mobile game

Mentor: Zach Toups

Games are a set of rules that constrain action, to make action meaningful and playful. Mobile games are played on portable devices, anytime, anywhere. Such devices frequently feature communication capabilities, near-ubiquitous data access, and a variety of sensors (location, direction, camera, etc.).

In this project, the team will examine existing mobile games and literature on mobile games. They will construct a prototype game and test this prototype with users. They will construct a complex, creative, mobile digital game; they will evaluate and playtest the game with users; if possible, an experiment should be used. Participants will gain knowledge of a set of existing games and background in their chosen project; they will create game mechanics, interfaces, and understand games as systems; they will produce a game and playtest it, with the goal of producing publishable results.

expected benefits

  • learn to develop mobile applications; understand the unique design constraints of mobile devices and their benefits
  • understand advanced sensors; deal with uncertainty and reliability while interpreting values from the device
  • learn about game design, including existing designs, creating game mechanics that enable play

design constraints

  • must be a game: "a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome" [Salen and Zimmerman, Rules of Play, p80]
  • must make use of at least one sensor (camera, GPS, compass, etc.); note that this does not prevent the creation of a mobile web-based game, as the iPhone supports HTML 5 location requests

bonus objectives

  • game is mixed or augmented reality.
  • game includes a meaningful social component (multiplayer, incorporates social network, etc.)
  • game is serious (teaches the user, changes behavior, persuades them, etc.)
  • makes use of Interface Ecology Lab Support for Information Mapping in Programming Languages
  • resulting system is seamful

provided development platform

provided deployment platform

  • 3x iPhone mobile devices w/ data service
required reading
  • selections from Rules of Play (Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman) [electronic reserve]
    • 2. The Design Process (p11–21)
    • 3. Meaningful Play (p30–37)
    • 4. Design (p38–47)
    • 5. Systems (p48–55)
    • 6. Interactivity (p56–69)
    • 7. Defining Games (p70–83)
    • 8. Defining Digital Games (p84–91)
    • 9. The Magic Circle (p92–99)
    • 11. Defining Rules (p118–125)
    • 12. Rules on Three Levels (p126–139)
    • 13. The Rules of Digital Games (p140–149)
    • 22. Defining Play (p300–311)
  • Björk, S., Falk, J., Hansson, R., and Ljungstrand, P. Pirates! using the physical world as a game board. Proceedings Interact (2001).
  • Bell, M., Chalmers, M., Barkhuus, L., Hall, M., Sherwood, S., Tennent, P., Brown, B., Rowland, D., and Benford, S. Interweaving mobile games with everyday life. In CHI '06: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (New York, NY, USA, 2006), ACM, p417–426.
  • Barkhuus, L., Chalmers, M., Tennent, P., Hall, M., Bell, M., Sherwood, S., and Brown, B. Picking pockets on the lawn: The development of tactics and strategies in a mobile game. In Ubicomp '05: Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Tokyo, Japan, 2005), Springer, p358–374.
  • Montola, M. Exploring the edge of the magic circle: Defining pervasive games. In Proceedings of Digital Experience: Design, Aesthetics, Practice (2005).
  • Kjeldskov, J., and Graham, C. A review of mobileHCI research methods. In Proceedings of the 5th International Mobile HCI 2003 conference (Udine, Italy, 2003), Springer-Verlag: Berlin, p317–335.
recommended reading
special deliverables

Throughout your project you are encouraged to play a variety of games, both physical and digital. This activity will expose you to a variety of game mechanics and experiences, it will give you new ideas about games and play.

project-specific Analysis

Games are meaningful, structured play. While digital games enable a range of new play opportunities, physical games are the foundation. In designing digital games, it is essential to return to the source, which will teach you about game mechanics and social experiences. In this deliverable, you will develop a report about your team's play experience with a physical game.

The objective of this deliverable is to engage you in thinking about the foundations of game design, and develop a deep understanding of a single game design element.

  • Select and play a physical game (board, card, role-playing, sport, etc.; non-digital) with your team at least once (preferably multiple times). If you do not have access to any physical games, the lab and mentor have a collection from which you may briefly borrow games (and play nearby). The mentor's collection can be viewed on Boardgame Geek.
  • Consider the game design literature, select a game design element (such as constituent rules, connection/disconnection of game mechanics to fiction, positive/negative feedback loops) that came into play, and apply it to your experience.
  • Develop a report (in narrative, not outline, form) that addresses the following questions:
    1. Briefly, what are the rules of the game? What meaningful choices do players make?
    2. What elements of social interaction developed through play? For example, were you trading resources? If so, what factors impacted the decision?
    3. What information is available to each player? Did you need to keep information secret? How is the information represented in the game design?
    4. How was the selected game design element (above) implemented in the game you played?
    5. (Optional) Briefly, what other games implement the design element?

    The majority of the report should address the application of the game design element to the game you played. Your report should be 6–8 pages long (10pt, 1.5-spaced). Be thorough with your analysis, but concise. Photographs, diagrams, and other visual aids are expected, they will help you present your ideas coherently.

    Alternative versions of the analysis will be considered on a case-by-case basis. For example, applying a game design element across a variety of games or comparing and contrasting two games with similar, but different designs. If you are interested in undertaking an alternative, specify what you want to do early and obtain your mentor's permission!

Lightweight Prototype (addendum)
  • Your lightweight prototype must include game mechanics; it is insufficient to present only interface design.
Project Plan (addendum)
  • In your project plan, reflect on your game analysis and discuss it. Your project plan should address the following questions:
    1. How did what you learned from the game analysis inform your game design?
    2. What game design elements (from the literature) are you employing? Justify your decisions.
Research Notebook (addendum)
  • In your research notebook, you are encouraged to report on interesting gameplay experiences. How are these informing your design? What have you discovered about game mechanics and systems of rules?