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Pokémon GO and the
Ludification of Culture
Frans Mäyrä
Professor,
Information Studies and
Interactive Media
Game Research ...
Breakthrough in game
culture
• Pokémon GO: phenomenally successful
mobile location-based game
• This July, there were 21 m...
Explanations for the popularity?
- Just “animated collectible cards” about fictional pocket monsters?
- As a game, nothing...
Research and
development of
location based games
• UTAgamelab started study of
pervasive play early
• In 2001 we studied B...
Simplicity rules OK?
- The functional operation of technology does not yet
guarantee that the user experience and user nee...
Mixed realities in play and games
• Traditional game situation:
location, time and participants in
the game play are relat...
Reality is always
mixed?
- As outlined in our research, the pervasive game can last long, or be
an intermittent, additiona...
The future: AR, MR, VR?
• As digital information and
functionalities are combined with
physical objects and environments,
...
Sense of magic
entering the
everyday?
• Pokémon GO and other location based and pervasive games do not
completely make use...
Skills with games
• In games, the learning by doing attitude is
central, as well as informal teams, and the
culture of net...
Community, communication,
ludic literacies
- Pokémon GO does not include player-to-player communication tools,
and three t...
Challenge for information
and ludic literacies
”Hyper-reality”;
concept video by
Keiichi Matsuda
https://www.youtube.com/w...
Ludic society
• Academy of Finland funded research project
(LUDIC), examining three hypotheses:
– (1) “Ludic Age/Society” ...
Entering Ludification
- Ludic Society, is a vision/hypothesis related to ludification –
of play becoming increasingly domi...
Message of
Pokémon GO
• Winter is coming…
• Yet: combining everyday reality
with fantasy elements, and structures that bot...
Thank you!
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Pokémon GO and the Ludification of Culture

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Pokémon GO and the Ludification of Culture

