Licoppe on a Geolocated Game – The "Mobility Turn"

I just finally got to Liccope’s paper (ICTs and the Engineering of Encounters: A case study of the development of a mobile game based on the geolocation of terminals) on the design, development and deployment of a geolocated mobile game in Japan — Jindo, which became Nido. (I’m pretty sure this is about Mogi Mogi, but if someone knows for sure, please let me know. Nicolas confirms these are code for Mogi Mogi. Thx Nic) This paper has been tagged ToBeRead at least since the summer. It’s a participant-observation study on the evolution of the game from whimsical game designers’ aspirations, to the hard reality of commercial game development when you’re game isn’t commercial fodder. I found the paper engaging, in the way that somewhat ethnographic participant-observations studies can be — you get a sense of the actual activities of the designers, business folk, etc.

It’s a hard thing, generally speaking, to make a game. I can only imagine how much harder it becomes when you have a wonderful idea, but are stymied by the requirements of deployment in a context where the mobile money making ecosystem has a nearly impenetrable barrier to entry in the form of operators who won’t trouble themselves unless there’s a revenue stream. (This is different, of course, to a certain extent, in the networked jungle of the Internet where pretty much anyone with access, time and passion can craft a game experience and develop their own network infrastructure. Mobile operators own the network and a by-your-leave is required to get on it, or gain exposure, in most cases, or to use specialized services, such location sensing — a requirement for this particular game.)

Besides the description of the game’s design and evolution, I really enjoyed the way Licoppe described the “paradigm of mobility”

For a long time, spatial mobility was just a means to an end. Even in the eyes of such a keen observer of cities such as Simmel, industrial life led to a lengthening of distances, “which makes of every useless wait or travel an irretrievable time loss� (Simmel, 1989). Recently, social science studies of mobility have taken a different turn, arguing that mobility patterns should be understood with respect to an actor with motives, skills and instrumental resources pertaining to mobility, moving in an environment that “affords� mobility in many ways. In this “paradigm of mobility� (Sheller and Urry, 2005), places cannot be considered independently from the people that inhabit them, however fleetingly, and urban movement may be a creative experience by itself.

I think this is what I’ve been trying to describe as motility — purposeful, agency in movement.

I also really liked the way the engineers/designers vision of what the game could be (based largely on their own passions and experiences) was “engineered” by players into designing the game so as to mediate social encounters. The game originally had the vision of a kind of MMORPG, but for mobile contexts, using location-sensing technology. An augmented reality sort of experience where your movements in the real world corresponded to movements in the game’s world. Largely as a response by the telcos, the game was redesigned in a way that the designers found “simplistic” — a kind of collect-the-blue-gems game. When the game first deployed in Japan, they found that this kind of game experience was resonant, and they set about designing for what it seemed the players were doing. Get it? The players engineered the design. It’s a kind of circulation of engineering. Players becoming designers, not in the sense that they had a cubicle, drawing pad, desk and squishy fruit, but the cycle of creativity was allowed to widen in a productive way. Cool stuff.