Posted by: Waern | June 3, 2009

WarDriving: Early location-based gaming

In his upcoming thesis, Leif Opperman describes an interesting early pervasive play activity called WarDrivingWarDriving grew out of WarDialling, a hacker activity which consists of scanning the phone lines for remote access to computer systems. In WarDriving, you take your laptop to the streets in search for wireless networks and plot their security settings and geographical spread.

The activity was first turned into a game at the DefCon 10 conference in 2002, where teams of four players were tasked with finding as many access points as possible over a period of two hours. Teams would score higher if the net was openly available, as well as when no other team found the same access point. The game met with numerous of the typical pervasive game problems, such as road safety (when loads of players wheeled out of the parking lot at the same time), and that the game server was hacked immediately and repeatedly during the course of the game. (After all, this was a hacker conference and the game was about hacking. ) It is also an early example of how a pervasive game can be used to collect user-created content, as the game sessions generated quite useful maps over the wireless coverage over a play area. The game has since then been played at several DefCons and on two occasions as a world-wide event.

It is interesting to speculate over the reason why this no longer is a fun pervasive game.  Staffan Björk has sometimes complained that when we define pervasive games as ‘expanding outside the magic circle’, this also means that some games will stop being pervasive when they become commonly accepted as likely activities in a certain context. WarDriving shows something similar: it is a gamistic activity that ceases to be playful as it becomes too mundane. Today, when just about everyone walks around with a wireless laptop or mobile and there is an abundance of wireless access points, the game as such could still be played and even go mass market. But there is no challenge in it anymore; WarDriving is no longer a game (or at least not a fun game), even if it still can be considered pervasive.

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