ChapterPDF Available

Everting the Holodeck: Games and Storytelling in Physical Space


Abstract and Figures

Location-based games are games in which the players interact with the gameworld and other players by moving through a physical environment. The particular mechanics may differ significantly between titles and can involve exploration, capture, chase, collection and territorial conquest. For titles with a strong narrative focus, a storyworld is overlaid on top of the real environment in which the game is staged, often with the view to improving audience immersion by making sure the narrative content resonates well with the physical context. While this genre has existed for over a decade, it is only within the last few years that it has become available to general audiences through the ubiquity of GPS-enabled smartphones. This chapter presents a survey of state of the art techniques in locative games that are concerned with the development of narratives that balance the integration in the unchangeable real world with giving users satisfying interactivity. We analyze four recent titles and their associated storyworlds: Parallel Kingdom by PerBlue, Shadow Cities by Grey Area, Ingress by Niantic Labs and our own platform Haunted Planet. The titles are deconstructed in terms of their story, aesthetics and mechanics with a particular focus on how aesthetics and mechanics are used in service of storyworlds and narrative, as well as the power afforded to players in shaping the story. The chapter concludes with a perspective on the types of narratives that can be expressed in location-based gaming and their general characteristics compared to other digital media.
Content may be subject to copyright.
14 Everting the Holodeck
Games and Storytelling in Physical Space
Mads Haahr
Janet Murray’s proposal of the Holodeck as an immersive environment for
interactive digital storytelling (Murray, 1997) has served as a guiding meta-
phor for researchers in interactive digital narrative since it was proposed.
At present, a sizeable portion of the entertainment industry is in agreement
with the vision of highly immersive virtual environments as a powerful
medium for storytelling, and recent AAA titles such as Heavy Rain (2010),
L. A. Noire (2011) and The Last of Us (2013) can be seen as serious experi-
ments in this vein. In terms of platform support, Virtual Reality (VR) ideas
developed in the 1990s are making a comeback in the form of new head-
mounted displays, such as Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus, only this time
with support of large industry players like Sony and Facebook. These inter-
faces, if adopted at the mass scale that their backers are hoping for, are likely
to further enhance the use of virtual environments for digital storytelling.
VR may be happening for real this time, made possible by powerful min-
iaturised graphics processing units, lightweight high-resolution displays and
small responsive motion sensors, none of which existed (or were prohibi-
tively expensive if they did) in the 1990s, but which have been developed
for the growing smartphone market. Interestingly, the same technologies are
also being adopted for a type of storytelling more aligned with the mobile
platform for which they were primarily developed: location-based, or loca-
tive, storytelling. Where the predominant vision of the immersive interactive
digital storytelling environment situates the audience ‘inside’ a simulation,
there is also work going on in which the narrative elements are being placed
‘in the physical space’ that the audience happens to inhabit. This work is
highly aligned with Mark Weiser’s famous vision of ubiquitous comput-
ing, which he characterised as the opposite of VR because the technology is
brought out into the real world through device sentience and mobility rather
than the user being brought into the virtual world (Weiser, 1991).
In this chapter, we explore the current state of interactive digital nar-
rative practice that relates to physical space. We think of such works as
everted holodecks, a series of Weiser-esque attempts to turn VR not on its
head but inside out. Rather than inserting the audience into an interactive
212 Mads Haahr
story simulation, such works construct a story that relates in one way or
another to the physical world inhabited by the audience, typically by super-
imposing or mixing narrative elements on top of or into a real-world envi-
ronment. Determining location is of course of great importance for such
works—indeed so important that the term rst proposed to describe them
and related works was locative media. While locative media projects are
not necessarily concerned with narrative, the canon that was established
in the early and mid 2000s has been inuential for later projects. The term
locative media was rst used by Karlis Kalnins (Albert, 2004) to describe
a test-category of work that originated in the now-defunct Locative Media
Lab. Albert also offers the following description:
Locative media art at its best enhances locative literacy. The ability to
read, write, communicate is vital for any person needing to act, take
power, to have agency. An awareness of how ows and layers of infor-
mation intersect with and augment a person’s locality, and the ability
to intervene on this level is a further extension of this literacy, and of
their agency.
