Markus Montola and Annika Waern

Hypermedia Laboratory, 33014 University of Tampere

Swedish Institute of Computer Science

Montola and Waern discuss games “obfuscat[ing] the social boundary of play by involving non-players in the game in various ways” (1). Mostly, I find this interesting because I have come to the conclusion that it is really impossible to create an effectively working ARG if there is no community. I almost think this article negates my thought behind that just a bit because it talks about the various roles within gaming, but does not necessarily speak to whether or not all of the roles *must* be present within any particular game. So, this makes me wonder if I am wrong in my thinking that you have to have that community, or if I need to redefine my notion of community in this gaming context.

Montola and Waern also discuss the idea of the “magic circle” (I felt a bit like I was in one of Lewis’ novels here ;)), suggesting that “pervasive games expand spatially, temporally and socially beyond the limits of regular games” (1). Also, “Pervasive games are typically played in places and times that are not defined in advance, and the activity of playing is ambiguous, often blurred with player’s ordinary life.”

The authors state that player roles are continually shifting, namely mentioning the “rabbit hole invitation mechanism” which invites new players into games without necessarily knowing that they are entering a game.

Contextual awareness within a game includes (and these are directly from the text):

* Unaware state: The game experiences go unnoticed or are interpreted as ‘everyday’ phenomena.

* Ambiguous state: The experiences produced by the game are too obvious or too closely related to each other to be ignored; still there is no frame of reference that would reveal and confirm the fact that it is game which we will refer to as the gameness of the experience.

* Conscious state: The game context is accessible to the person.

A ludic state might also be represented within the ambiguous state, where one hears about a game through a various medium and decides to check out the physical space of the game (i.e. a night club where a part or the whole of the game takes place).

Specific roles within the game include (again, taken directly from the text):

* Invitation to play: The game offers active participation as a player.

* Invitation to participate: The game offers active participation, but not in a direct player role.

* Invitation to the spectatorship: the game offers spectator opportunities.

* Invitation to refuse: The game offers the option to ignore the game.

This last one, the invitation to refuse, is the one that interests me the most. So, if a person refuses to participate in a game, then he or she usually recognizes the game as a prank or some obscure form of reality. And I get this, but it also seems wrong. One example given was a game (Prosopopeia) which asked players to locate an old woman who was a hippie, so players decided to track her down by speaking to junkies and drunks on the street. ARE YOU SERIOUS???? First, of all the people asking run the risk of being placed in danger, and secondly I don’t find that very respectful to the people that they are involving in the game. So, I think this is where my biggest beef with the ARGS comes into play.

The authors continue by expanding on these roles, and conclude by recognizing that while these games are the most “tangible, real and immersive” and yet also the “most problematic designs” (and I am hoping here they mean physically and not just game design–like the moral issues which I was talking about). Montola and Waern conclude, “We intend to address this by further exploring the ethical challenges of social expansion, in particular from the non-player perspective” (8).