Pokémon GO Plus: The challenge of casual pervasive gaming?

Pokémon GO Plus package contents.
Pokémon GO Plus package contents.

Our research projects have explored the directions of pervasive gaming and more general ludification trends in culture and society. One of the success stories of last year was Pokémon GO, the location-based mobile game by Niantic (a Google spin-off) and Pokémon Company. When winter came, the player numbers dropped: at least in Finnish winter is became practically impossible to play a smartphone outdoors game in below-freezing temperatures. Considering that, I have been interested in trying the Pokémon GO Plus accessory – it is a small bluetooth device with one button that you can wear, so that constant handling of smartphone is no longer needed.

Pokémon GO Plus notifications via iPhone in Pebble Time 2 smartwatch.
Pokémon GO Plus notifications via iPhone in Pebble Time 2 smartwatch.

Based on a couple of hours quick testing, this kind of add-on certainly has certain potential. It reduces (an already rather simple) game into its most basic elements: the buzz and colourful led signals when there is a familiar (green) or new (yellow) Pokémon creature nearby, ready for catching. Pressing the button will automatically try to capture the virtual critter: easy ones usually register as “captured” in a few seconds (rainbow-style multi-coloured led signal), more challenging ones might “flee” (red light). When one arrives next to a Pokéstop, there will be a blue light & buzz signal, and with a press of button one can quickly interact with the stop, and get all available items registered into ones inventory. This is actually much more convenient than the usual routine of clicking and swiping at stops, Pokémons and balls. When the “Plus” is active, the game app itself also keeps running in the background, registering walking distances also when the phone is locked. This is how the game should function in the first place, of course. It seems that it is also much easier to capture Pokémons with the “Plus” than without it (how fair this is to other gamers, is a subject of discussion, too).

Pokémon GO Plus notifications on iPhone 6 Plus screen.
Pokémon GO Plus notifications on iPhone 6 Plus screen.

The larger question that remains is, what “casual pervasive gaming” will become, in the long run. If this kind of devices show the direction, it might be that a casual, always-on game will be more like a “zero player game”: an automated simulated of gaming, where game server and game client keep on making steady progress in the game, while the human player is free to concentrate on other things. Maybe it is enough just to check the game progress at the end of the day, getting some kind of summary of what the automated, “surrogate player” had experienced, during the day?

Playing Pokémon GO with the “Plus” add-on is not quite there, though. There were moments today when the device was buzzing every few second, asking for its button to be pressed. I quickly collected a nice selection of random, low level Pokémon, but I also ran out of Poke Balls in a minute. Maybe the device is made for “Pokémon GO whales”: those players who use real money to buy an endless suppy of poke-balls, and who are happy to have this semi-automatic collecting practice going on, whole day, in order to grind their way towards higher levels?

The strategic element of choice is mostly missing while using the “Plus”. I have no specific knowledge which Pokémon I am trying to capture, and as the game is configured to use only the basic sort of Poke Ball automatically, any “Great”, or “Ultra” balls, for example, are not used, which means that any more challenging, high-level Pokémon will most likely be missed and flee. At the same time, the occasionall buzz of the device taps evokes the “play frame” of Pokémon GO – which relates to the “playful mindset” that we also have been researching – so it is easier to keep on having a contact with a pervasive gaming reality, while mostly concentrating on mundane, everyday things, like doing grocery shopping. Some of us are better at multitasking, but experiments like Pokémon GO Plus provide us with a better understanding on how to scale both the game-related information, as well as the in-game tasks and functionalities, so that they do not seriously interfere with the other daily activities, but rather support them in the manner we see preferable. At least for me, wearing the “Plus” made those winter walking trips a bit more interesting and motivating again today.

Todellisuutemme tulevaisuus? Nuorten filosofiatapahtuma 2017

[Talked in Finnish about the future of “real” and “virtual” in Helsinki today.] Osallistuin alustajana ja panelistina tänään Nuorten filosofiatapahtumaan. Oma esitykseni (ks. runko alla) pyrki virittelemään pohdintaa ja keskustelua siitä, mihin tulevaisuudessa voi mahdollisesti johtaa ne käynnissä olevat kehityskulut, missä “vaikuttavat mutta ei-materiaaliset” todellisuutta rakentavat kehykset ja kerrokset tulevat keskellemme, ja ohjaavat osaa ihmisistä ajattelemaan, aistimaan, tietämään ja toimimaan – mutta suuri osa väestöä toisaalta ei jaa samaa todellisuutta.