(Albert, 2004)
Seminal works from the early and mid 2000s were primarily art projects
and research projects; they were experimental systems that drew attention
to and helped express spatial relationships. Many were performance-driven
and some also intended to be hackable, i.e., allowing modication by the
participants. Some developed their story through player engagement with
high-activity game mechanics, while others were concerned with a slower
story-driven development. In the former category, Blast Theory’s Uncle Roy
All Around You (2003) used a ctional character and the players’ quest
to nd him to explore how game mechanics (e.g., puzzle-solving, time-
constrained navigation) could be used to link a virtual gameworld with a
real, urban environment. In the latter category, history-focused projects, such
as Media Portrait of the Liberties (Nisi et al., 2008) and Riot! 1831 (Reid,
2008) explored how media fragments could be situated in locations that
were of historical relevance to the story material, while REXplorer (Ballagas
et al., 2008) and Viking Ghost Hunt (Carrigy et al., 2010; Paterson et al.,
2010) did the same for game activities.
The widespread adoption of GPS-enabled smartphones that began in the
late 2000s allowed locative media to transition from short-lived art and
media experiments or pure performance pieces to become a mass medium.
Hence, while locative media have existed for well over a decade, it is only
within the last few years that they have become available to general audi-
ences. A number of works have been put forward, some of which are
concerned with storytelling and some of which have received respectable
participant numbers.1 The analysis presented here focuses on four inuen-
tial projects that feature an approach to interactive storytelling in which
Everting the Holodeck 213
geolocation mechanics play a crucial role: Parallel Kingdom (2008), Shadow
Cities (2010), our own platform Haunted Planet (2012) and nally Ingress
(2013). The titles are deconstructed to show how game mechanics and sto-
ryworld, and to a lesser extent aesthetics, are used in the service of narrative.
The chapter concludes with a perspective on the types of narratives that can
be expressed in location-based games and their general characteristics com-
pared to other digital media.
Parallel Kingdom by Wisconsin-based game studio PerBlue is a loca-
tion-based smartphone massively multi-player online role-playing game
(MMORPG) in which the gameworld is overlaid on top of the real world.
The gameworld is fantasy-themed and features a range of game charac-
ters and opponents typical of classic role-playing game (RPG) titles. Parallel
Kingdom uses GPS to detect the player’s real-world location; and when the
game starts, their avatar is placed in the corresponding location in the game-
world. The game contains three core movement mechanics, one of which is
hard, requiring physical movement in the real world, and two of which are
soft, allowing movement in the gameworld without real-world movement.2
When a Parallel Kingdom player has had their location sampled using
GPS, the game positions their avatars within a circle of mobility (around
400m radius, see Figure 14.1) from the sampling point. The game allows
them to move their avatar around this area simply by tapping on their
screen, i.e., without having to move physically. We call this the soft micro-
movement mechanic. The player can relocate their circle of mobility in a
number of different ways, for example by physically moving to a new real-
world location and taking a new GPS reading. We call this the hard mac-
romovement mechanic. Other options also exist for relocating the circle of
mobility without physical movement, such as walking the dog, in which
the game relocates the circle of mobility to a random unexplored area, or
by being invited by another player to travel virtually to their location. We
call such movement mechanics soft macromovement mechanics. One of the
rst tasks that a new player encounters is that of mastering these nonspatial
modes of transport.
In addition to these movement mechanics, Parallel Kingdom contains a
series of typical MMORPG mechanics, such as monster combat, levelling
up, resource gathering, and crafting of game objects, as well as competitive
and cooperative multiplayer interaction. There is a strong territorial aspect
to Parallel Kingdom, and many of the game objects constructed by play-
ers (e.g., ags and houses) serve a territorial purpose. The player chooses
where in the world to place such game objects (and most of them remain
in these locations afterwards), and while they serve a territorial function
(e.g., are worth conquering), they are not strongly linked with the real
214 Mads Haahr
world. Their virtual location is not linked in any intrinsic/extrinsic way to
the actual location—other than the player’s choice in positioning—and the
real-world location’s atmospheric and historical qualities are of no conse-
quence to the game, except through direct player knowledge—and perhaps,
for players with a shared context, also a shared meaning.
Parallel Kingdom adopts a typical MMORPG narrative structure, with
the notable difference that it does not propose a main storyline and leaves
players the freedom to construct their own narratives (narratives of their
characters and those of friends and enemies of their characters) through
RPG game mechanics. Characters can be developed using a customisation
system and their abilities advanced through the game’s levelling mechanic.
