Experiencing NFC in mobile gaming

"Experiencing ‘Touch’ in Mobile Mixed Reality Games" by Paul Coulton, Omer Rashid and Will Bamford is one of these papers which stand on my desktop for ages, waiting to be parsed and analyze (among lots of others). Found time to read it today in the train (heading back to Geneva from a three-day meeting series in Paris), possibly caused by a meeting with Rafi Haladjian at Violet yesterday. The paper describes the user experience of mobile phones equipped with RFID/NFC to play different games that involves RFID-tagged objects. NFC stands for "Near Field Communications" and is an interface and protocol built on top of RFID. The games described in this paper are PAC-LAN (a Pacman-like game in physical space), Mobspray (a virtual graffiti system) and MobHunt (a treasure hunt game).

The most interesting part of the paper (wrt my research) concerns the results from the results. They found that the system usability (touching tags) was efficient and not prone to social acceptability issue. Excerpts from the results:

The users found the objects very useful compared with just placing an RFID tag at a location as they found it much easier to see and felt it added to the immersion within the game play. (...) Another aspect of the objects was that for PAC-LAN, which was played at a much faster pace than the other two games, the players felt that the game disks were an important element of the game experience and minimized the time they had to spend checking their position on the mobile phone screen. Having played many location based games that rely on purely virtual objects we observed that players often become completely focused on the screen to guide them and often become oblivious to their environment which both defeats the premise of mixed reality gaming and can also be very dangerous. (...) One of the other aspects we experimented with was related to giving the user feedback after they have successfully read or written from or to a tag. For PAC-LAN we initially created version that had either visual feedback, through a pop-up note, or audio feedback, by playing a short tune. The audio feedback was unanimously preferred as players were often running at speed and the audio feedback was perceived much less intrusive on the game and harder to miss

Why do I blog this? after a discussion yesterday about gaming, RFID and social computing, it was funny to get back to this paper. Some curious things to draw here about feedback and immersion, quite important factor when designing gaming systems.

Coulton, P., Rashid, O., and Bamford, W., “Experiencing ‘Touch’ in Mobile Mixed Reality Games”, Proceedings of The Fourth Annual International Conference in Computer Game Design and Technology, Liverpool, 15th – 16th November 2006, pp 68-7