Pervasive gaming

“Pervasive games” are games that make use of technology in order to create a game space in the physical space. The ordinary world as we know it, is subjected to the rules of the game, its logic, goals, rules and story. The player interacts with objects from the real world – objects that gain new meaning in the game universe. And finally, the player’s body and the surrounding physical environment plays an important role in pervasive games.

Play does not belong in a specific place – and thereby said: It belongs everywhere: At Playgrounds, on the sidewalks, after-school centers, at residential homes for elderly people, in virtual spaces or at the playing fields.

When speaking of game universes within digital games, experts may think of Cyrodiil (Oblivion), Azeroth (World of Warcraft) or Monkey Island (Monkey Island). Few people, however, think of Jernbanegade in Odense, The Open Air Museum or the lawn at home. But these areas and facilities may set the gaming scenes of the future.  The world around you becomes a stage!

By using technologies that “know” where they are located (GPS, RFID, laser range finders, Wi-Fi or the like), the players’ position, movements, routes and speed becomes important in future digital games. It provides the possibility of combining the best from the physical and the virtual world in a whole new type of game.

New possibilities require new knowledge. Which types of games will be viable and exciting to transfer to these hybrid spaces between games and geranium? What does it take for the players’ encounter with the physical location to bring that extra dimension to the game – also seen from an experience-related point of view?

At the Center for Playware we had a Ph.D project that studied exactly what happens when the digital games enters the physical space – also known as “pervasive games”.

The project examined how both the virtual and the physical space interacts during the games, and what this means for the player’s perception of the game. There is a need for a thorough understanding of this interaction, or maybe even to break up the concepts entirely, thereby finding new concepts that support the development of interesting games across spaces.

When the players enter the streets, they follow the goal, rules and story of the game. The players perceive their surroundings through game optics. This brings about interesting possibilities, not only for game enthusiasts, but also for tourists, newcomers or for those interested in architecture and history for example. To be able to make use of this possibility, we need to gain knowledge and experience of how the rules of a game, its goals and stories influences the perception of the physical surroundings.

It is challenging to find the level of how close the game must be connected to the physical surroundings. The players state that a game becomes pointless if there is “no reason why they are out in the streets”. This speaks in favor of establishing a close connection to the gamers’ surroundings. On the other hand, games that are based on one location, e.g. in the monastery garden behind the church of St. Knud in Odense, cannot immediately be moved to a new location without a game producer changing the game. The game loses its mobility, which can be one of the reasons why pervasive games have not hit the civil market yet.

The players’ experience is central to the survey, because it is really the experience that is sold when a digital game is handed over the counter or is downloaded.

The project casts light upon the role of the physical surroundings and the players, together, in a number of pervasive games. That is, how the games are perceived by the players, and what it takes to add meaning to the players’ encounter with the physical surroundings. As a part of the project, the game “Sara’s visions” has been developed in cooperation with the company DJEEO (www.djeeo.dk). It is now possible to play the game at Odense Central Library – and, of course, in the streets of Odense.

The project has received financial support from Development Forum Odense and the municipality of Odense.

The Ph.D project is a part of the research project Serious Games on a Global Market.

Please contact PhD student Stine Ejsing-Duun for more information on the project (sed@dpu.dk or sed@playware.dtu.dk).

https://www.playware.elektro.dtu.dk/research/projects/pervasive_gaming
17 SEPTEMBER 2019