The main game activities include resource gathering, combat and other ter-
ritorial mechanics: Players may embark on adventures with friends, conquer
nearby lands, tame the wilderness and establish new cities. The absence of
a series of quests forming a main storyline—an otherwise common trait
for MMORPGs—highlights the freeform nature of Parallel Kingdom.
Rather than a grand structured narrative arc, it offers a narrative sandbox
Figure 14.1 Parallel Kingdom’s Circle of Mobility and a Region-Specic Game
Object (Screenshots by Mads Haahr).
(a) (b)
Everting the Holodeck 215
environment in which players can shape their characters’ stories through
play. The game’s locative aspect remains at the level of game mechanics
(movement and territory) and never directly transcends into the narrative
domain. Despite the fact that the gameworld’s foundation happens to be the
real world, the two worlds are not guaranteed to meet in any narratively
cohesive manner—unless players decide to do so by creating game objects
of their own that are tied to the physical world.
3. SHADOW CITIES (2010–2013)
Like Pa ra ll e l K i ng d om , S h ad ow C i ti es by Helsinki-based game studio Grey
Area Labs is a location-based MMORPG that uses the real world as its game-
world, and similarly, it is a territorial game where players are shown in real-
time and battle for control over different geographical areas. Differently from
Pa ra l le l K in gd om , Shadow Cities divides its player community into two oppos-
ing factions, the Architects and the Animators, and territorial battles take place
between those two. While the gameworld in Shadow Cities contains spells and
magic, its gameworld and aesthetics are distinctly modern, almost futuristic in
style. Even the way the spells are cast, through gestures (called runes) drawn
with a nger on the touch screen, are modern and sleek compared to Parallel
Kingdom’s more traditional button-based User Interface (UI).
On the game mechanics in Shadow Cities, the game’s lead designer
Markus Montola states: “The basic game mechanics are about casting spells,
killing enemies, gathering [Experience Points] XP, completing missions,
ghting other players, so forth, but what makes it special is that everything
is done on a map” (Montola, 2012). The company’s CEO, Ville Vesterinen,
adds: “Shadow Cities is rather literal when it comes to location. Every game
object maps to one exact location in the real world. Every player is in one
exact location” (Vesterinen, 2012). Shadow Cities includes a hard as well as
a soft movement mechanic. Using the hard movement mechanic, the player
can change their avatar’s location in the gameworld through physical travel
in the real world. The soft movement mechanic is implemented through the
existence of game objects called beacons, which allow players to travel to
other parts of the gameworld without moving physically.
Shadow Cities is essentially social, as it is intended to be played with
friends exploring and conquering nearby (algorithmically generated) neigh-
bourhoods. To facilitate this, the game contains social features, such as
chat and friending. Like in Parallel Kingdom, these functions enable the
soft movement mechanic, but the strong social aspects of Shadow Cities are
also in good accord with the territorial game mechanics. Ville Vesterinen
observes, “cities and neighbourhoods evoke strong emotions” (Vesterinen,
2012), meaning that emotional investment that players have in their home
locality helps amplify the emotional investment in the territorial mechanic.
The result is a sociolocative game mechanic.
216 Mads Haahr
In terms of story, the conict between the Architects and the Animators
is cast as being a battle of mythic proportions, an eternal struggle that nei-
ther side will win. “Hundreds of years ago, an ancient now long-forgotten
force pulls through our world. This alternative reality has now returned,
using technology as the gateway” (Montola, 2012). Game creatures are
inspired by Norse mythology and carry names like Fenrir and Valkyries.
This mythological backstory functions as a framing device within which
players’ individual stories can be constructed. In addition, it is location that
plays an important role as a catalyst for people’s imagination about their
game actions. If a player’s actions take place in an area that is of particular
signicance to them (even if they are not there physically), then the actions
will take on special signicance for them too, be more memorable and hence
serve as more important components of emergent stories. Figure 14.2 shows
screenshots of play in culturally signicant places in Paris and New York.
