Posted by: Waern | May 11, 2009

Pervasive Games at this year’s CHI

Now that the proceedings from this year’s CHI (computer-human interaction) conference have been made available online, it is time to draw attention to the pervasive games-related articles that were presented this year.

As usual, CHI is more occupied with interaction and technology than with  game experience. Katherine Isbister complained about this in her presentation on ‘supple interaction’, arguing that CHI basically is missing out on the development in games in general (and I cannot but agree). Compared to games in general, pervasive games are actually pretty well represented at CHI, although the conference is very much dominated by the work from Nottingham.

A pervasive games paper actually won one of the ‘best paper awards’: the paper From interaction to trajectories: designing coherent journeys through user experiences by Steve Benford, Gabriella Giannachi, Boriana Koleva and Tom Rodden. This paper elaborates on the fairly straightforward idea that a good pervasive experience needs to take its participants through a ‘journey’, including both spatial, contextual and narrative transitions.

Jennefer Hart and Josephine Reid presented work in progress on early ideas for the automatic game-mastering of ARGs; this paper is interesting as it probably is the first time somebody publishes solely on ARG in CHI. Joel Fisher presented another paper originating from Day of the Figurine; this time on how they used the frequency of SMS responses to adapt the game to player engagement.

There were also some presentations on specific games. I particularly liked Remco Magielse and Panos Markopoulos’ computer-supported tag game HeartBeat, even though it was more of a computer-supported real-world game than a truly pervasive game. The game was developed in close collaboration with a group of children, uses very simple technology, and seems really fun to play. Florian Mueller presented a study one of their distributed exertion games; this time a distributed table-tennis game Table-Tennis for Three. Again, the game was less pervasive than technology-supported, but it is still a very good study and it seems to be a fun game, even though I would imagine that it runs a great risk of encouraging king-making.

Finally, Ben Bedwell from Nottingham presented a game that I would  consider pervasive. This time the Nottingham crew has collaborated with different artist group than Blast Theory. The outset of the project Anywhere was fairly standard, a city exploration project, but this time for locals rather than tourists. What makes this project interesting and different is that every player is stalked by a personal ‘guide/gamemaster’, who contacts them by mobile phone and whom they never see but who sees them. Apart from being an innovative  variant of social expansion, this requires distributed game mastering. The guides are equipped with mobile phones where they get some information about where the other players are and what they are doing, and can provide the same kind of information to the other players. We can expect for more publications from this project – the CHI paper is short and the analysis fairly unfinished.


  1. A lot of pervasive games stuff in there, looks very interesting!

    Your radar missed one late-breaking IPerG-based poster on temporal expansion: Asynchronous Gameplay in Pervasive Multiplayer Mobile Games by Hannamari Saarenpää, Hannu Korhonen and Janne Paavilainen.

    “One of the interesting features in pervasive multiplayer games is that gaming can be blended into other daily activities. However, the players’ current context creates challenges for this parallel activity and therefore, the game design should enable the players to participate in the game whenever it is suitable for them. In this paper, we present initial results from a study which explored one game design solution for this challenge, namely asynchronous gameplay. We wanted to find out how asynchronous gameplay was used and what the players’ attitudes were towards this new playing style. The results indicate that the players received asynchronous gameplay positively and that asynchronous gameplay does not diminish the player’s opportunities for winning the game.”

    – Markus

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