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BY Steve Benford, Carsten Magerkurth,

Peter Ljungstrand

Bridging the PHYSICAL AND DIGITAL in Pervasive Gaming

A new generation of entertainment technology takes computer games to the streets—and ultimately beyond.

ervasive games extend the gaming experience out into the real world—be it on city streets, in the remote wilderness, or a living room. Players with mobile computingdevices move through the world. Sensors capture information about their current context, including their location, and this is used to deliver a gaming experience that changes according to where they are, what they are doing, and even how they are feeling. The game player becomes unchained from the console and experiences a game that is interwoven with the real world and is potentially availableat any place and any time. This is an exciting idea, both from a commercial viewpoint where pervasive games extend current wireless games toward more connectivity and including real locations and activities, and where they may deliver much needed content for 3G mobile telephony. From a research perspective, pervasive games open up new technical and human challenges. There are already various formsof pervasive games. One approach is to reinterpret classic computer games, mapping them onto real-world settings

so that players must literally run about in order to control their avatars, as demonstrated by Human Pacman [4] and ARQuake [7]. Other examples focus strongly on social interaction, for example, Pirates!, a fantasy game about trading and fighting at sea [3], or the STARS platform foraugmented tabletop games that preserve the rich social interaction found in traditional board and tabletop games [6] (see the sidebar “Computer-Augmented Tabletop Games”). Touring artistic games have mixed players on a city street with online players in a parallel virtual city, requiring them to exchange perspectives as in the chase game Can You See Now? [5], or exploring the theme of trust instrangers as in Uncle Roy All Around You [2] (see the sidebar “Mixing Street and Online Players”). Pervasive games also have educational potential by encouraging learning through highly physical role play as shown by Savannah, a game in which groups of children hunt as lions on a school playing field [1]. Finally, early commercial offerings include BotFighters! from Its Alive, a multiplayer shooterfor mobile phones, and Majestic from Electronic Arts, a seminal


March 2005/Vol. 48, No. 3 COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM

Mixing Street and Online Players
CAN YOU SEE ME NOW? (CYSMN) is a game of catch,
but with a twist. Online players are chased through a virtual model of a city by up to four street players, who must run through the actual city streets in order to capture them. The gameaccommodates up to 15 players at a time, who access the virtual city model over the Net. The four street players, referred to as “runners,” are professional performers, who chase online players through the city streets using hand-held computers with wireless network connections (using 802.11b) and GPS receivers. The online players can move through the virtual model of the city at a fixed maximumspeed, can access various views of the city streets, can see the positions of other players and the runners, and can exchange text messages with one another. As the runners move through the city they can see the positions of the online players and other runners on a hand-held map. They can University of Nottingham ( as part of the Equator project. It has toured cities throughoutthe world since 2001, including Sheffield, Rotterdam, Oldenberg, Cologne, and Barcelona. Ethnographic studies of the game have generated insights into how players experience uncertainty and into the process of orchestrating a live game from behind the scenes [5]. Uncle Roy All Around You is another touring game from the same team [2]. Here, however, players are on the streets and online. Street...
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