The designers of Shadow Cities also observed a considerable amount of
emergent play (Juul, 2005), such as the kind described by Markus Montola
at GDC in 2012:
We dont need to put stuff on the map in order for [th e players] to nd
it, for instance here the players are in the Forbidden City in Beijing, they
organised these treasure hunts—here they are in the Arc de Triomphe
in Paris [Figure 14.2], or Pearl Harbor, or Area 51. Players go into these
places, they organise their own competitions, they organise scavenger
hunts or whatever, they write fanc [Fan Fiction] based on what we
do, they write fanc about gathering in Area 51 and going there and
doing stuff. The powerful resource we have here is that we have a
coherent world, everything in the game is supporting the same ction
because this is not a game, it is your magic device where you draw
runes and you cast spells, so everything you have in the real world,
you can appropriate into the game. If you have a cool piece of local
folklore, you can enter it into the ction, if you have a mage meet-up
cruise you can make that a game event.
(Montola, 2012)
The emergent behaviours observed are evidence of player creativity and
evidence of the game’s success as a platform for player’s to construct their
own events and narratives. Anecdotes recounted by Vesterinen (2012)
include a protest outside Grey Area Labs when an unpopular change had
been made during a game update, and a no-war zone (i.e., no ghting
between the two factions) at Ground Zero in New York during a 9/11
anniversary (see Figure14.2b) in which players constructed skyward
beams of light similar to those used in a real-world memorial installa-
tion. In this fashion, Shadow Cities retains the grassroots feel of the rst
locative media projects in that it supports emergent play, even if it is not
directly hackable.
Everting the Holodeck 217
The Haunted Planet games are a series of smartphone-based location-based
games by Dublin-based game developer Haunted Planet Studios for which
the author serves as CEO and Creative Director. In the Haunted Planet
games, the player takes on the role of paranormal investigator, explor-
ing a real-world area for paranormal activity, encountering ghosts and
other supernatural entities, documenting their existence with photos and
audio recordings and ultimately solving a mystery. In terms of genre, they
fall within the categories of “locally staged treasure hunts” (Montola et
al.,2009, pp.32–34) and “urban adventure games” (Montola et al., 2009,
pp.42–44). We think of the games as an attempt to reinvent traditional
Gothic storytelling using modern technology and draw upon many Gothic
narrative techniques, such as “pretension to veracity,“fragmented nar-
ratives, “heavy historical trappings” and the “disturbing return of pasts
upon presents” (Botting, 2001). Our analysis will focus on two games, Bram
Stoker’s Vampires (2012), which is a heavily Gothic game based on the novel
Dracula, and The Amazing Transfabulator (2013), which is a lighter, more
whimsical time travel adventure loosely inspired by the works of Jules Verne.
Each game has a site-specic mode and a random mode. In the
site-specic mode, the game is played in a particular location where the
Figure 14.2 Shadow Cities at Champs-Élysées in Paris and Ground Zero in New
York (Copyright Grey Area Labs).
218 Mads Haahr
encounter locations are chosen by the game designers to resonate with the
story and through site atmosphere and/or history. In site-specic mode,
Bram Stoker’s Vampires is set in Trinity College, Dublin in Ireland where
Bram Stoker (the author of Dracula) was a student (1864–1870). Founded
by Queen Elizabeth in 1592, the College is rich in history and its old build-
ings provide a powerful backdrop to the game experience, in particular its
augmented reality view of the gameworld. In this mode, the player searches
the College grounds for characters related to the famous novel Dracula,
which have mysteriously appeared in the author’s old stomping grounds.
In site-specic mode, The Amazing Transfabulator is set in the Victorian
precinct of Oamaru, New Zealand, the historical buildings of which form
a similarly powerful backdrop in terms of its aesthetics and history. In this
game, the player searches for members of a Victorian time-travel expedi-
tion whose time machine (the transfabulator) has malfunctioned, leaving
them stranded in interdimensional limbo. In the random mode, each game
can stage itself to where the player happens to be, and in this congura-
tion it is suitable for playing in a park or another open area anywhere in
the world.
