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Taylor & Francis
Pervasive Games: Theory and Design / Edition 1

Pervasive Games: Theory and Design / Edition 1

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Quickly emerging from the fast-paced growth of mobile communications and wireless technologies, pervasive games take gaming away from the computer screen and back to the three-dimensional world. Now games can be designed to be played in public spaces like shopping malls, conferences, museums and other non-traditional game venues. Game designers need to understand how to use the world as a gamespace—and both the challenges and advantages of doing so.

This book shows how to change the face of play—who plays, when and where they play and what that play means to all involved. The authors explore aspects of pervasive games that concern game designers: what makes these games compelling, what makes them possible today and how they are made. For game researchers, it provides a solid theoretical, philosophical and aesthetic understanding of the genre.

Pervasive Games covers everything from theory and design to history and marketing.

designers, so that they can learn how to engage players’ real-time experiences beyond the mobile phone or computer screen.

—Thirteen case studies with illustrative and inspiring examples make the entire pervasive games design space tangible.

—Provides practical design tips, potential pitfalls, design problems from real games, and inspiration from some of the most interesting pervasive game designers in the world, including Matt Adams, Frank Lantz, and others.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780123748539
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 06/19/2009
Series: Morgan Kaufmann Game Design Books
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Markus Montola (M.Soc.Sc.) is a grant researcher in the University of Tampere Gamelab research group and a doctoral candidate in Literature and the Arts. Before being given a three-year dissertation grant by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, he worked as a project researcher and manager in the Gamelab, since the year 2004.

His dissertation work discusses various forms of role-playing and pervasive gaming. He has already edited two books on role-playing with Jaakko Stenros (Playground Worlds, 2008, and Beyond Role and Play, 2004) and works in the board of the upcoming International Journal on Role-Playing. He has published about a dozen book chapters and conference papers on Pervasive Games and is a known expert on the topic of pervasive games.

The most significant award given to Markus Montola is the three-year research grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation: Only 1-2 are given to each broad field annually.
Stenros is currently a researcher at the Game Reserch Lab at the University of Tampere. Stenros is one of the key people in the Nordic role-playing movement. He has written extensively on role-playing games, both in and out of academia, has edited two books with Markus Montola on role-playing games and has published numerous papers and reports on pervasive games. Before returning to academia in 2006 Stenros made a career as a trainer and customer support manager in data security company F-Secure.

Stenros has the unique combination of skills required to tackle the cultural contexts that pervasive games tap into: Having worked as a journalist and a critic he has an extensive understanding of popular culture; his background in sociology helps ground the observations, and his understanding of the unique Nordic live action role-playing scene has been instrumental in approaching pervasive games.

Read an Excerpt

Pervasive Games Theory and Design

By Markus Montola Jaakko Stenros Annika Waern

Morgan Kaufmann Publishers

Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-088979-5

Chapter One

Games and Pervasive Games

Markus Montola

Pervasive games are a curious form of culture. They exist in the intersection of phenomena such as city culture, mobile technology, network communication, reality fiction, and performing arts, combining bits and pieces from various contexts to produce new play experiences. The family of pervasive games is diverse, including individual games ranging from simple single-player mobile phone games to artistically and politically ambitious mixed reality events. Some of these games seek to pass time for a few minutes while waiting for a bus, whereas others create persistent worlds that go on for months and where players can adopt alternate identities and engage in intricate gameplay. Some games use high-end technology, while others can be realized with no technology at all.

In order to understand pervasive games, we have to start by discussing games and play, and how pervasive games relate to other games. Johan Huizinga is often considered the forefather of game studies, based on his philosophical and anthropological work conducted back in the 1930s. He discusses play as something happening outside ordinary life. Huizinga's play is a ritual activity that takes place under rules that are separate from everyday reality. Huizinga describes play as a

... free activity standing quite consciously outside "ordinary" life as being "not serious", but at the same time absorbing the players intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it. It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner. It promotes the formation of social groupings, which tend to surround themselves with secrecy and to stress their difference from the common world by disguise or other means. (Huizinga, 1938)

After Huizinga, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (2004) picked up the idea of game being separate from everyday life, adapting the concept of magic circle from Huizinga's work. The magic circle of a game is the boundary separating the ordinary from ludic and real from playful (see Figure 1.1).

While Huizinga stressed that play happens in a certain dedicated area at a certain dedicated time, Salen and Zimmerman read magic circle much more metaphorically, as a conceptual boundary of game and real, as "shorthand for the idea of a special place in time and space created by a game." As they point out, this boundary is not always an absolute one:

The boundary between the act of playing with the doll and not playing with the doll is fuzzy and permeable. Within this scenario, we can identify concrete play behaviors, such as making the doll move like a puppet. But there are just as many ambiguous behaviors, which might or not be play, such as idly kneading its head while watching TV. There may be a frame between playing and not playing, but its boundaries are indistinct. (Salen & Zimmerman, 2004)

Conflicts staged within the magic circle are artificial in some sense. When boxers fight in the boxing ring, their conflict is artificial. Though the punches, the pain, the damage, and possibly even the motivation are real, the fight is given an artificial form negotiated by rules. Within the magic circle, different rules apply; lying, backstabbing, betrayal, and limited violence may be acceptable, whereas in ordinary life the same actions would result in serious repercussions (see Lastowka, 2007). According to Gregory Bateson (1955), the difference is in metacommunication. Implicit metacommunication frames ordinary actions and playful actions differently. Even though a boxing punch is a punch, it is viewed differently than a punch on a street. Quoting Bateson (1955):

The statement "This is play" looks something like this: "These actions in which we now engage do not denote what those actions for which they stand would denote."

Erving Goffman (1961) discusses a similar idea, saying that games are enclosed within a metaphorical interaction membrane. The membrane selects, filters, and transforms events, actions, and properties outside the game. The game of Monopoly, for example, is not, or at least should not be, influenced by players' wealth or social status. These properties are excluded from the game. Other games, such as Texas hold 'em, filter outside properties more selectively: The player wealth has a limited influence on gameplay.

Taking the artificial conflict as the backbone of their definition, Salen and Zimmerman (2004) define game as "a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome."

Looking at this in detail, game is a system, not an activity, an event, or a physical object. However, it is inseparable from the players, who are needed to engage in the artificial conflict: A chessboard is turned into a game system as the players engage in conflict and start to enact the rules in order to reach an outcome. All games are not "won" or "lost," but this definition requires them to produce an outcome.

For comparison, Jesper Juul replaces conflict with effort in his definition. Artificiality is present in his definition through the optionality and negotiability of outcomes. He still requires valuation of outcomes (though not quantifiable valuation) and requires that players feel attached to the outcomes.

A game is a rule-based system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels attached to the outcome and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable. (Juul, 2003)

As we compare these two definitions, we can say that they represent similar thinking, and both can also be combined with Salen and Zimmerman's idea of boundaries of game, expressed through the metaphor of the magic circle. Curiously, we should note that none of the three aforementioned approaches to games and play mentions fun. Even though most games are played for entertainment, excitement, and enjoyment, the purposes of games and play include everything from pleasure to learning and from artistic expression to societal exploration.

Roger Caillois (1958) classifies playful activities on an axis ranging from free play, paidia, to formal play, ludus. Paideic activities include very informal playful activities, such as children's play, make-believe, riding a rollercoaster, pretend play, and mimicry, wheres ludic activities are well defined and somewhat formal forms of play such as chess or basketball. A citation from Caillois shows how broad the scope of playful activities is:

At one extreme an almost indivisible principle, common to diversion, turbulence, free improvisation, and carefree gaiety is dominant. It manifests a kind of uncontrolled fantasy that can be designated by the term paidia. At the opposite extreme, this frolicsome and impulsive exuberance is almost entirely absorbed or disciplined by a complementary, and in some respects inverse, tendency to its anarchic and capricious nature: there is a growing tendency to bind it with arbitrary, imperative, and purposely tedious conventions, to oppose it still more by ceaselessly practicing the most embarrassing chicanery upon it, in order to make it more uncertain or attaining its desired effect. This latter principle is completely impractical, even though it requires an ever greater amount of effort, patience, skill, or ingenuity. I call this second component ludus.

It is notable that Salen and Zimmerman, and especially Juul, focus their definitions on ludus rather than paidia, stressing the role of rules in games. These contemporary ludologists define games as rule systems, whereas Huizinga discusses play as "free activity." This book focuses on pervasive games, and thus ludus is dominant in our thinking. However, as forthcoming chapters will show, paideic elements are not only central to many pervasive games, but pervasive activities rich in paideic elements have been around for a long time. This stance toward paidia sets us slightly apart from most ludologists, who craft their definitions especially in order to inform about the design and study of computer and console games.

