Passively multiplayer gaming

A recent column on Gamasutra is an account of the Mobile Game Conference. There is an intriguing summary of what Justin Hall said and I was interested in this:

His term for the idea is “passively multiplayer gaming” and it basically involves making a persistent MMORPG out of the mundane events of your life. (...) According to Hall, we already spend a healthy chunk of time in contact with our friends and contacts over electronic media: there’s e-mail, instant messaging, blogging, World of Warcraft, and so on. Location-based mobile technology can already tell you where you are.

Now, companies like Finland-based Jaiku are melding the two together, so it’s possible to know where everyone in your social network is at any given time. Throw in some AI, and pretty soon your phone will be taking location-based contextual guesses at their activities--for example, if someone stays in the vicinity of a movie theater for two hours, the system will be pretty sure that they’re watching a movie.

The other piece of Hall’s puzzle is user permission. If you join a passively multiplayer gaming group, you’ll presumably be willing to yield some of your privacy and tell your buddies what you’re up to at any given time, just as we sometimes do in an instant messenger client. After a while, the system will learn your patterns of everyday behavior and become more adept at guessing your activities. So, if you were to tell the system that you’re a smoker, it’ll start to guess that you’re smoking a cigarette when you take a brief trip outside.

At that point, turning your life into one of Hall’s passively multiplayer games is simply a matter of adding game logic. All of your friends will turn into NPC allies, ready to come to your aid in an imaginary game world that parallels your own. Hall’s example at MGC was a simple one--defusing a loose nuke would require timely responses from friends with a certain number of ‘skill points’ in physics--but the possibilities are actually even more endless than they are in real life. Your ‘character’ could gain levels and skill points by checking e-mail, going to saxophone lessons, or writing a column for Gamasutra. Spam e-mails could be turned into enemy fire. Heck, the aforementioned cigarette break could help your friend poison a horde of aliens with toxic chemicals, if you wanted it to!

Why do I blog this? it's interesting to see that refreshing new ideas are finally discussed during those mobile game conference. Besides, I really like this idea of “passively multiplayer gaming”. More about it here. The main point is to use the data trails left by our technology usage and feed that back into video games.