While the two games have different subject matter, they employ identical
game mechanics. Each game turns the player’s smartphone into a paranor-
mal detection device, through which she/he interacts with the gameworld
and the physical environment. The game has four different gameplay modes
(Adams, 2009) that enable the game mechanics. The map (Figure 14.3)
shows the general area in which the game takes place but does not show the
individual encounter locations. The paranormal radar (Figure 14.4) works
like a ship’s radar, showing the player in the centre and showing relative
distance to nearby encounters. Together, these two modes facilitate a search/
navigation mechanic in which the player explores his/her physical environ-
ment in order to get close to an encounter. The search/navigation mechanic is
a hard movement mechanic; there is no in-game travel that does not involve
the player traversing the physical space in which the game is staged. When
the player gets close to an encounter, layers of audio build up (Paterson et
al., 2013) and the ghost view (camera) mode can be activated, allowing the
player to engage with the scan/capture mechanic in order to see and photo-
graph the game entity (Figure 14.5). A successful capture enters the photo
into the game’s casebook where additional visual detail is revealed (a good
photo results in more visual detail) and also unlocks a snippet of character
backstory ( Figure14.6). The Haunted Planet games do not contain territo-
rial of competitive mechanics; instead they are heavily focused on solving the
The two games differ slightly in their approach to narrative structure. Bram
Stoker’s Vampires uses a parallel inclusive structure for the rst three encoun-
ters (the three vampire sisters from Stoker’s novel) followed by ve sequential
encounters (four with Count Dracula and one with the ghost of Bram Stoker).
The Amazing Transfabulator uses a purely parallel inclusive structure for the
Everting the Holodeck 219
rst six time travellers followed by a nal encounter with the eccentric profes-
sor who has created the time machine. Through exploring the environment
and unlocking the characters’ visuals and backstory, the player constructs the
narrative in her/his mind. In comparison to Pa ra ll el K in gd om and Shadow
Cities, the Haunted Planet games are discrete story experiences, strongly
curated and allowing for little story development by the players themselves.
Figure 14.3 Bram Stoker’s Vampires (2012) Map Mode (Copyright Haunted
Planet Studios).
Figure 14.4 Bram Stoker’s Vampires (2012) Radar Mode (Copyright Haunted
Planet Studios).
220 Mads Haahr
Ingress is developed by Google game studio Niantic Labs and shares many sim-
ilarities with Shadow Cities. Similarly, Ingress is a location-based MMORPG
in which players take part in a grand struggle between two factions. Ingress’
backstory states that Earth has been seeded with Exotic Matter (XM) by an
Figure 14.6 Bram Stoker’s Vampires (2012) Casebook Mode (Copyright Haunted
Planet Studios).
Figure 14.5 Bram Stoker’s Vampires (2012) Ghost View Mode (Copyright
Haunted Planet Studios).
Everting the Holodeck 221
alien race called the Shapers. Little is known about the Shapers, but they serve
to divide the player base in two based on human beliefs about them: Players
belonging to the Enlightened faction believe the Shapers are benevolent, while
players belonging to the Resistance believe they are malevolent. Players choose
their faction when they begin, but other than providing allegiance to a faction,
the choice has little consequence for the gameplay. It is mainly a social decision.
Ingress employs conventional RPG mechanics, such as resource gathering
and levelling. The gameplay is centred on the conquest and maintenance of
portals (Figure 14.7a), gameworld representations of real-world landmarks
of historical or architectural value, such as a public art or historical buildings.
The main game resource is XM, which is gathered by walking and can be
expended to hack the portals in order to obtain game items ( Figure14.7a),
which in turn are used to capture and protect portals from the opposing fac-
tion. Game actions, such as hacking enemy portals, is rewarded with Action
Points (APs), which trigger the player’s level progression. The game contains
a clever balancing mechanic in that APs are rewarded for hacking enemy
portals, but not friendly ones, meaning that players who nd themselves in a
region in which their faction is in the minority are likely to level up faster than
players from the opposing faction in the same region.
Figure 14.7 Ingress (2013) Resource Gathering and Portal View (Screenshot by
Mads Haahr).
222 Mads Haahr
The visuals in Ingress (see Figure 14.7a) are similar to those of Shadow
Cities, showing the gameworld as a 3D stylised map view of the player’s
vicinity. Portals appear as glowing bonre-shaped game objects that are
colour-coded to indicate ownership (grey is neutral, blue is resistance, green
is enlightened). XM is shown as small glowing dots scattered across the map.
Similarly to the beacons in Shadow Cities, control of portals in a particu-
lar area is of territorial signicance. While portals do not allow virtual travel
in the gameworld, players can use friendly portals to create control elds by
linking three portals to form a triangular shape across the gameworld. The
larger the control eld, the greater its effect on the total score for the faction
that created it. Figure 14.8 shows a control eld created over Ireland by the
Resistance on 26 January 2014.