Aineettomien ideoiden vaikutus on perustava kaikkien meidän arkisessa elämässä, ja todellisuuden sosiaalinen rakentuminen muovaa jatkuvasti sitä keitä olemme ja miten ymmärrämme maailmamme. Tässä tilaisuudessa pohdinnan kohteena oli erityisesti uudenlaiset, potentiaalisesti keskenään ristiriitaiset, mutta samoihin tiloihin ja tilanteisiin levittäytyvät pelien, informaation ja sosiaalisen vuorovaikutuksen todellisuuskerrokset. Kuinka tasa-arvon, vallan, yksityisyyden, rahan/arvon, työn/vapaa-ajan ja maailman muuttamisen tai “eskapismin” kaltaiset kysymykset muotoillaan kenties uudelleen, kun nämä kehityskulut ottavat tulevina vuosina seuraavat askeleensa. Kuinka niihin on syytä varautua, millaista peli-, informaatio- ja medialukutaitoa täytyy vaalia ja kehittää että pahimmat uhkakuvat eivät toteutuisi? Kiitokset kaikille keskustelukumppaneille, paikalla oli poikkeuksellisen fiksua, kriittisesti ja laajakaarisesti ajattelevaa väkeä!

CFP: GamiFIN conference 2017, ext-dl: 31 January, 2017

CFP GamiFIN Conference 2017
Pori, Finland

http://gamifinconference.com
9th to 10th May 2017

Submissions due on:
EXTENDED DEADLINE 31th January, 2017

Selected contributions will be published in special issue of International journal of Serious Games

+ Open-access online conference proceedings (CEUR-WS)

* GamiFIN 2017 is proud and delighted to announce our confirmed keynote speakers, we do have a great combination of excellence around gamification: Dr. Sylvester Arnab, Reader in Game Science, Coventry University (UK), Dr. Sebastian Deterding, a senior research fellow at the Digital Creativity Labs, University of York (UK) and Dr. Juho Hamari, a Professor of Gamification at UCPori and a leading researcher at the Game Research Lab University of Tampere. Exciting lectures ahead concentrating on e.g. the current state of the art in the field of academic research on gamification, why gamification needs theory and how to transform ordinary tasks into extraordinary experiences. Be sure not to miss these key-talks next May in Pori, Finland!

We are pleased to invite you to GamiFIN conference, on 9th to 10th of May 2017 in Pori, Finland. GamiFIN is a meeting place where researchers, industry and experts present results from their latest work regarding gamification, technology, media and digital culture for the future society.

GamiFIN is a concept made up by University Consortium of Pori. GamiFIN brings together people not only from different fields of academia but also from different sectors such as companies and other institutions. GamiFIN is a great opportunity to present your novel and ground-breaking research results, benefit from the interaction with industry and practitioners and to get new ideas how to utilize gamificational approaches in research as well as in industrial level.

The GamiFIN conference features e.g. the following major themes:

  • Gamification, ludification, playfulness
  • Industry and gamification
  • Gamification of public events such as concerts, sports events etc.
  • Wellbeing and gamification
  • Sustainability, ecological solutions
  • Customer services gamification
  • Funification
  • Gamification of mathematics
  • Gamification of data collection
  • Gamification of research

CONFERENCE PUBLICATIONS

The authors of the selection of the best papers will be invited to publish their work as an article in a special issue of the International Journal of Serious Games.

All the papers accepted to the conference, will be sent for consideration in open-access CEUR Workshop Proceedings. CEUR-WS.org is a recognized ISSN publication series with ISSN 1613-0073. After acceptance, the proceedings will be published as a GamiFIN Conference 2017 volume. (In the Finnish classification of publication forums, CEUR-WS-proceedings are classified as Jufo 1)

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES 

There are two different tracks you can submit your proposals to:

1) academic and 2) industrial

In the academic track, the papers should contain 4 -6 pages, including the list of references. Papers are expected to contribute the field of gamification, based on the different themes of the conference. The contribution has to be original, novel, well written and scientifically ensure the validity of the presented results.

The industrial track serves the participating companies by offering demo sessions where current and on going work can be presented. Contributions concerning development, business cases, marketing, strategy, case studies, best practices and lessons learned etc. are welcomed. In industrial track, please submit 1-page position paper. All academic submissions will be peer-reviewed double blinded. The industrial submissions should include a short biography of the author / presenter, and description of their organization.

Extended deadline for submissions is 31th of January, 2017.

Retrospect, 2016, 2006, 1996, and beyond

I am not particularly good in remembering things, which makes annually returning cycles of breaks and opportunities for reflection challenging, yet also very useful.

Year 2016 was exceptionally burdersome year for many reasons, but among much sadness and strain, there were also many happy things, and quiet progress that is important, but that will most likely surface only later. If I’d have to name one thing, I would say that 2016 was the “Year of Pokémon GO”, as both in personal life as well as professionally, that single location based, social experience coloured much of the latter part of the year in particular.

