Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Broadening Our Definition of Gaming: Big Games

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Broadening Our Definition of Gaming: Big Games

Article excerpt

Hot Books is a game that aims to bring life to libraries by making library patrons engage with and create relationships to books they might never imagined existed.... By locating the game in a brick and mortar library, the game utilizes the organic, physical site of the library, thereby making the opportunity to play the game special, and yet, ironically, artificially makes the library into a special arena.--Nick Reid (1)

One model that redefines gaming is the "big game," which can be considered the exact opposite of a videogame. Or maybe it's really just making the world into a giant, real-life videogame. Either way, big games may be an even better fit for libraries than videogames because we already have many of the resources necessary to run them.

Big games are becoming big enough (no pun intended) that there are now several companies whose primary business it is to create them for interested organizations and events. One such company, area/code, defines big games as "large-scale, real-world games" that "might involve transforming an entire city into the world's largest board game, or hundreds of players scouring the streets looking for invisible treasure, or a TV show reaching out to interact with real-time audiences nationwide." (2) The company even publishes on its Web site a manifesto that further defines these types of games.

   Big Games are large-scale, multiplayer games that
   include some form of real-world interaction.

   Big Games point towards a future in which
   socially aware networks, smart objects, location
   sensing and mobile computing open up new
   ways for people to play.

   Big Games use technology, but are not subservient
   to it. Big Games are made out of people,
   connections, ideas, situations, and events. Big
   Games have computers inside of them, not the
   other way around.

   Big Games create a conscious confusion
   between the real and the imaginary, between
   ideas and objects, between information and
   space. Instead of the simulated worlds of computer
   games, Big Games transform the physical
   space around us into a shared gameworld,
   brought to life by the choices, actions, and experiences
   of the players.

   Big Games encourage a playful use of public
   space. They have their roots in the neighborhood
   games of childhood; in the campus-wide
   games and stunts of college; in the nerd-culture
   of live-action role playing and Civil War reenactments;
   in the art-culture of Happenings
   and Situationism; in urban skateparks, paintball
   fields and anywhere people gather together to
   play in large numbers and large spaces.

   Big Games are games, not academic exercises,
   not tech demos. They must be easy to
   understand but deep enough to encourage
   thoughtful play. They must have challenges and
   rewards. They must run the gamut from purely
   abstract formal systems to richly rendered narrative
   experiences. They must connect people to
   people whether they are strangers, rivals or old

   Big Games are human-powered software for
   cities, life-size collaborative hallucinations, and
   serious fun. (3)

Depending on the format and genre, you may also see them referred to as pervasive games, Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), Live Action Role Playing games (LARPs), or location-based games. The most famous example of a big game is probably I Love Bees, which was an alternate reality game for the videogame Halo 2 on the Xbox console. Commissioned by Microsoft and Bungie Studios and created by a company called 42 Entertainment, this stealth marketing campaign was meant to engage garners already familiar with the first Halo game outside of the small screen. In one culminating moment of the game, players had to coordinate with each other to find thousands of ringing payphones across the country in order to answer a set of questions, which unlocked the next set of clues. …

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