Play is not just about games though games are part of play. Play is whole way of relating to the data world. To get the best out of our digital devices we have to learn to play, to experiment, to ask, what if ? Play has become the dominant way of engaging with interactive devices and gaming has become one of the most reliable wealth creating sector in the digital economy. Producers of the recipes in our cookbook ask their audiences to participate in a playful, experimental way. Tweeture, Heads and Surreptitious Soundplay require their audiences to have fun by engaging with one another to make the experience work. If Only and Escape from the Tower use mini puzzle games as the means to engage their users in the experience. Our Broken Voice and Fortnight ask participants to risk a playfully subversive experience in the shared city space.
Our recipes reflect the wide range of ways that play is being mobilized in new forms of entertainment and culture. The market for computer games played on mobile devices is already well established; there is also growing market in games that use the location sensing capacity of the mobile device in the game play from the early experiments like Blast Theory’s Can You See Me Now (2001) and Valve’s Botfighters (2002), the field has developed to appeal to the casual games market with games like Mobile Pie’s My Star (2011) and Dokogeo’s Dokobot (2011). These games create their own worlds but use real word affordances, as opposed to gamelike applications like Foursquare and Scavengr that rely on geo sensing and competitive social networking. The mobile game market is distinct from the idea of Pervasive Gaming which is driven more by the idea of turning our whole environment into playable space driven by people not technology. Slingshot, the producers of Tweeture, also produce a Street Games festival, Igfest, in Bristol that takes its place alongside three other key festivals, ‘Come Out and Play’ in New York, ‘Hide and Seek’ in London and ‘You are Go’ in Berlin which offer a focus for the emergent and dispersed network of pervasive game designers and players. In turn this new market overlaps with the development of Alternate Reality Games (eg I Love Bees 2004 or The Truth About Marika 2008) which deploy a range of real world sites and online communications to mobilise their users into a long running puzzle based narrative experience.
The question for producers of pervasive media experiences is how can the human capacity to play be harnessed to produce better context specific media services? How can a grasp of game mechanics use different sensor inputs to create Pervasive Media experiences ? If we have been busy building social media over the last ten years we may spend the next ten learning how to exploit it using games and play that connect people to each other and to their common spaces in intriguing new ways. Game mechanics can motivate all kinds of behaviour in the world, for learning, for shopping, for flirting, or for social action. There is real debate around these potentials. It is argued that ‘gamified’ applications of social media (like Foursquare) reduce humans to Pavlovian behaviour machines turning their social relationships into just another way of scoring points.
On the other hand there are lots of gamers who insist on the utopian potential of play; Live Action Role Play enthusiasts and Alternate Reality Gamers would argue that games can be agents of change. A game creates the possibility of world that runs according to different rules – producing the means to see the world as other than it is, to imagine an alternate past, present or future. The ‘Game Layer’ of multiple instantly available dynamic rule based networks could be focused not just on promoting more shopping but also on culture, education, activism and inclusion.