Although all definitions of games have been thoroughly criticized from various perspectives, we can take these fairly established models as a basis for looking at how pervasive games are different from games as defined by Juul, Salen, and Zimmerman.

Magic Circle as a Contract

The metaphoric magic circle discussed earlier is a ritualistic and contractual boundary, which is most often based on a somewhat implicit agreement. The reality of a game is different only if both the participants of play and the society outside recognize the playground as something belonging outside of ordinary rules. Games are not entirely free, at least not in contemporary society: Many forms of violence are unacceptable even if they take place within a game contract. A game using the rules from the movie La decima vittima (1965) could not be applied in isolation, as a mutual contract or interaction membrane does not protect a murderer against legal repercussions. Similarly, engaging in bloody fisticuffs in a hockey rink can land the participants in court.

When Huizinga discussed playful activities 70 years ago, the cultural positions of games, sports, gambling, and children's play were different from today. For instance, games were largely multiplayer activities, and very few people played games for a living. Juul stresses that his definition of game applies to "classic" games and that many recent games break some of the criteria used in his definition. According to him, the era of classic games lasted until the 1960s; games before that tended to conform to a certain model, but newer game genres such as computer games and role-playing games broadened the concept of game.

Even though the concept of a magic circle is the most fitting for classic games, it is a useful metaphorical tool when trying to understand most kinds of games. Boxers might be serious about punching each other as hard as possible, but the seriousness is different from beating each other up on a street. Ritualistic practices and dedicated zones are typical for games; if a player of World of Warcraft watches TV while playing, she still separates ludic from ordinary, fictitious from actual, and game from everyday life. Eva Nieuwdorp (2005a) considers this to be a difference in semiotic domains; for a player the transition from the lifeworld domain to the domain of a game is clear.

Cindy Poremba (2007) further emphasizes the way the magic circle extends to the rules of socially acceptable behavior. One of her examples is the party game Twister, which involves close physical and social interaction. The redefined social conventions of the magic circle provide the players with an alibi for intimacy, as they can always dismiss the events of Twister as "just a game."

The idea of a magic circle of gameplay has recently faced criticism. According to Daniel Pargman and Peter Jacobsson (2006), the magic has gone: For hardcore players, gaming is an everyday activity that no longer happens in a reality of its own. The "proper boundaries of time and space" are not relevant in the age of computer gaming, where a gamer might spend a day playing a game while simultaneously engaging in several other tasks as well. Similarly, Thomas M. Malaby (2007) argues that games are not separate from other everyday experiences: "Any game can have important consequences not only materially, but also socially and culturally (in terms of one's social network and cultural standing)." Already Huizinga (1938) noted that games build communities, secret societies of players, and thus spill in to the ordinary.

In his ethnographical study of tabletop role-players, Gary Alan Fine (1983) looked into discourse that takes place during gameplay. Using Goffman's (1974) frame analysis as a basis, he found that role-playing takes place in three distinctive and usually clearly separable discoursive frames, which can help understand how the magic circle exists as a metaphorical boundary.

In Fine's primary framework, the players discussed entirely game-external matters, ranging from eating pizza to arriving late at a game session. In the secondary framework, the players discussed game issues, such as the hitpoints of elven rogues, using game terminology from combat rounds to experience levels. And in Fine's tertiary framework, the players discussed the game world, things that exist within the diegetic reality of the role-playing game. One of Fine's key observations is that players move between these frames swiftly, intuitively, easily, and often. Even though his transcripts seldom show any explicit frame shifts, the frame-distinguishing metacommunication is clear in implicit patterns of speech, gestures, and mannerisms.

Fine's primary framework includes everything that happens outside the game and everything outside the magic circle or the interaction membrane. The second and third frameworks exist within it. If a participant steals money from another participant in the primary framework—outside the magic circle—she commits a crime, which is likewise resolved in real life outside the magic circle. However, if a halfling rogue steals money from an orc warrior in the tertiary framework, the crime does not exist outside the magic circle. The playing contract states that players should not bring disputes through the magic circle, in either direction, and doing so is often socially frowned upon (see also Sihvonen, 1997). It does happen from time to time, but such mixing of the diegetic world and ordinary life is usually seen as bad sportsmanship.

