Adams, M et al ~ Art and Politics of Pervasive Games

Chapter 12 in Montola, M et al ~ Pervasive Games

“Even when a game is clear, concise, and conventionally structured, the chaos and unpredictability of public space complicate things. An inevitable porosity exists between the world of the game and everyday life.”
User-generated content is “a phrase that has three major problems. “User” suggests that people are utilitarian inputs to a system, “generated” posits that they produce things through some basic process (think of a random number generator), and “content” is an awkward and ugly syllogism for the ways in which the public contribute. For these reasons I will use publicly created contributions […].”

“The insider has a role to play. The outsider role-plays.”

“Designers do not need to convince layers that the game is real; the game simply needs to be designed so that players are able to pretend so. No narrative multiplayer game can reach its full artistic potential without role-playing, simply because it is the most effective and intimate way of producing engaging peer-to-peer content.”
“A reality tunnel is what you believe to be true and right, and it has to go right out the window in order for you to make a good pervasive role-layer.
This is the first rule of pervasive role-laying: Reality is not objective and external; it is subjective and internal. Unless you understand and use this fact you will fail, both as a player and as a designer. In other forms of role-playing, the reality of the game is largely externally manifest in the words of the game master, the graphics on the screen, or in the propping of the game area. But when you play on the streets, you will see the normal blank faces and fashion victims; very little outside your own mind helps you slip into the game state. Instead, pervasive games must use internal methods to establish the game world, the diegesis. External aids such as technology and special effects may give this process a boost, but in the end it is a feat of the imagination. To help switch to the world-view of the character, the player can take a page from “the method” built on Stanislavski’s work, try character-specific mantras, or extreme body language. But the best way to help players is to provide them with a very distinct reality tunnel.”

“Wilmar Sauter’s model of communication for theater reading has A (actor) playing B (character) to C (audience). In a similar way, role-playing games could be described as A (player 1) playing B (character 1) with C (character 2) played by D (player 2). Using the same kind of model for pervasive role-playing would read something like A (player) playing B (character) with C (bystander) who has no idea you are A and not B.
“This is the second rule of pervasive role-playing: Your character is what you can get away with. When in doubt, just get up and leave. Nonconsensual role-playing is a feature unique to pervasive games and not for the faint-hearted.”
“[As a game designer] you have to convince your players that your story could be true. It is not about making them believe, just a matter of selling them a compelling “what-if” scenario.”

Third rule: “Reality is what you can get away with.

“”[…] pervasive games tell us that games are not products. Those of us trying to make a living making these strange chimeras know this firsthand. We make do with grants, we make things for free, we get paid to make games that promote other things that are well-defined products – movies, television shows, video games.
-> Like baseball: nobody owns the IP of if, but it is a multibillion dollar industry.

Games do not mean the way stories mean. However, they mutate and evolve; stories carry deep in their DNA the fundamental structure of a statement. Statements are messages from a sender to a receiver, and any exploration of meaning within the context of a statement is going to evoke the entire complex context of messages: symbol, signal, noise, etc. But a game is not a statement. Lots of communication takes place in and through games, but it is not communication from a sender to a receiver. Players are not audience. Unlike messages, which transmit meaning, games are more like meaning machines, or meaning networks. Players and designers are agents within a system out of which meanings emerge.

“Instead of becoming a new globally dominant form of message sending and receiving, [games] will shift our focus away from the idea of broadcasting inherent within that model to a new way of thinking about meaning-creation that is more like a network, like a conversation from which meanings emerge.”
A good pervasive game is not an attempt to seamlessly integrate a game into everyday life; it is confrontation between game and life, an intrusion that causes players to reexamine their ideas about game, life, and the relationship between them.” Not sure I agree.
“No amount of commercial or artistic success will ever fully overcome game’s “outsider” status, a status that is especially well expressed by pervasive games.” Not sure I agree.

About the author

Woitek Konzal

Producer, Consultant, Lecturer & Researcher. I love working where technology meets media in novel ways. Once, I even won an Emmy for digital innovation doing that. Be it for a small but exciting campaign about underground electronic music collectives or for a monster project combining two movies, various 360° videos, 72 ARG-like mini puzzles, and a Unity game, all wrapped up in one cross-platform app – I have proven my ability to adapt to what is required. This passion for novel technologies has regularly allowed me to cross paths with tech startups – an industry and philosophy I am all set to engage with more. I intensely enjoy balancing out my practical work with academic research, teaching, and consulting. Also, I have a PhD in Creative Industries, a M.Sc. in Business Administration, and love to kitesurf.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply