Locative Gaming and the Curse of Longevity

In Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk, Gaming Can Make a Better World, games are shown to have real beneficial impact to the world. Just as dice games are told by Herodotus to have been used to survive a famine, the traits that gamers gain from experiencing games can help them contribute to solving real world problems that are becoming global crises. I believe that locative gaming can contribute to this phenomenon with a far stronger hand than normal games do if the locative games are done correctly.

To start, what defines a correctly created locative game? Well, according to Ritchie, locative gamers are faced with really non-trivial effort when playing a locative game. This means that the physical steps that one needs to take to play these games properly are a very obtrusive obstacle. Gamers must be incentivized to push themselves over the obstacle and into the game for the experience to be successful. This incentive can be presented in a narrative that can overcome what Ritchie calls the “narrative value threshold”. Of course, games can have something other than narrative for their incentive. The point is that these incentives need to be intense to make the player play. To achieve this intensity, designers can apply the sting of urgency to their locative games. This urgency is often times neglected even though the consequences of its application are still experienced. By this I mean that locative games do not have much longevity normally because of circumstances out of the control of the designer. Knowing this, a locative game can be designed to be terminal and presented as such. This will give the gamer some incentive to experience the game now rather than later making it easier to get past the threshold. Of course, sometimes this element is presented even without a direct deadline. This can be seen in Pokemon Go. Everyone knew the hype would die eventually and that gave urgency to some people. They wanted to experience it before it was dead in the eyes of the community. What designers of these games should do is put a hard stop directly into the game thus creating the urgency.

Now that we have a “correctly” designed locative game, how does it enhance the gaming benefits. Well, at the most basic level, the urgency that is built into the game exposes players to urgency and the problem of thinking within that flustered state. Urgency is something we all have to deal with in life and is especially applicable to the major problems of the 21st century that threaten global destruction if substantial effort is not made soon. Locative games also help bridge the gap between the physical and cyber realms. This is quite substantial considering the end goal of using games productively is real world progress. The community and relationship benefits of gaming are enhanced by the special feeling of connecting with people who are going through the same experience while surrounded by those who are unaware. This increases the closeness of these bonds. Finally, the non-trivial effort that the player puts in diversifies the types of actions that are practiced by playing the game.

To conclude, I think that my logic is sound enough to apply my “correct” design to my own locative narrative if I decide to forgo the way of Twitter Fiction. I know this isn’t really risking much seeing how Dr. Farman stated that none of our locative narratives have lasted. Nevertheless, I hope that this method achieves the results I think it will.


3 thoughts on “Locative Gaming and the Curse of Longevity

  1. Hey Jack,

    I enjoyed reading your blog post and really think that it captures the affordances and constraints of locative games. I like that you attempted to design the most effective locative narrative and I will definitely use the characteristics you described when creating my own locative narrative.

    I agree with you when you said that gamers are faced with extreme non-trivial effort when playing locative games compared to traditional games. To effectively play any locative game, these gamers must invest involved physical exertion. Without being willing to do this, players will not be able to play the game and fully experience it. Therefore, players must have a high incentive to play the game. The narrative must create this incentive. In other words, as Ritchie says, the narrative must overcome the “narrative value threshold”. A profound sense of urgency builds the incentive to keep playing the game.
    I also agreed with your idea that locative games should be designed to last for only a certain amount of time. This will increase the interest and the engagement in such games and will allow them to end on a high note and consequently leave the players wanting more instead of allowing the players to get sick of the game and have a negative final impression of it.

    The TED Talk you analyzed by Jane McGonigal was also very insightful. To be honest, I never considered the impact that gaming could have on the future. I had always seen gaming as a pastime or something to do when taking a break from the work of solving “real” problems. But McGonigal really flipped my perspective and helped me understand the vitality of such an activity because of the mental cognition and analytical skills it fosters in its players.

    I liked how McGonigal paralleled the “epic win” of video games to tackling the problems of the 21st century. These gamers are faced with obstacles and set-backs just as problem solvers in real life face adversity on nearly every front. Games nurture problem solvers and that’s exactly what this world needs. Problem solvers on the hunt for an epic win. When they win, all of humanity wins.


  2. Pingback: What we can learn from games, and what we should leave to the screen | HDCC 208: Digital Storytelling

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