Monday, October 16

Mobile Games Superimpose Virtual Fun on the Real World

Here's my latest article, on National Geographic News, part of a series they'll be posting on "digital places":

A man calling himself Long John Silver sits in a New York City cafe, unsheathes his laptop, and checks the prices of spices at his location, known to him as Treasure Island.

During a break at the office, Silver wins a fierce battle against Blackbeard, who works downstairs on the fifth floor, and captures a load of gems.

This isn't someone's delusional world, but rather a hypothetical round of a new game called Plundr.

The swashbuckling adventure made its debut at the Come Out and Play street games festival held in New York City from September 22 to 24.

"Everyone loves pirates," said Kevin Slavin, co-founder of area/code, the company that created Plundr (related news: "Grim Life Cursed Real Pirates of Caribbean" [July 11, 2003]).

So the company took piratical inspiration for their latest game, which superimposes a world of raiding and trading on our everyday environment.

In Plundr, players move within a city as their computers track their movements. They trade goods or build up their arsenals to prepare for battles with other "pirates" cruising the city streets.

The roving role-playing game is an example of what have been dubbed mobile social games—games that use global positioning systems (GPS) and other location-based technologies to track players' movements within a fictional world layered on top of the real world.

Play Driving Demand

A variety of mobile social games have been developed for cell phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs), although only a handful so far have achieved wide popularity.

"This is really a nascent field, especially in the [United] States," Slavin said.


Photograph by Aaron Straup Cope


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