There would be dancing, singing and bull-fighting. Nanning Vacations We watched a bit of bull-fighting being practised, or rather, people trying to Nanning Vacations persuade two water-buffalo to fight each other. The trouble is, water-buffalo tend to be placid, agreeable creatures. One old bull had obviously had years of experience at this annual fight; he lowered his horns obediently and charged at his opponent. Wasting no time, his opponent fled. Waree was due to visit her mother, who lived in a village twenty miles away and she agreed to let me go along too.
With the burgeoning of networked and ubiquitous technologies, there is a redefining of the ways that place and locality are experienced. Mobile, networked technologies not only transform how place in everyday life is understood, they also emphasize place as being more than just physical geographic location. More importantly, places are constructed by an ongoing accumulation of stories, memories and social practices (Massey 1993, 2005; Harvey 2001; Soja 1989). This is particularly the case within the realm of urban mobile gaming, which seeks to challenge everyday conventions and routines that shape the cityscape.
A decade on from the first generation of mobile games taking the form of high-tech, experimental performances through the likes of UK Blast Theory’s collaboration with Mixed Reality Lab, smartphones are heralding a ubiquity of location-based services (LBS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that effect and affect the narrations of place. These new media services are providing multiple cartographies for an experience of space in which the geographic and physical is overlaid with the electronic, emotional and social. With the pervasiveness of geomedia seeing a type of gamification through services like foursquare, which is an online mobile game where you can win prizes for visiting offline places, mobile gaming is seeing a new epoch in the ways in which it can transform the urban space. But with the democratization and gamification of geo-spatial services on mobile phones, how does this phenomenon revise the narration of place and locality? How do these types of media practice differ from the first generational experimental new media projects? This chapter contextualizes the rise of urban mobile gaming within broader conceptual approaches to the urban and to mapping a sense of place. The discussion concludes with a case study of second generation, or gamification, of LBS games in Shanghai, China to explore some of the socio-cultural factors at play.
Locating the Mobile: Conceptualizing approaches to mobile urban gaming
Once associated with casual flash-based games (2D graphics) on mobile phones or early generation mobile consoles such as Game & Watch or Game Boy, mobile games have now grown and developed into a variety of innovative game genres. These genres include urban (big games’), location-aware (LAMG)/location-based (LBMG) and hybrid reality games. For the purposes of clarity in this chapter, mobile games’ refers to all these different and diverse types of games and gaming practices. Moreover, while there has been development around rural mobile games that can be viewed as extensions of live action role-playing (LARP) traditions, this discussion focuses upon the urban in keeping with the context of this blog. Through advances in ubiquitous technologies, the rise of urban mobile games has been encouraged by ready access to geomobile applications that are available on most new mobile phones (third generation [3G] or mobile with internet’). The various types of geomobile software provide new ways of experiencing and defining the urban, thereby transforming the familiar and everyday into new and exciting possibilities of play (Jungnickel 2004; de Souza e Silva and Hjorth 2009), as well as rendering the mobile phone user into either a player or a game maker.