2005 | Federation Square, Melbourne

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“Public spaces are regulated through unwritten social codes where subtle rules, signs and symbols convey whom a particular space is for and what behaviour is permissible”. Means and Tims p39

“… where people are able to create shared experiences and play an active role in animating the space…. Co-production helps to counter the decline in trust in other peoples behaviour and to generate a sense of community efficacy…. Public Space works best where people are able to positively contribute to their everyday environments through their personal choice and actions.”
Means and Tims p70

“Virtual worlds are formed out of the residues of cultural life and are rather complexly involved in its production whilst at the same time breaking with established social norms, by developing distinct narrative and visual imagery”… “Virtual worlds provides for some level of compensatory function for what is lacking in users “real time””. (Webb p589)

What SCOOT Wants

  • The game wants to be fun, challenging excuse to meet others.
  • The game wants to transform the urban world into a field of play and the most basic mobile phone into a creative device for narrative adventures.
  • The game wants players to reconsider their creative potential.
  • The game wants players to become involved in the construction of reality through game design.

What SCOOT Can Do

  • connects various cultural sites through a shared experience
  • engages youth in a dynamically new type of interaction using digital communication networks
  • introduces the youth to the content, activities and services of the various cultural agencies and organizations
  • offers interfaces for collaborative content creation and distribution
  • reveals various creative ways to exploit the broadband network
  • provides infrastructures for ongoing communications and interactions between the site
  • and helps to develop both shared and specific priorities for and with the collaborating organisations

About This Event

We were attracted to these sites because of their existing cultural and creative qualities. The stakeholders of the sites had already set up ways of viewing cultural artefacts and creative production through linking works, artists, contexts, and stories as part of a curatorial act.  Furthermore, due to their role as cultural nodes, these sites evoke a creative, aesthetic, analytic and critical outlook, shaping peoples’ existing perceptions and shared discourses.  Along with these dynamics and the exposure of cultural artefacts, we were motivated by what appeared to be a lack of active cultural participation at the sites. Generally, visitors of the sites appeared to be audience members passively receiving cultural knowledge rather than actively responding to it as individuals or as groups.  This largely passive role of visitors was seen as a consequence of the perceived authoritative and walled nature of the institutions located at the sites. Fortunately, the stakeholders were very willing and motivated to break out of this institutional mould to alter peoples’ perceptions of the sites and facilitate active cultural participation.

Design Motivation

The design team were committed to creating an experience that made the sites, their artefacts and the potential knowledge more accessible. More importantly we aspired to provide multiple ‘excuses’ for people to meet and interact immediately and directly at the many points of interest already authentic and familiar to the sites as well as installing unique SCOOT interactions as part of a uniting activity across the sites.

To do so, we realised that we would need to provide a different story and motivate new behaviours in order for the visitors to re-imagine their identity in that space and hence their relationships to the people, artefacts and places; as Latham is quoted in [6], “to encounter the world around the self in an active, creative way is central to the selfs ability to recognise and care about the places it inhabits and the people encountered within those places”.

Main components of the game event.

Participants engage with the SCOOT system, each other and the cultural sites in 4 major ways;
1.    in the virtual world interactions (characters, games and chat),
2.    the real world SMS communications (narrative and orientation),
3.    clues in the existing artifacts and services in the sites (history, aesthetics, puzzles, etc)
4.    interactive installations (networked games, story animations, creative activities etc)

The most significant potential of SCOOT is its capacity to increase the social discourse through and in cultural settings. Interactions can be designed to motivate collaboration and competition between individuals and groups in a variety of ways. We have observed in previous events that groups are very keen to have a fun excuse to meet, discuss and compare their experiences. Sometimes the groups help each other with the challenges and other times they entertained themselves through trickery and subversion! The types of interactions vary across ages and interests… some participants reported to us that they really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the artworks with other participants and others took pleasure in explaining to non-participants, the workings and potentials of mobile gaming!

Relationships between players and site

The relationships between players called upon during SCOOT are varied:

  1. family
  2. friends
  3. familiar strangers that are sharing the SCOOT experience
  4. connected strangers that are authentic inhabits of the sites
  5. total strangers that are visitors to the site they would probably have no notion of a game being played. (interestingly, this is the identity the players would normally have with the site)

Other game based relationships to be considered for development:

This is informed by game design theory… but it is complicated by the fact that the game world is also the real world.

  • participant to world
  • participant to participant
  • participant to game
  • game to world
  • game to game
  • world to world

Through play we bend these relationships. Normally we don not enter into involved forms of communication or meaningful relationships of any kind with strangers. (Goffman)

We do so in a number of ways. A particularly salient identification is the lanyards all players wear during the event. This allows

  1. other players (strangers) can identify each other. This can be used to instigate communication and
  2. other strangers (visitors) in the site notice the lanyard and realise that there are multiple groups playing a game
  3. other strangers that inhabit the site to recognise who was playing a game

Even just in their behaviour the players express and communicate that they are involved in the game by the way they hold and look at their phones while they are concentrating on details in the site.

It is a critical to SCOOT that the players feel that they are labelled in a different way in the space to give them the confidence to alter their behaviour without drawing unwanted attention to themselves from security guards, gallery guides, cleaners etc. The lanyards are an important signifier to others in the site to ‘play along’ with strange behavior or to ignore it without comment. Either way the players enter into an unspoken agreement with others in the site that they have a special kind of agency in the site. Many players took advantage of their game IDs to engage in the space in a more dramatic way than they would ever normally afford themselves.

While planning for SCOOT in the museum spaces, I realised quite quickly how visitors regulate their own behaviours in such spaces as almost a performance of respect or simply a knowledge of the changed rules of engagement. Although for some players they may have required SCOOT to feel freedom from such behavioural limits, in most cases the expectations of behavior in the museums allowed a much loser control than one would expect.

It was also common that at nodes, strangers would feel comfortable chatting with eachother, using the game as a ‘ice breaker’. Often they would be helping each other or procuring information on clues they are yet to resolve. Some of the strangers that met during SCOOT 2 at CIP continue to have relationships. This is the benefit of playing in a place that has a semi-persistent community as students and staff are active in these environments for an average of 3 to four years.

The behaviours normally associated with being a ‘museum visitor’ are altered when the players now see themselves as ‘game players’. To varying degrees, the players bring behavior associated with game play into the real world.

Transforming  “museum mode” behavior into “game mode” behavior.