Randomly sampling the past, in ten year intervals, in 2006, I notice from my records that I was making several public talks about ludic literacy. For example, in one publication I sketched six dimensions of skill sets that each build on top of each other: 1) fundamental ludic understanding (“this is play, game has rules”), 2) functional gaming skills (“this game works this way”), 3) strategic and meta levels of game skills (“this way of playing is interesting / makes sense for me”), 4) social ludic skills (“this is what makes playing fun for other, this is why these people want to play”), 5) creative and productive game play skills (“this game can be extended, or reimagined in these ways”), and 6) literacy related to media in general (“this game is produced to make money this way, its marketing and business strategies rely on this kinds of principles”. (I seem to have worked on a longer article on the topic, but the last draft of that was marked “version 0.5”, so I guess other worked ran over that one.)

In 1996, I was working on the manuscript of Koneihminen article anthology (The Man-Machine), which was a wide-ranging exploration into the multiple cultural roles that technology holds in our lives – as a living environment, as an integral element that extends as well as shapes, and limits our individual and social subjectivy and agency, as well as an evolving and chancing source of various aesthetic experiences. It is interesting to read about the reflections of technological ambivalence, and critiques of 1990s techno-romanticism today, when two decades have changed the landscape of technology into something considerably more pervasive, but also into something more banal. It is certainly true that in 1990s we were considerably more naive regarding the pace of cultural change, and what was really important and what not so, but looking around at turn of 2016/2017, much of both the utopian and dystopian elements of technological imagination are now reality. The more philosophical dimensions of technologically informed subjectivity would clearly benefit from a revisit, or two.

In 1986, I was early in my studies of comparative literature in the University of Tampere. Sadly, it seems that I do not have any digital notes saved from the time before 1991, due to the multiple changes in those years, one of the most important technical ones being the move from Commodore 64 to some early 286 PC that caused me losing my records. Only some backups coming from my Unix account from early 1990s has survived. The C64 floppy disks still just might be somewhere, but I have neither hardware or software to access them, any more. Digital amnesia? But I still remember for example typing rather long essays and seminar works on C64 “Sanatar” word processing software (AmerSoft, 1984) – and then using the same home computer at nights to play AD&D adventure “Pool of Radiance” (SSI, 1988), slowly, sometimes with painful failure rate, but endlessly fascinated. Long Finnish summer nights were filled with light and bird song, also in 3 or 4 am, when I remember holding a break in my upstairs student apartment, stepping outside of the Forgotten Realms for a while.

Remembering is good for us. I link below the slides that I prepared for “Personal gaming histories” course this fall – no commentary this time, but maybe the pictures also tell some stories. Times, they are a-changing.

(PS – these exercises remind us, how our lives do not equal to “life stories”, consistent, logical, progressive wholes. They just present us these constant challenges for sense making, always more or less retrospective.)

CFP: DiGRA 2017, Australia

Call for Participation DiGRA2017: The 10th Digital Games Research Association Conference

We are delighted to announce the Call for Participation for DiGRA 2017, to be held July 3-6 2017, at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

DiGRA 2017 will bring together a diverse international community of interdisciplinary researchers engaged in cutting edge research in the field of game studies. DiGRA 2017 is supported by Swinburne University of Technology, RMIT, The University of Sydney and The University of Melbourne. The conference welcomes submissions on a wide range of topics associated with studies of games and play.

For an expanded CFP see the conference website: www.digra2017.com.

Important Dates
– Submission date (workshops): 20 January 2017
– Acceptance/rejection notification (workshops): 27 January 2017
– Submission date (all submissions except workshops): 26 February 2017 (hard deadline)
– Acceptance/rejection notification (all submissions except workshops): 25 March 2017
– Camera ready: 15 April 2017 Conference dates: 3-6 July 2017

Submission Types
We welcome a range of contributions to DiGRA2017. These include, full papers, extended abstracts, panel and workshop proposals, doctorial consortium participation as well as proposals for events and other activities that fall outside the academic tradition.

Full papers will be peer-reviewed, published on the conference website and in the conference proceedings available on open-access through the DiGRA digital library.

All other submissions will be reviewed by the conference organization committee. These submissions will be published on the conference website, but will not be included in the conference proceedings published through the DiGRA library.

For an expanded CFP see the conference website: www.digra2017.com.

Suomen Pelimuseo, The Finnish Museum of Games

The Finnish Museum of Games (Suomen Pelimuseo) was open for the first time tonight; this event was only for the various partners who had made the museum possible, experts and makers, as well as to the important donators in the crowdfunding campaign. Pelimuseo is the first public organisation in Finland which has successfully run a crowdfunding effort to realise its goals: there were over 1100 people and organisations who took part (our UTA/SIS Game Research Lab was one).

