Tuesday, February 27, 2007

ARGfest this weekend!

If you want to sign up for ARG fest (it's $10), here is the official registration page.

You'll meet some of the ARG fest folks at Cruel 2 B Kind on Friday night, as well. (You did remember to register for Cruel 2 B Kind already, right?) You can always bring extra teammates to the C2BK game - as long as one of your is signed up, you can all play.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Finite into Infinite Play

This week, we read excerpts from Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse. We discussed some practical ubiquitous design lessons from the text.

So here's a unusual design exercise for you. Take any game in the world, and suggest three ways to make it closer to infinite play.

Remember: finite play is play within boundaries; infinite play is play with boundaries. Which 3 boundaries could you play with in your chosen game? What kind of crazy new game would be the result?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Play with me! Cruel 2 B Kind

March 2, 2007 is the world premiere of the new, improved Cruel 2 B Kind – the game of benevolent assassination - now, with booty! It’s happening 6 – 7:30 PM on a Friday evening in SOMA, San Francisco, and I really want you to play. And I know YOU really want you to take over SOMA like the nice little ninjas you are, and kill other players (and unsuspecting bystanders) with kindness.

You can sign up now. (You have to register by noon on March 2 to play.) What are you waiting for? Sign up! It’s free, it’s outdoors, it’s crazy, and there might be cupcakes! (Okay, there WILL be cupcakes!) What more could you ask for?

Well, okay, here’s more: I’ll be there live puppet mastering, with a few surprises for keen-eyed players. (So if you spot me wandering the streets and attack me, you might get a little bonus fun…)

With your first essay due March 5, this could be a great game to play to critique for the assignment...

In the meantime, feel free to review the game website and leave comments about the possible connections between this game and our ubiquitous computing readings, our new "finite vs. infinite play texts."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Essay #1: Ubiquitous Game Critique

Due Monday March 5, your first assignment is a 2-3 page (double-spaced) critique of a ubiquitous game. You can write about any ubiquitous game that you've played this semester, or about the ubiquitous mini-game you recently designed.

If you haven't played any good ubiquitous games lately, and you're a big procrastinaor, sign up for Cruel 2 B Kind San Francisco on Friday March 2, 5:30 PM. (I'll be live puppet mastering the game!)

You should choose one or two readings from the semster so far that help you make your critique, or explain your design. Quote the readings to help make your argument.

I'm happy to look at your topic or a draft before the paper is due, if you'd like some early feedback. In the meantime, feel free to post your topic here to get feedback or to inspire others!

Sample topics:

In this essay, I first summarize computer scientist Rich Gold’s vision for an “enchanted village” of ubiquitous computers. I then analyze whether or not the ubiquitous game Sweet Cheat Gone successfully turned San Francisco into an enchanted village for its players.

In this essay, I explore how Mark Weiser’s three characteristics for ubiquitous computing – ‘invisible’, ‘calm’ and ‘connected’ – could be used to make play more ubiquitous in urban environments. I will use these characteristics to explain the design of my ubiquitous mini-game for San Francisco, While You Wait.

In this essay, I explain the Institute for the Future’s five criteria for context-aware gaming. I use these criteria to critique the design of the current Heroes ubiquitous game, www.primatechpaper.com.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Public Pillow Fight - February 14, 2007!

It's not a game, exactly--but it is public play.

Join the second annual Valentine's Day pillow fight at the Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Full details are here.

Amazing photos from last year's fight here. Literally hundreds showed up to play.

Hope to see you there! Full instructions below.

It’s not Valentine’s Day, it’s

Where: Justin Herman Plaza (Market & Embarcadero), San Francisco, CA.

When: Wednesday, February 14th, when the Ferry Building clock strikes 6pm.



1) Tell everyone you know about Pillow Fight!

2) Tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW about Pillow Fight!!!

3) Nothing in your pillow but pillow.

4) Don’t hit anyone with out a pillow.

5) Don’t hit anyone operating a camera.

Last year’s Pillow Fight was *amazing*! Let’s make the magic happen again! Please bring a few trash bags to share and help pick up after wards.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Sweet Cheat Gone Rules and Game Map!

The rule and game map for Sweet Cheat Gone are now online. You can download them here.

Whether you're playing or not, it's a great idea to read the rules and study these as ubiquitous game artifiacts.

If you play, report in with your thoughts! (Bonus points if your thoughts are inspired by some of the readings or conversations we've had in class.) So, describe your experience, or critique the design, or think about how something you saw or heard during the game might inform your affordance testing project.

If you don't play, read through the rules anyway and see how they might help you answer the questions above.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Affordance Testing in San Francisco

Based on our excerpt from "The Future of Context Aware Gaming" report, we've agreed on five criteria for all of our own ubiquitous game designs. They are:

1) The game is "free and global" - it is designed to engage as wide a player base as possible, in terms of age, gender, technology skills (or lack thereof) and location. It has the potenital to create a community.
2) Game spaces and objects are "ordinary" - it involves everyday objects or spaces, using them in new ways.
3) The experience is "hybrid" - it connects the gameplay with the local environment, rather than separating the two.
4) The game is "networked" - part of the game lives in the data sphere. It has a least one digital affordance.
5) The design is "hacked, improvised" - we use existing apps and co-opt existing networks for play.

