Pervasive gaming challenges
The iperg newsletter features a good overview of the field of pervasive gaming called "Highlight: Challenges of Pervasive Game Studies" by Markus Montola. It basically describes the challenges encountered why working on this multidisciplinary project. For those who are not aware of it iPerg is an EU-funded research consortium, which investigated pervasive gaming from diverse perspectives. The article is a condense overview of what they done, the problems they faced and the issue that emerged. Some relevant parts (to me):
When you look at how people are speaking, this field really is a tangled mess. (...) SOLUTION: We have chosen a fairly broad framework for discussing pervasive games. The claim is that they differ from regular games in that they are not fixed in predefined space, time or participation.
Where does the pervasive game end and where does it start again? (...) SOLUTION: In the first Prosopopeia we encouraged seamless merging, and in the second prototype we go for even more emergence and even further seamlessness (...) When it comes to studying the games, it's far more difficult: Acquiring the consent for recording outsider activities is impossible, so you have to rely on the player accounts.
It's hard and costly to try these games out in real situations. But paper prototyping often fails to grasp the essential phenomena such as the aesthetics of urban space, feeling of time when traveling around or the influence of interference from outsiders during the game. (...) SOLUTION: We prototype with paper mockups, prototype again with paper mockups, and when we believe that it might theoretically fly; we do a big technical prototype. Evaluation methodology changes from game to game
More importantly and more related to my concerns:
The few trailblazers of the genre were single shot games that ended years ago, or at least you have to travel somewhere to hook up at the location-based game. You can't try them out for real, and when writing comparative analyses, you can't really expect your readers to be acquaintanced with your portfolio of examples. (...) SOLUTION: Expert interviews, witness reports, game documents and the like should be our daily loaf. An hour of chat with Tom Söderlund on Botfighters gets you deeper into mobile gaming than any book I've seen so far, but unfortunately the availability of both specialists and documents is an issue. Pervasive gaming community also needs to document much more than it has done in order to learn from it's ups and downs. Unfortunately the conference paper format is far too brief for the larger games, and thus a better standard is needed. I'm keeping my fingers crossed hoping that the book on the IPerG planning table might solve this for the people tracking our trails.
Why do I blog this? these challenges are important and still problematic. It also shows how the pervasive gaming initiatives are very different from the "classic" video game industry. However, the work they done is very pertinent (I am referring to the whole project and the various deliverables can attest it). I hope this documents could serve as seminal pieces for the development of the field, and I am very curious to see emerging more pervasive game projects here and there (and then a structured industry? or should it stay out of the industry).
I know mobile gaming is a slightly different concept but when I read this sort of trend report, I really have the impression that there is more to offer than "Consumers are demanding great graphics, great content and great game play" as the nokia game explains it (to their credit nokia is at least taking care of the social gaming side).