This first look was exiting experience, and already convinced me that this museum will be a major success story. There is so much pent-up need for re-experiencing, reflecting and sharing of game culture, play histories and digital cultural heritage of the past decades that it is obvious this museum will have to face the positive problem of how to facilitate the requirements coming from its popularity. That is at least my feeling on the basis of this first evening, as a large crowd of game enthusiasts, parents with their kids, game designers, game scholars, game educators, historians, journalists, members of gaming subcultures of various kinds gathered together to celebrate and re-experience some of the formative elements from their personal pasts, as well as to meet for the first time some forgotten gems of digital, as well as analog (e.g. board game, rpg, larp) games of the past.

The Finnish Museum of Games will officially open its doors to audience in January 2017. It is located in Vapriikki museum centre, in Tampere. More at: https://suomenpelimuseo.fi/.

CFP: Spectating Play, 24-25 April 2017

Spectating Play – 13th Annual Game Research Lab Spring Seminar 24th-25th of April 2017, Tampere Finland

http://spectatingplay.com/call-for-papers/

Important dates

– Abstract Deadline: January 18th, 2017
– Notification of Acceptance: February 3rd, 2017
– Full Paper deadline: April 3rd, 2017
– Seminar dates: April 24-25, 2017

Call for Papers
This year’s Game Lab Spring Seminar focuses on the spectating elements of play. Below you will find detailed instructions regarding the CFP for this Spring Seminar.

Spectating play
Watching play unfold is almost as pervasive as play itself. Today, developments such as let’s plays, eSports, and streaming have made spectating play an important mode of engaging with digital games. Historically, sporting arenas have brought together not only skillful athletes, but huge crowds of spectators. The audience has an effect on the play, from the cheering of the fans of the home team, to rule changes implemented in sports in order to make them more television friendly. The spectator experience places different design considerations on a game than that of the player experience.

Digital games have always had spectators, be it in an arcade or a sibling waiting for their turn to play on the home console. However, during the last decade spectatorship has become much more visible, first through esports, and more recently through streaming. Numerous new genres of recorded play videos have emerged, from let’s plays to speedruns. Furthermore, the audiences of livestreamed games is hardly passive; amongst other things they comment, form communities, participate in playing, and financially support the players.

Simultaneously, in some play cultures the line between the audience and the player/performer is being blurred on purpose. From immersive theatre to larp and from reality television competitions to amateur livestreaming and onto phenomena such as the “Twitch plays Pokemon”, the structures around watching and playing are shifting.

Spectating Play is the 13th annual spring seminar organized by University of Tampere Game Research Lab. The seminar welcomes any and all scholarly work on the intersection of audiences and game/play.

The possible list of topics includes but is not limited to:

  • Streaming play
    • Live and recorded play
    • Genres: Let’s plays, speedruns, machinima, unboxing, reaction videos, etc.
    • Managing streamers and tubers
    • Production and business models of streaming
    • Cultures and practices of streaming
    • Boundary negotiation between work and play
  • Audience
    • Audience participation in games
    • Designing games for spectating
    • Audience theory for participant
    • Why spectate? Audience gratifications
    • Learning by watching (i.e. foreplayers, tutorials, walkthroughs)
    • Passive and ambient play
  • Performing for spectators
    • eSports
    • Performative game development (e.g. streaming, use of time-lapse videos and public game jams)
    • Arenas for play as performance
    • Arcade culture
  • Perspectives on spectated play
    • History of spectating play
    • The limits of recording as a document of play
    • How spectating play transforms into play practices

The seminar emphasises work-in-progress submissions, and we strongly encourage submitting late-breaking results, working papers, and submissions from graduate students. The purpose of the seminar is to have peer-to-peer discussions and thereby provide support in refining and improving research work in this area.

The papers to be presented will be chosen based on an extended abstract review. Full papers are distributed prior the event to all participants, in order to facilitate discussion. The seminar is looking into partnering with a journal so that the best papers would be invited to be further developed for publication in a special journal issue. In the past we have collaborated with Games and Culture, Simulation & Gaming, International Journal of Role-Playing, and ToDiGRA journals. The seminar will be chaired by Professor Frans Mäyrä (School of Information Sciences, University of Tampere) and Associate Professor Juho Hamari (UC Pori / Tampere University of Technology & University of Turku). There will also be two invited commentators, to be announced later.

The seminar will be held in Tampere, Finland and will be free of charge; the number of participants will be restricted.

Submission guidelines
The papers will be selected for presentation based on extended abstracts of 500-1000 words (plus references). Abstracts should be sent in the PDF format. Please use 12 pt Times New Roman, double-spaced, for your text. Full paper guidelines will be provided with the notification of acceptance.

Our aim is that all participants can familiarise themselves with the papers in advance. Therefore, the maximum length for a full paper is 5000 words (plus references). The seminar presentations should encourage discussion, instead of repeating the information presented in the papers. Every paper will be presented for 10 minutes and discussed for 20 minutes.

Submissions should be sent to: submissions@spectatingplay.com.