Similarly to Parallel Kingdom, Ingress overlays the gameworld on top of
the real world and creates a circular area around the player’s game location
within which they can affect the game state. (See Figure 14.7a.) In contrast,
however, Ingress contains no soft movement mechanics and always requires
the player to travel physically in order to move this circle of inuence. In
fact, Ingress does not allow any game actions to be performed if it is not
able to acquire the player’s precise location. Travelling is also encouraged
since it is required to gather XM.
In contrast with most MMORPGs, Ingress contains little in terms of
crafting/creation mechanics. The developers chose public art to represent
portals because it was safe and accessible (Badger, 2013), and they allow
players to suggest landmarks as potential new portals by taking photos of
Figure 14.8 Ingress (2013) Resistance Control Field over Ireland (Screenshot by
Mads Haahr).
Everting the Holodeck 223
candidate landmarks and submitting them through the game. While Badger
states that “the player community helps build out the game board” (Badger,
2013) in this fashion, the players have no inuence over whether their portal
proposals are eventually adopted, and even the submission of photos has the
feel of an extra-game activity rather than an in-game action.
Ingress has a highly engaged player community with events in which
players gather to hack portals and exchange knowledge and game objects,
and like Shadow Cities, the community has also produced fan ction. The
social experience of play was an important design consideration for the
developers. Like the other MMORPGs that were discussed in this chapter,
Ingress contains an in-app geo chat to help members of each faction coor-
dinate their efforts; and to create the highest-level portal, a total of eight
high-level players must collaborate, resulting in social coordination of game
activity as well as social play. Badger explains:
If you interview players, it’s those social connections that add the most
fun to the game. So it’s not just about shooting your weapons …,
it’s really about your friends, it’s about that walk you take with your
(Badger, 2013)
The developers also arrange agent meetups, local events in which players
from the two factions compete to control a number of specic portals at
specied points in time.
While Shadow Cities contained a complex mythical backstory, Ingress
adopts a complex science ction universe. The backstory is developed
through multiple channels, which in addition to the game app includes
an online intel map that gives a global view of the game state and an
investigation board containing redacted CIA documents and other mate-
rial. In addition, weekly ve-minute news broadcast called Ingress Report
is transmitted to players as game objects. The report contains material
authored by the game developers as well as material sourced from the
player community in the form of stories about player exploits and feats.
This shows players what other groups are doing and helps motivate them
to one-up it.
Our analysis of the four titles has revealed some of the different aspects in
which location-based mobile games allow the players’ physical environments
to help tell stories, and it discusses the game mechanics involved. The partic-
ular mechanics associated with locative-narrative gaming vary signicantly
between works. While they always involve a hard movement mechanic, a soft
movement mechanic is also sometimes offered. Additional game mechanics
224 Mads Haahr
can involve exploration, capture, chase, collection and territorial conquest,
and there is often (but not always) a social aspect to their use.
In terms of structure, the way the narrative experience is constructed by
the games can be classied using a dichotomy. The majority of games (all
except the Haunted Planet games) took a sandbox approach to narrative,
offering a context absent of any inherent plot progression, and in several
instances cast as a never-ending struggle. In these games, the narrative is
best characterised as a frame within which players can develop their own
stories as a way to remember certain events. Markus Montola, Jaakko
Stenros and Annika Waern characterise this as a rst person story (Montola
et al., 2009, pp. 151–152). The other category contains the Haunted Planet
games, which took an auteur approach, offering a highly structured (albeit
nonlinear) narrative progression that the players explore through the game
mechanics. While the players create their own photos through the game
experience, it is more akin to following a story trail than creating stories of
one’s own. The unstructured-structured dichotomy can be compared to the
narrative difference between sandbox games like The Sims and quest-based
RPGs like Neverwinter Nights.
A second consideration is the way in which the different experiences map
the gameworld and the real world to each other. The approach taken by
Ingress is perhaps the clearest example of this: The gameworld is attached to
the real world through notable features in the urban environment. Farman
denes such urban mark-up as follows:
The various ways that narrative gets attached to specic places in a
city. Urban mark-up can be done through durable inscriptions (like
words carved into the stone façade of a building or statue) or through
ephemeral inscriptions (ranging from banners and billboards to graf-
ti and stickers).
