nikki Pugh (2009) calibration / jitter [photograph]. At: http://npugh.co.uk/images/blog/2009/winter/calibration.jpg [Accessed 4 Nov 2014].