This week, you're working in small design teams to create and implement a mini-game somewhere in San Francisco. For your design, you should be able to talk about each of these five criteria. So please, in the comments, fill us in on the details of the latest design your team has worked out. As an experiment, see if you can explain how your design addresses each criterion. Is there one that you're missing or weaker on? Explain, and see if you can improve the design.

As a reminder, your mini-game should consist of the following:
-one embedded clue,
-a digital affordance (see our affordance worksheet for a range of potential affordances), and
-a payoff for successful activation of the affordance

These should be quick, small, very self-contained, and be fully executed in the next 10 days. This is a mini-trial; think small and successful!

Monday, February 5, 2007

The Dangers of Gaming in Plain Sight

Ubiquitous games leave traces throughout the everyday environment. They often require designers and players to install clues and interactive objects in public spaces. Sometimes these installations, if they are not well though-out or carefully managed, can cause a bit of (or a lot of!) commotion among folks who aren't in on the game.

This past week, an incident in Boston demonstrated just how bad things can get when non-gamers don't know what to make of a sign that play (or art) is afoot. "Just how bad" included arrests of two artists, hired as viral marketers, after a city shut down bus stations, airports and bridges because they mistook 10 elecronic cartoon art installations for terrorist bombs. You can read an excellent summary here, an editorial on the side of the city officials here, an editorial on the fence here, and an editorial on the side of the artists here.

Lots of interesting debate coming out of this event. For instance, unforum is a major forum for players of ubiquitous games; they're have an interesting conversation about the relevance of the Boston LED fiasco to game design here.

How does this Boston scare make you feel as a potential ubiquitous game designer? Does it make you want to more carefully frame your game so that no one overreacts? What strategies would you use to help prevent misinterpretation of the game? Or does the hysteria just make you frustrated by the widespread culture of fear? Should that culture be resisted through more play, or respected?

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Why We Make Ubiquitous Games: Our Manifesto (DRAFT ONE)

Below is an edited version of our notes from class discussion last week. These are the values, belief, strategies and possibilities that you all noted from personal experience, and from our analysis of The Game and Major Brown. I have to say: I think it's a really tremendously exciting start to the semester. With this original, collectively created manifesto--totally unique to our class!--we are on our way to articulating a game design philosophy that will focus all of our efforts and help us create an important ubiquitous game together.

Please feel free, in the comments, to share your thoughts about how the manifesto is taking shape, or to add new lines that you would propose inserting into the manifesto. Be sure to mention which section you want to add it/them to!

Why We Make Ubiquitous Games: A Manifesto


When we play games, we experience relaxation, concentration, cohesion, elation, adventurous thinking, constant challenge, and relief. We want more of these things in everyday life.

When we play games, we feel awed, sneaky and backwards. We should feel like this in real life, too.

When we play games, we feel intermittent anxiety and frustration. We become very analytical and focused. We MIGHT want to feel and be more of these things in everyday life… we haven’t decided yet.


We believe a well-designed game can improve a life that is boring, or routine. It can help change for the better someone who is work-obsessed, or depressed, or kind of a dick.

A well-designed game can transform someone who is a loner and doesn’t value life, who takes things for granted and for whom everything comes easy, into a very different person.

A well-designed game can make someone more responsive to clues in the environment. It can help someone recognize opportunitIes.


A ubiquitous game can take away your sense of security and comfort. It can create a physical challenge or give you a near-death experience. It forces you away from work and out of your routine.

You may feel insignificant or humbled by a ubiquitous game. It can remove your ordinary identity, make you nobody, obscure your status.

A ubiquitous game can make you pay attention to the things around you. It may force you to respond to “noise”.

It may create a paranoia that you don’t enjoy at the time. But it makes your life more interesting, if not immediately more enjoyable.

A ubiquitous game may blur the boundaries. You might become more alert to your layered environment .

You might find yourself making decisions that you wouldn’t make in everyday life. You might cross ethical and moral boundaries. You may find yourself empowered by the game’s instructions.

You might need to bring strangers into the game.

The game may give you real actual sincere heartbreak, or make you totally miserable. You may experience sincere intense emotion.

You may jumping off the building – metaphorically. You may choose adventure that comes as a surprise.


A ubiquitous game could wake you up if you are sleep walking through life. You might pay attention to infinite possibilities. You might notice absurdity.

A ubiquitous game could give you a shared social experience. You would realize that not every clue means something, but you can still think about it. You can still push the button.

Life in complex and not everything is meaningful. But maybe in the game, everything comes together anyway.

When you don’t know if it is the game or not, you are more open to possibilities. You may appreciate reality more. It doesn’t have to be a game for you to enjoy life.

Wanting to be in the game is the game.