(Farman, 2013, p. 3)
While Ingress allows players to submit their local urban mark-up for pos-
sible inclusion as a portal, the decision relies with the game developer and
is essentially curated. Even more curated are, of course, the Haunted Planet
games in site-specic mode, since the urban mark-up to which they are
attached is xed and no new mark-up is added to the game once it has been
published. In comparison, Parallel Kingdom and Shadow Cities essentially
offer uncurated mapping between the gameworld and the real world. In
these titles, it is up to the players to decide which structures to place on
the game map to represent the features of the real world that they feel are
signicant. Regardless, whether we are concerned with a curated or uncu-
rated mapping, the act of performing the mapping is of course in service of
the story—and vice versa. As Farman writes, “[t]he meaning of a story is
affected by the place in which the story is told and, similarly, the meaning of
a place tends to be told through stories” (Farman, 2013, p. 8).
Everting the Holodeck 225
The two considerations—general narrative approach (structured/
unstructured) vs. gameworld/real-world mapping (curated/uncurated)—are
shown in Table 14.1. In addition to the prior discussion, we have placed the
Haunted Planet games in random mode in the uncurated section, because
the encounter locations in this mode are chosen neither by the game devel-
oper nor the players (other than by virtue of their choosing the general
location of play).
Table 14.1 Narrative approach (columns) and gameworld/real-world
Unstructured/Sandbox Structured/Auteur
mapping Ingress Haunted Planet Games in
Site-Specic Mode
mapping Parallel Kingdom
Shadow Cities Haunted Planet Games in
Random Mode
We have analysed fo ur signicant works in the area of location-based mobile
gaming and found that the majority employ unstructured, sandbox-style
narrative environments. As the analyses of Shadow Cities and Ingress have
shown, it is clear that considerable audience engagement can be obtained
by staging an experience in a neighbourhood that people feel invested in,
and there also exists a small body of fanc constructed on the basis of such
play—a clear, if tentative, sign of the games being deployed as story plat-
forms. The Haunted Planet games are in the minority with their auteur-
driven, curated approach and serve as a counterpoint to the main trend. Both
narrative approaches can be found in earlier (nonlocative) interactive media,
but the linking of the gameworld and the real world is unique to the locative
medium. As pioneers in locative media observed, this linking is ultimately
about control—for us, the curative control of the real/virtual mapping.
Fortunately, many simultaneous mappings are possible. As Farman writes:
What mobile media storytelling projects demonstrate … is that some-
one can be staring at a mobile device and be more deeply connected to
the space and to others in that space than other people might perceive.
Storytelling with mobile media takes the stories of a place and attaches
them to that place, offering an almost innite number of stories that
can be layered onto a single site.
(Farman, 2013, p. 6)
Where the holodeck (even as an abstraction) promises to create a perfect,
brilliant canvas to carry your story, the everted holodeck promises to create
(or let you create) a perfect, brilliant story to attach to your canvas. While
the realisation of the holodeck might be about to take a big step forward,
there is still important work to do in turning it inside out.
226 Mads Haahr
1. Ingress is reported to have had at least 500,000 players (Dalenbert, 2013).
2. The term hard in relation to physical location is borrowed from Vesterinen
(2012) who discusses hard location in the context of Shadow Cities.
Adams, E. (2009) Fundamentals of Game Design. (2nd ed). Peachpit.
Albert, S. (2004) Locative literacy. In Mute, vol 1, no. 28, Summer/Autumn 2004.
Badger, B. (2013) Ingress: Design principles behind Google’s Massively Multiplayer
Geo Game. In Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2013. Independent Game
Ballagas, R., Kuntze, A., and Walz, S. P. (2008) Gaming Tourism: Lessons from
Evaluating REXplorer, a Pervasive Game for Tourists. In Pervasive Computing
2008, LNCS vol. 5013, Springer, pp. 244–261.
Botting, F. (2001) Gothic. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
Carrigy, T., Naliuka, K., Paterson, N., and Haahr, M. (2010) Design and evaluation
of player experience of a location-based mobile game. In Proceedings of the
6th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI 2010).
Reykjavik, pp. 92–101.
Farman, J. (2013) The Mobile Story: Narrative Practices with Locative Technologies.
Juul, J. (2005) Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds.
Cambridge: MIT Press.
Montola, M., Stenros, J., and Waern, A. (2009) Pervasive Games: Theory and Design.
Burlington, MA: Morgan Kauffman.
Montola, M. (2012) Shadow cities and the future of location-based games. In
Smartphone and Tablet Game Summit, GDC 2012.