Following this kind of thinking, we understand the magic circle as a metaphor and a ritualistic contract. The function of the isolating contractual barrier is to forbid the players from bringing external motivations and personal histories into the world of game and to forbid taking game events into the realm of ordinary life. While all human activities are equally real, the events taking place within the contract are given special social meanings.

Blurring the Magic Circle

It is clear that a game of Killer does not "proceed within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner"—quite the opposite. The magic circle of Killer is intentionally blurred in many ways: The game is played wherever the players go. During the weeks of the game, the players must stay alert at all times, watching signs of danger. They can freely choose when to look for other players, and they might accidentally stumble upon their victims. The pleasure of playing is largely derived from the interactions of the game and ordinary life, sharing a secret with other players, and trying to avoid witnesses when conducting murders.

We argue that this way of breaking out of the proper boundaries of time and space makes pervasive games fundamentally different experiences that can utilize a novel set of aesthetics for creating engaging and meaningful experiences.

This book uses the following definition of pervasive games:

A pervasive game is a game that has one or more salient features that expand the contractual magic circle of play spatially, temporally, or socially.

Pervasive games are games, even though the contract that forms them is different from the ones defined by Juul, Salen, and Zimmerman. In pervasive games, the magic circle is expanded in one or more ways: The game no longer takes place in certain times or certain places, and the participants are no longer certain. Pervasive games pervade, bend, and blur the traditional boundaries of game, bleeding from the domain of the game to the domain of the ordinary.

Nieuwdorp (2007) divides the ways of understanding pervasive games into technological and cultural approaches. The technological perspective looks at how games utilize pervasive computing, whereas the cultural perspective focuses on the game itself and how it relates to the ordinary world. We have intentionally chosen the cultural perspective, as we believe it better suits a book that discusses theory, design, and cultural significance of pervasive gameplay. Naturally, moving away from technology-based definitions causes some games to fall out of the scope and others being included.


Excerpted from Pervasive Games Theory and Design by Markus Montola Jaakko Stenros Annika Waern Copyright © 2009 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Case A: Killer: The Game of Assassination
Markus Montola and Jaakko Stenros
Games and Pervasive Games
Markus Montola
Case B: The Beast
Markus Montola and Jaakko Stenros
Pervasive Game Genres
Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola
Case C: Shelby Logan’s Run
Joe Belfiore
Historical Influences on Pervasive Games
Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola
Case D: BotFighters
Olli Sotamaa
Designing Spatial Expansion
Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros and Annika Waern
Case E: Mystery on Fifth Avenue
Eric Clough
Designing Temporal Expansion
Jaakko Stenros, Markus Montola and Staffan Bj ö rk
Case F: Momentum
Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola
Designing Social Expansion
Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros and Annika Waern
Case G: PacManhattan
Frank Lantz
Pervasive Game Design Strategies
Jaakko Stenros, Markus Montola and Annika Waern
Case H: Epidemic Menace
Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola
Information Technology in Pervasive Games
Annika Waern
Case I: Insectopia
Johan Peitz
Designing Pervasive Games for Mobile Phones
Jussi Holopainen and Annika Waern
Case J: Vem Gråter
Markus Montola and Annika Waern
The Ethics of Pervasive Gaming
Jaakko Stenros, Markus Montola and Annika Waern
Case K: REXplorer
Rafael "Tico" Ballagas and Steffen P. Walz
Marketing the Category of Pervasive Games
Mattias Svahn and Fredrik Lange
Case L: Uncle Roy All Around You
Matt Adams
Art and Politics of Pervasive Games
Matt Adams, Martin Ericsson and Frank Lantz
The Amazing Race
Markus Montola and Jaakko Stenros
Pervasive Games in Media Culture
Jaakko Stenros, Markus Montola, and Frans Mäyrä

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This book is the definitive guide to the past, present, and future of stories and games that jump out of their cages and into your real life. Whether it's characters that call you on the phone or game play that happens on the bus on your way to work, this kind of immersive entertainment will define the culture of the next century as surely as the movies dominated the last one.” -Sean Stewart, Chief Creative, Fourth Wall Studios, and author of the cross-media international bestseller, Cathy's Book

"Standing at the intersection of games, design and theory, the authors of Pervasive Games: Theory and Design, bring fresh air into game studies with this look at the field of ubiquitous play. Deeply connected to critical game studies, and filled with design case studies, this book is an excellent source for those involved in the design, study or play of pervasive games.” -Tracy Fullerton, Associate Professor, USC School of Cinematic Arts and Author of Game Design Workshop

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