Posted by: Montola | March 4, 2010

Flâneurs and Phoneurs

Was browsing the archives of Simulation and Gaming journal, stumbling into a 2009 paper by Adriana de Souza e Silva and Larissa Hjorth: Playful Urban Spaces: A Historical Approach to Mobile Games. As a historical approach, at least Jaakko will love this.

Without further ado, the abstract:

This article provides a historical overview of the development of urban, location-based, and hybrid-reality mobile games. It investigates the extent to which urban spaces have been used as playful spaces prior to the advent of mobile technologies to show how the concept of play has been enacted in urban spaces through three historical tropes of urbanity: first, the transformation of Baudelaire’s flâneur into what Robert Luke (2006) calls the “phoneur”; second, the idea of dérive as used by situationist Guy Débord; and last, the wall subculture called parkour. The authors present a classification of the major types of mobile games to date, addressing how they reenact this older meaning of play apparent within these former tropes of urbanity. With this approach, they hope to address two weaknesses in the current scholarship—namely, differentiating among a range of types of games mediated by mobile technologies and assessing the important effects of playful activities.

On the way there and back again, they touch on parkour, Big Urban Game, Shoot Me If You Can, ConQwest, Noderunner, Botfighters, geocaching, Cititag, Alien Revolt, Can You See Me Now?, Uncle Roy All Around You, I Like Frank, PacManhattan and Mogi.

Towards the end of the paper they propose a classification of mobile games to three categories; urban games, location-based mobile games and hybrid reality games. As I’m currently working on Something Entirely Different with a deadline, I’ll leave the chewing for you, just summarizing the beef parts so you know to go read the paper for yourself (€).

Urban Games

By using the urban setting as the canvas for the playful activity, UGs arrest, subvert, and transform modes of mobility and immobility within the everyday; in other words, urban gaming allows players to rediscover the particular weave of social fabric that constitutes play. […] we define UGs as games that use the city space as the game board. UGs are often multiplayer games played out in the streets of the city.

[…]

UGs have the ability to transform normalizations of urban spaces into sites for collaborative and politicized play. They show how we can intervene in the regulation of everyday practices and show that UGs function very much like an extension of dérive practices—disrupting, dislocating, and disordering
the urban space. This allows phoneurs to become politicized, no longer sublimated by digital-citizen-as-consumer interpellations. UGs demonstrate that within the rise of urban modernity, the flâneur still plays a pivotal role in informing and transforming the geoimaginary space of the urban.

Location-Based Mobile Games:

LBMGs are games played with cell phones equipped with location awareness (via triangulation of waves or GPS) and Internet connection. Like UGs, LBMGs use the city space as the game environment. However, they additionally allow the linking of information to places, and players to each other via location awareness. Although LBMGs might have an online component, the game takes place primarily in the
physical space…

[…]

LBMGs are similar to UGs in that they use the city space as the game board. However, the use of a GPS cell phone as the game interface transforms it into a location-based game. By using a location-aware interface, LBMGs not only attach information to physical spaces but also allow players to see each other’s position in real space. Like UGs, LBMGs reflect the practices of the dérive and the parkour by creating what we called ludic play—that is, frequently players navigate the city in unusual and unexpected ways as a consequence of the game narrative/players.

…and Hybrid Reality Games:

Much of the innovative research on mobile gaming has been conducted around hybrid reality gaming […] that aims to challenge the role of copresence in everyday life—forging questions around boundaries between digital and physical spaces. HRGs are played with cell phones equipped with Internet connection and location awareness. Like UGs, they transform the city into the game canvas, and like in LBMGs, players interact with each other depending on their relative position in physical space. Additionally, HRGs have an online component, represented as a 3D virtual world, so they take place simultaneously in physical and digital spaces.

2006; Licoppe & Inada, 2006) that aims to challenge the role of copresence in everyday
life—forging questions around boundaries between digital and physical spaces.
HRGs are played with cell phones equipped with Internet connection and location
awareness. Like UGs, they transform the city into the game canvas, and like in
LBMGs, players interact with each other depending on their relative position in
physical space. Additionally, HRGs have an online component, represented as a 3D
virtual world, so they take place simultaneously in physical and digital spaces.

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