Mobile Phones

The personal interfaces, such as the mobile phone, are used to communicate the instructions for progress through both the physical space and the game narrative. The mobile messages (normally in the form of SMS) are communicated by the SCOOT Agents (fictional characters) and are always in narrative voice keeping the players ‘in game’ at all times. The personal devices are an important part of play in that they unite the place-based technologies with the domestic ones. It is SCOOTs intention to demonstrate the creative use of the mobile device that is usually only viewed as a consumer communication tool.

In a key point of departure form other mobile games or LBGs, I was not concerned with exploiting or experimenting with mobile services or technologies. Instead I was concerned with what I now refer to as the potential ‘thru-relationships’ afforded by interaction with and around mobile phones. This takes the focus away from the mobile device as novel and technical and instead treats it as a mere facilitator of interaction between people, places and artifacts. Due to the problematic factors associated with mobile phones such as access, costing models, interoperability, and the limited uptake of service applications like blue tooth or GPS, I decided to limit the technical use of mobile phones to SMS services.  This technical limitation came out of an explicit decision to design for maximum public access.  I wanted most of all to link everyday people to everyday places through everyday tools. As well as communication devices, mobile phones are considered as linking devices, able to facilitate new relationships through the use of the phone.  In the case of SCOOT, mobile phones create four significant ‘thru-relationships’…

-      They bridge the fictional world and the real world;

-      Create a shared experience between individuals;

-      Act as signifiers of exclusive membership to the SCOOT cultural code; and

-      Alter individual relationships to place.

The above images are used to illustrate how each of these four ‘thru-relationships’ occurred in the most recent instance of SCOOT in Melbourne. All four images illustrates how a single mobile device is shared by player groups. The second image demonstrates how two groups can identify each other by the way they are using the mobile devices in a similar way on-site. The woman in the blue top is not included in the shared experience, but is aware that the two groups surrounding her are engaged in an experience not familiar to or available to her as she is not a player member. This is a significant ‘thru-relationship’ created by mobile use in the SCOOT game, as it creates a visual connection between groups of players.  The mobile phone acted as a signifier, identifying the groups of people who were participating in the game.  In flagging participation in the game, mobile phones revealed membership to the SCOOT cultural code. This identification of shared exclusivity was central to imbuing the location with a collective narrative and hence the fostering a sense of community.

In the third image, a family group is interacting with a SCOOT game installation, namely ‘Pook’, that incorporates aspects of the place it sits in and the virtual narrative. ‘Pook’ is a players virtual book that has two touch screens, one with an animated story about the history of the library containing clues for solving the interactive game challenge on the second screen. Access to this installation is only possible via a password accessed via a mobile message sent by a SCOOT Agent and therefore exclusive to the players and a link between the real and fictional game worlds. The fourth images shows a group that has just completed the installation in image three, and a father and son group who have just encountered it. These two groups were observed discussing the installation, giving each other tips for solving the game challenge.

After completing any of the game challenges the player groups report the ‘intel’ (code) found back to the SCOOT Agents as instructed via SMS. The SCOOT system recognizes the completion code and sends them their next clue to find the next challenge. In a way, these installed game interfaces are an extension of the mobile interface motivating the groups to cooperate with each other.

The SMS text is interwoven with the content of the game narrative presented on the other interfaces of the next three categories. The history of the sites is also weaved throughout the game narrative. All of the historic and game content is integrated into game scripts that specify the pathways between interfaces for each game event.