Call Me Lazy One More Time

When breaking down locative narratives into their bare characteristics, one must look at the fact that they require something extra than normal forms of media for the user to gain any information from it. In his article “The Affordance and Constraints of Mobile Locative Narratives,” Jeff Ritchie terms this effect as “really nontrivial effort” to pun Espen Aarseth’s idea of the nontrivial effort required to navigate ergodic literature. What makes navigating a locative narrative “really nontrivial” is that it requires some sort of movement from one location to another.

Now, especially in this century it seems, people, mainly kids and young adults, are criticized for a perceived increase in laziness and unwillingness to do more work than is required. Comparatively, the biggest challenge that designers on locative narratives face is “offer[ing] a reward perceived to be greater than the effort required of the audience” (Ritchie). Since locative narratives have only begun to arise in the past few decades, this raises the question; are people not willing to put enough effort into these narratives or have they just not been developed enough yet?”

Personally, my vote is for the latter. The idea of locative narratives or media wasn’t something the general public was aware of until this past summer when Pokemon Go came out. This was one of the most hyped games in recent memory, and, for a while, was

the biggest and most played game. People would walk miles searching for Pokemon. However, like with most games, the effort required to traverse through the game slowly became greater than the perceived reward that was earned from the game.

In my opinion, I think the scope of the game was too big for its current state. Other forms of locative media have been successful, such as Txtual Healing a story project discussed by Jason Farman in his article “Stories, spaces, and bodies.” The idea of Txtual Healing is that people send texts to a phone number and they are shown on projectors on the sides of buildings. Although no one has to be standing near the screen in order to text the number, many groups of people gather around and send texts so that they can see their texts on the wall. The scope of this type of media was small enough that it could thrive for its intended duration.

Another example of some of the faults that can come through in locative narratives are typical historical tours that tell you the history of certain places as you walk from area to area. One place where many of these fail is that the user can usually click on a certain landmark and read about it without actually having to walk to that place. While the designers certainly assumed people would want to connect the stories with what they see around them, the user ends up perceiving the description as valuable enough to not want to walk to that landmark.

While I’m not an expert on locative media, there are many ways that this relatively new form of media can improve. Locking landmarks and descriptions until the user reaches that place is a good place to start. I also think it would help to make the description and wording of the story more visual. For example, instead of describing an event that happened at this place, walk the listener through the event, create the setting around them, point out specific landmarks, and let them connections between what the narrator is saying and what they are seeing.

From the perspective of a young adult like myself, one of the generations that is often criticized for laziness, it is easy to see how these locative narratives can improve. My generation was exposed to them through Pokemon GO, and I believe that as we get older we will be able to bring a new perspective on the games or narratives and help them evolve into something better and more appealing.


3 thoughts on “Call Me Lazy One More Time

  1. I’m not even going to get into the stereotype of laziness imposed on young people today, because I have many, many things to say about that and they’re all off-topic, but I agree with you completely on that subject. And, I would say that it’s not laziness keeping people from participating in certain locative narratives – they’re just practicing good economics. Your analysis of Pokemon Go’s popularity and Ritchie’s statement about “offer[ing] a reward perceived to be greater than the effort required of the audience” are very similar to the concept of marginal cost and marginal benefits. In microeconomic models of goods markets, the equilibrium (e.g. optimal) cost and quantity produced of a good occurs when the marginal cost of each additional unit of a good is equal to the marginal benefit obtained from that additional unit by the consumer. After that, the cost of buying another unit of the good is higher than the benefits received, and obviously no one wants that. In the case of locative narratives, instead of additional units of a product, we have additional time spent interacting with the narrative. Costs and benefits are perhaps more subjective, but they still exist. While there isn’t necessarily a monetary cost of playing a game for an extra hour, there is an opportunity cost. This measures the value of playing the game for an extra hour against the value of other activities that could have been accomplished. For example, the opportunity cost of playing 7scenes for an hour could be spending an hour working on one’s capstone project. Because of the faults of the platform, many of which you mentioned in your post (the most irksome being the ability to preemptively click on locations), there’s very little marginal benefit (enjoyment) to additional time spent trudging around campus.