  1. 1. Pokémon GO and the Ludification of Culture Frans Mäyrä Professor, Information Studies and Interactive Media Game Research Lab, SIS / TRIM
  2. 2. Breakthrough in game culture • Pokémon GO: phenomenally successful mobile location-based game • This July, there were 21 million daily players in the USA (numbers sinking in Autumn?) • Over 500 million downloads • Only in the Finnish ”Pokémon Go Finland” Facebook group there are over 25 000 members • Our new survey data: over 2500 respondents (forthcoming: who have played the game, how much, which are the main attraction factors of the game, and the main negative aspects of it)
  3. 3. Explanations for the popularity? - Just “animated collectible cards” about fictional pocket monsters? - As a game, nothing fundamentally new? Simple game mechanics, making use of touch screens and map data - There has been hunting, collecting and tower defence type games, and the Augmented Reality (AR) is rather casually implemented – the Pokémon just appear floating in the screen (with camera and gyroscope) - Possible explanations for the popularity can be searched from multiple directions: 1. Sufficient technology can be found in almost every person’s pocket 2. Pokémon, as a ‘critical mass’ popular culture phenomenon, which combines ‘cuteness’ and ‘fierceness’ and ‘harmlessness’ (whole family entertainment) 3. Change of culture and society - Preliminary analyses from our survey data confirm some of these (also: negative experiences – tech failing, bad behaviour, dangers on street)
  4. 4. Research and development of location based games • UTAgamelab started study of pervasive play early • In 2001 we studied Botfighters by It’s Alive (Sweden) • In Mogame project research prototype of mobile multiplayer game Songs of North, 2003-2004 • The Finnish game studio Grey Area published Shadow Cities (2010) • Then, Ingress (Google  Niantic, 2013)
  5. 5. Simplicity rules OK? - The functional operation of technology does not yet guarantee that the user experience and user needs would have been successfully taken into consideration - The playful and non-playful uses for location information have been studied already for long - In research and in early commercial games, some “truly mobile”, movement based game types were tested (e.g. street combat, various scavenger hunt types) - Many of these earlier games were actually more multifaceted and had more complex and interesting challenges than Pokémon GO – but does that automatically mean that they were “better games”? - Gameplay experience is derived from the sum total of interactions between player, game, plus their cultural and social contexts - Pokémon GO is not the best game for everyone, all the time, but by studying it’s popularity we can learn something about cultural ludification, and about the design of easily approachable AR applications and services
  6. 6. Mixed realities in play and games • Traditional game situation: location, time and participants in the game play are relatively fixed and known • The pervasive games and play mix ludic fiction and everyday life • There’s both potential for novel experiences, for seeing daily environments in a new light – and for confusion, conflicts – when the “magic circle” of play is broken or extended
  7. 7. Reality is always mixed? - As outlined in our research, the pervasive game can last long, or be an intermittent, additional “layer” in everyday life - The sites of pervasive play are not clearly marked or defined, the ingame/outgame mix - Also that which/who is participant of game, and those who are excluded, and who can thereby not be addressed in game need to be reconsidered - One of the favourite concepts in game studies has been “Magic Circle”, which is most useful when the reality of play/game is something clearly demarcated and separate from other social frames - Pervasive play requires more developed capacities to negotiate the relationships between play and non-play - Historically, we have always been living in a “mixed reality”: knowledge, concepts, notions, myths are all immaterial reality that mixes and has an effect on how we perceive, experience and orient into our worlds ”Kullervo Departs for the War”, by Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1901) ©Ateneum Art Museum, Finnish National Gallery, Central Art Archives. Photo: Jouko Könönen Antti Kuivalainen
  8. 8. The future: AR, MR, VR? • As digital information and functionalities are combined with physical objects and environments, new opportunities are opened • Also: new opportunities for confusion & conflict? • Augmented or mixed reality as the opposite developmental direction to virtual reality (VR) • Information realised as an element of “actionable reality”, hopelessly in a seamless manner • More generally: games are providing a low threshold for developing the “future language” of mixed reality technologies and services Photos © Magic Leap, Wired, FastCompany & Forbes
  9. 9. Sense of magic entering the everyday? • Pokémon GO and other location based and pervasive games do not completely make use of all technical possibilities of augmented reality • The visions that are attached to these (e.g. Microsoft HoloLens, Magic Leap) technologies are connected with the goal of completely seamless combination of illusion with the physical reality • For the daily reality of most people, this will be just a daydream for still a long while – the promise is eternally tempting: to have something completely magical, manipulation of reality, being at our disposal • More modestly, it is apps & services like Pokémon GO, Foursquare/Swarm, Google Maps that are sites where we will rehearse and create norms and practices for combining immaterial data with tangible environments in sensible ways • Games have often been at the forefront when new technologies are wanted to link with acceptable, attractive and usable modes of operation and common practice
  10. 10. Skills with games • In games, the learning by doing attitude is central, as well as informal teams, and the culture of networked information seeking and sharing • Ludic literacy includes understandings of (a) technology, (b) culture, and (c) social dimensions of games and play – capabilities to step within game, interplay with others, and be creative within those frames • Culturally, there is an ongoing development where games, play and playful communication mix with other rhythms and practices of daily lives • The development is loaded with tensions: participation in pervasive play and social networks can both empower, as well as enslave
  11. 11. Community, communication, ludic literacies - Pokémon GO does not include player-to-player communication tools, and three teams (Valor, Instinct, Mystic) are just loose alliances for casual battles for the Gym domination - Social media and physical encounters are, in fact, essential parts of game play (and even shy people have reported making contacts to others while playing Pokémon GO) - Ludic literacy is a multifaceted phenomenon, and as games change, also requirements for ludic literacy change and evolve - Different games are available more and more, everywhere, and all the time - If there are no training for skills to be detached of communication and play, the development can be enslaving rather than empowering
  12. 12. Challenge for information and ludic literacies ”Hyper-reality”; concept video by Keiichi Matsuda https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJg02ivYzSs
  13. 13. Ludic society • Academy of Finland funded research project (LUDIC), examining three hypotheses: – (1) “Ludic Age/Society” hypothesis (play emerging as the dominant mode of participation and creativity), – (2) “Ludic Mindset” hypothesis (gameful and active, problem-solving oriented attitude becoming increasingly common, even dominant), and – (3) “Gamification Hypothesis” (gamefulness or game-like elements will start to dominate also product and service design, work, learning, other purpose-oriented and utilitarian domains)
  14. 14. Entering Ludification - Ludic Society, is a vision/hypothesis related to ludification – of play becoming increasingly dominant as a mode of participation in leisure, in communication, study, while at work, or in maintenance of social relations - The companion concept of Ludic Society is Playful Mindset: how playfulness encourages testing, and creative problem- solving – not only in entertainment games, but more generally in everyday lives - Gamification is a parallel concept, which highlights the different ways in which games’ elements and gamefulness’ principles are utilized in designing services and products
  15. 15. Message of Pokémon GO • Winter is coming… • Yet: combining everyday reality with fantasy elements, and structures that both challenge and reward, has proved to be motivating • Technologies of today can indeed help people to help themselves: to step outside, to develop their (and their families’ and friends’) mental, social and physical wellbeing • Pokémon as a media phenomena opens doors: the next generation of games and services will go even further, and into new directions • Augmented Reality is early in development: the information services, social media, communicational AR services, commercial, advertisement services will change our world Photo © www.FandomPlanet.com
  16. 16. Thank you!

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