Posted by: Montola | May 17, 2010

Site-Specific Computer Games

Gainers N'Drainers

Erik Kristiansen from Roskilde University has defended a doctoral dissertation titled Computer Games for the Real World: Designing a Design Method for Site-Specific Computer Games. He kindly allowed us to post his entire dissertation in this blog. Thank you!

I’m impressed — and let’s be honest, flattered — by the fact that a dissertation filed in in 2009 already uses Pervasive Games as one of its more pervasive references. His main approach is performance design, and in addition to discussing his own prototypes, he also touches on stuff from GeoCaching to BotFighters and from PacManhattan to GPS Mission. Here’s the synopsis he kindly wrote for us:

Playtesting Klinterspillet

This thesis focuses on the design of site-specific games. These games are embodied games played in the city using pervasive technology. The field of site-specific games is established as a genre of games, as those games in which the site and the players locomotion play a particularly important role. The site-specific games share many properties with pervasive games, and may be understood as a sub genre, where the usage of the site is the nexus of the games.

The thesis is based on performance studies, design science research, and theory of pervasive games. It is shown that there is a tight link between the study of play, games, and performances, and that playing a site-specific game can be understood as a special kind of performance. A branch of performance studies focuses on performances given outside the theatre, called the site-specific performances. These performances are usually designed with the site in mind, and either deliberately works with or against the site—what is known as the fit. On the basis of practices from site-specific performance design and situated design, a design method for site-specific games is developed.

The design method is based on a mission-style game with cards, and a creative way of exploring the city, called dérive, originating from the psychogeographical practices of the Situationist art movement. One important property of the design method, is that the design sessions take place in-situ. The design method can thus be regarded as a psychogeographical game.

The design method is evaluated using design science research as a framework through the idea of using both ex ante and ex post evaluations. Using a series of iterations, the design method is evolved through practical design sessions, game design, and game evaluation. In this connection several site-specific games have been designed, developed and discussed.

Evaluation of the design method shows that it supports early idea generation of site-specific games, and that designers found the method inspiring to work with. The evaluation also shows that alternation of individual and joint design sessions provokes production blocking and social loafing. The value of the methods in-situ design practice combined with the mission-cards is supported through the many innovative games concepts, which were the result of the design sessions conducted.

Working on a project for Nokia Research Center again, my day job is about my other research interests at the moment. Thus, I haven’t been able to read the thesis yet, but it appears to be a very interesting contribution.

Our belated congratulations, Erik!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wally Thames. Wally Thames said: Site-Specific Computer Games « Pervasive Games: Theory and Design: Erik Kristiansen from Roskilde University has d… […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: