I should disclose upfront I’m not much of a “gamer.” When I was younger, I found myself in a few endless games of Risk, never did understand the appeal of Monopoly, and always wanted to overlay a romantic narrative on Chess. (How did the Queen convince the knight to battle the Bishop to death?) But I did like sports. Not so much because of the gaming aspect, but because sports are generally played outdoors. Whole summers playing running bases, hide and seek, and any number of make believe games.

Like locative media, location-based games take place outside. Due to this connection to the physical world, exploring how locative-based games and locative media can inform each other should be fruitful. How can online engagement contribute to a deeper off-line experience. Or, as we used to say, can it contribute to a deeper engagement with the “real world.” We’ve started to look at the theories and theorists around space, place, and fun.

We do know that the opportunity to use the street as an environment so engaged gamers and enlivened gaming that gaming become (pick your favorite adjective) pervasive, immersive, or ubiquitous. But, if we look back, there is the history…nothing emerges fully formed on the half-shell. Geocaching was one of the first and most successful location-based games. At last count, there are 480,000 registered geocaches in 222 countries on all seven continents. But even geocaching has its
roots in the earlier outdoor game letterboxing, traced to Dartmoor, England and popular during the 1850s. Letterboxing was a strange mixture of orienteering and puzzling, more akin to exploration than to the current mobile multi-player locative games (MMPLG), where the focus is on adding real-life environment in the game play. The point of MMPLGs is not to change the dynamic nature of online gaming, but to put that frenetic energy into the physical world. Locative media has a stronger connection to geocaching and letterboxing than it does to MMPLGs – more philosophical, more geographical, and more reflective.

Still figuring out how to implement the best of both in locative projects.