(Research) A case study of the development of a mobile game based on geolocation

ICTs and the engineering of encounters: A case study of the development of a mobile game based on the geolocation of terminals, a talk by Christian Licoppe, presented at the Digiplay seminar convened by Dr Nicola Green at University of Surrey

By means of tests and user feedback, designers initially oriented towards the concept of a multi-player role playing game for mobile phones, targeted towards a specific audience, will shift their design strategy. They will gradually grasp the potential represented by the possibility of users “seeing” their mutual positions on mobile screens in order to enter into contact with one another. Their design work will focus on the engineering of encounters, through an innovative geolocalised service which is now oriented towards any mobile phone user (and not only gamers) – a generic device that anyone could use in principle. The design trajectory moves away from the development of a highly scripted, distinctive game towards the development of a generic information and communication technology.

Since the services they design are based on location tracking, they are particularly interesting from a sociological standpoint. Geolocation embeds issues of space and place directly into the engineering of mediated encounters. Up to now, electronic encounters were a characteristic feature of Internet world, i.e. in situations where actors use a connected personal computer. The development of mobile technology actually introduces original possibilities of exploiting cell phone tracking (in wireless network or through satellite positioning) to engineer disembodied meetings “on screens”. Since mobile phones almost always accompany their owners as they move about, a geographic position (that of their “geolocated” terminal) can be associated with personal electronic identities. The mobile phone screen may become a map of the cityscape, and icons or avatars represent the location of the players that move in it.