Murray, J. H. (1997) Hamlet on the Holodeck. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Nisi, V., Oakley, I., and Haahr, M. (2008) Location-aware multimedia stories: turn-
ing spaces into places. In Proceedings of ARTECH Conference. pp. 72–93.
Paterson, N., Naliuka, K., Jensen, S. K., Carrigy, T., Haahr, M., and Conway, F.
(2010) Design, implementation and evaluation of audio for a location based aug-
mented reality game. In Proceedings of ACM Fun and Games 2010. Leuven, pp.
Paterson, N., Kearney, G., Naliuka, K., Carrigy, T., Haahr, M., Conway, F. (2013)
Viking ghost hunt: Creating engaging sound design for location-aware applica-
tions. International Journal of Arts and Technology 6(1), pp. 61–82, inderscience.
Reid, J. (2008) Design for coincidence: Incorporating real-world artefacts in
location-based games. In Proc. of ACM DIMEA, ACM Press.
Vesterinen, V. (2012) Secret sauce for location based games: Learnings from shadow
cities. In GDC Europe, Cologne.
Weiser, M. (1991) The computer for the 21st century. Scientic American. 265(3).
pp. 94–104.
... In turn, "gameplay" arises from the game mechanics and the players' interaction with them. For locative games, there is a distinct set of game mechanics known to work well, for example territorial mechanics (related to controlling physical territory) and resource gathering (involving physical movement) as well as collection, levelling and training mechanics (e.g., as known from Pokémon GO and Ingress) [15]. Such mechanics help create a complex gameworld with complex challenges, which in turn extend the duration of the play experience. ...
Full-text available
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This half-day workshop is concerned with location-based AR games for cultural heritage. We explore location-based game mechanics and narrative structural techniques suitable for cultural heritage sites, as well as approaches to visuals and audio that can help create a feeling of immersion into the cultural content without losing a sense of presence in the cultural space. The workshop includes an introduction to, and hands-on tutorial with, the latest version of the Haunted Planet authoring tool, which allows such experiences to be created without programming skills. The workshop is intended to be of general interest, but is expected to be of particular interest to researchers and professionals from the cultural heritage industry and researchers in serious games for learning.
Full-text available
In this paper, we present and describe the sound design and audio evaluation of Viking Ghost Hunt, a location-aware game based around important historical locations in Dublin, Ireland. We describe the novel approach taken in developing an engaging soundscape for location-aware games in mobile multimedia devices that highlight the importance of spatial audio and reverberation in the subjective sensation of engagement with the game. In particular, we present how the level difference and temporal separation between the direct sound of the sound object, the early reflections and the diffuse reverberant field influence this engagement. Results obtained from this investigation in regards to reverberation and engagement may therefore inform future location-aware sound designs.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In this paper, the development and implementation of a rich sound design, reminiscent of console gaming for a location aware game, Viking Ghost Hunt (VGH) is presented. The role of audio was assessed with particular attention to the effect on immersion and emotional engagement. Because immersion also involves the interaction and the creation of presence (the feeling of being in a particular place) these aspects of the sound design were also investigated. Evaluation of the game was undertaken over a three-day period with the participation of 19 subjects. The results gained imply that audio plays an important role in immersing a player within the game space and in emotionally engaging with the virtual world. However, challenges in regards to GPS inaccuracy and unpredictability remain, as well as device processor constraints, in order to create an accurate audio sound field and for the real-time rendering of audio files.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper reports on the design and evaluation of player experience of a Location-Based Mobile Game set in Dublin, Ireland in which players act as paranormal investigators hunting for ghosts and gathering evidence of paranormal activity. The paper focuses on players' experience of engagement and immersion, which was evaluated through a qualitative user study undertaken over a three-day period with the participation of 19 subjects. We first discuss the concept of immersion in gaming and then review related work before presenting the design and implementation of our prototype and the results of our user study. The results show that the experience succeeds in creating a high level of immersion at several stages in the game and that this immersion can be influenced by several factors including usability, control, modes of interaction, aesthetics, flow and, perhaps most significantly, choice of location.
Conference Paper
As location based games move players out of the house and onto the streets the experience of game play radically changes. Game designers have the opportunity to incorporate artifacts, elements and events that might naturally occur in the real world into the game play so that a particular place becomes more meaningful. This paper explores the relevance of place and the idea of "design for coincidence". Design for coincidence is illustrated through case studies and a number of example games that show how this approach has been effective in location based games.