Core of research
At the core of our research are mobile gaming experiences and their conceptual, aesthetical and technological foundations, which we explore by designing, developing, and play testing mobile games.
In game design and research we pick up traditions of both classical outdoor games and computer games and combine them in a novel way. While players in computer games sit in front of their computers, and experience virtual worlds by means of hand-eye coordination, players in classical outdoor games like capture-the-flag or treasure-hunt move bodily through their environment. In mobile games players actually move physically through their gameworld and use mobile devices as a medium for information, orientation and interaction. The virtual world accessed by mobile devices merges for the players with the real world to one game world. Such mobile games are also different to cell phone games, which are in most cases just miniaturizations of computer games. Body movement irrelevant for playing cell-phone games becomes the source of pleasure playing mobile games.
Mobile games change our way of playing compared to playing traditional outdoor games or computer games. Our approach to designing mobile play experiences is characterized by different qualities of the mobile game we try to take into account:
Emergent game play and the permeability of the magic circle
The mobile game world is a mixed world combining real world with virtual dimensions. What follows is, that the context of play in mobile games is always changing in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. As the magic circle, which delimits the mobile game world from the everyday world, is permeable for mutual influences between both worlds, we draw on different game design strategies:
- With regard to the players, who finally create the magic circle within and by their game play, we most often work with our own developmental Design strategy focusing on emergent game play;
- Aiming for the ambiguity of the play experiences we feel also animated to work with the borderline experiences, which result from the mutual influence between game and everyday world, see above all http://pervasivegames.wordpress.com/;
- A third approach we like is the "This is Not A Game" design approach cultivated by the Alternate Reality Game tradition, see for example http://www.argn.com/
The physicality of the game
In mobile games the actual player is physically present as the whole game world is. The player plays the game by means of physically effective play actions, bodily moving and communicating with other players directly and indirectly. This physicality of the game is inseparably interwoven with virtual and mental dimensions. Mobile games provide bodily and mental challenges and experiences for each player. You sometimes have to run, to decide fast, fight or flight and take into account the interests of other players. The game is using and fueling mental and bodily energy for conflicts between players as well as for bonding and community building. Designing mobile play experiences we work with and elaborate concepts of embodiment, see http://www.dourish.com/embodied/
The situatedness of the game
Playing a game, players (re-) create their game world. They situate the game system within their context of play, which unfolds step by step. Each game element and game relation thus is determined twice by the game logic and by the context of play.
- Mobile navigation instruments
- Mobile Augmented Reality
- Modular mobile game engine and game editor
- Context awareness and distributed collaboration
- Observation technologies
- Interactiontechniques: iPhone, Android
- Geoinformationsystem, map technologies, georeferencing
- Transmedia: combining, merging, employing different realities
- Mobile play experience and body movement
- The role of emotion and suspense
- Interaction design: collaborating mobile gamers and gamers at the desk
- Design of 2D- and 3D-virtual dimensions situated in the real world
- Sound design: interfaces and mobile navigation
Theoretical issues of activity and media theory
- Emergence of play possibilities while playing: game play, rules, game logic
- Games for change: Player's development?
- Be-greifbare Interaktion, embodied, tangible, comprehensible
- Spatial interaction
- Playing, play testing and methodological issues of evaluation
- Storytelling, ludology and mobile game design