    But, while I agree with your comments on the flaws of current locative media like 7scenes, I don’t necessarily agree that Pokemon Go is the game-changing (pardon the pun) new locative narrative that you portray it to be. I think that it is significant in that it displayed that there is willingness to expend “very non-trivial effort” in pursuit of location-based gaming, but I think that, as a narrative tool, it falls rather short. Farman writes that “the body’s relationship to a space (and the stories of that space) is engaged through practices of layering. Embodiment in such sites is produced through engaging the multiplicity of narratives communicated.” If Pokemon Go does indeed have a narrative (debatable), it certainly doesn’t have multiple layered ones that build on the space. But, I would cite the murder mystery cold case discussed by Professor Farman in class as a more promising example of the future of locative media. Eight hours were spent playing through a story in which location was critical to the narrative, and there were multiple characters and stories to be explored within the narrative. This experience takes advantage of the allowances of mobile media but is built firmly into a space. Nonetheless, both Pokemon Go and the examples of locative narrative mentioned by Ritchie and Farman reveal important and interesting points about the possibilities of locative media, which is clearly a field that has ample room to grow and evolve.


  2. This is a bit of a mash-up response to some of your ideas as well as to April’s comments.

    To start, I was particularly impressed by April’s economic analysis of gameplay is a practical approach to the idea of a “narrative value threshold” as elucidated by Jeff Ritchie. While Ritchie emphasizes the necessity for perceived reward to exceed the perceived effort required to receive this reward, examining this relationship through the lens of behavioral economics helps us better explain why this is true.

    In response to the ongoing Pokémon GO discussion, I agree with April’s assessment that the game suffers from a lack of driving narrative. This, I believe, is the cause behind its recent decline (as you mentioned in your original post). But this begs the question: if it lacks something as essential as a driving narrative, how did Pokémon GO reach the dizzying heights of success that it achieved this past summer?

    Achieving the ubiquity that this game enjoyed immediately after its release would be difficult, to say the least, without a narrative to advance the story. My theory, therefore, is that Pokémon GO was able to piggyback off the larger Pokémon narrative which has been constructed over the 20 year history of the franchise. Larger narrative concepts (such as the relationships between Pokémon and their trainer, the development of a tight-knit team in order to defeat other experienced trainers, and, of course, catching ‘em all) had been well established by the time of the release of Pokémon GO. Its creators were able to harness the widespread cultural familiarity with these concepts to provide the new game with both a structural backbone and a ready-made receptive audience. I believe that these factors are what led to its incontestable position as the most successful and well-known work of mobile locative media to date.

    That being said, it seems that the overarching Pokémon narrative is not direct and accessible enough within Pokémon GO to maintain the game’s same momentum into the later months after its release. Without any new and compelling objectives, the immediate rewards from gameplay (collecting Pokémon, leveling up, etc.) do not seem to have been sufficient to continue to engage the majority of players.

    As you conclude, Pokémon GO was our generation’s first widespread exposure to mobile locative narrative. As with the first popular console- and PC-based games, I’m confident that its enormous initial success will inspire people both in and outside the gaming community to contribute to the evolution of the genre. The use of GPS on mobile devices is still growing at a rapid pace – not only in terms of how many people use the feature, but also in terms of its expanding versatility. This will fan the embers of locative media.


  3. Excellent conversation. Let me reiterate Anna’s praise for April’s economic analysis of locative narratives, which gets at the overarching theme of this weeks posts: that whatever potential there may be in AR and locative narratives, we haven’t reached that tipping point yet where effort meets reward. The potential, however, is certainly there and I think effective locative narratives are an inevitability. Maybe one of you will be the person to crack the code!


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