An account of location-based games multiple play

A good read: Barkhuus, L., Chalmers, M., Tennent, P., Hall, M., Bell, M. and Brown, B. Picking Pockets on the Lawn: The Development of Tactics and Strategies in a Mobile Game. Proceedings of UbiComp 2005, Tokyo, Japan. The paper tackles the issue of how the experience of multiple games changed they way users played with a location-based game and how this led to more complex form of collaboration and competition over time.

Abstract: This paper presents Treasure, an outdoor mobile multiplayer game inspired by Weiser’s notion of seams, gaps and breaks in different media. Playing Treasure involves movement in and out of a wi-fi network, using PDAs to pick up virtual ‘coins’ that may be scattered outside network coverage. Coins have to be uploaded to a server to gain game points, and players can collaborate with teammates to double the points given for an upload. Players can also steal coins from opponents. As they move around, players’ PDAs sample network signal strength and update coverage maps. Reporting on a study of players taking part in multiple games, we discuss how their tactics and strategies developed as their experience grew with successive games. We suggest that meaningful play arises in just this way, and that repeated play is vital when evaluating such games.

Why do I blog this? this is really close to what we do with our location-based games experiments (the methodology is quite similar, we just put more emphasis on quantitative data lately but we're also focusing on more qualitative insights). The strength of this paper lays in the multiple play: how repeated trials can be used to inform practitioners of a good game design.