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Pervasive Games: Theory and Design (Morgan Kaufmann Game Design Books) [Paperback]

Markus Montola , Jaakko Stenros , Annika Waern
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 12, 2009 0123748534 978-0123748539 0
Quickly emerging from the fast-paced growth of mobile communications and wireless technologies, pervasive games take gaming away from the computer screen and back to the three-dimensional world. Now games can be designed to be played in public spaces like shopping malls, conferences, museums and other non-traditional game venues. Game designers need to understand how to use the world as a gamespace-and both the challenges and advantages of doing so.

This book shows how to change the face of play-who plays, when and where they play and what that play means to all involved. The authors explore aspects of pervasive games that concern game designers: what makes these games compelling, what makes them possible today and how they are made. For game researchers, it provides a solid theoretical, philosophical and aesthetic understanding of the genre.

Pervasive Games covers everything from theory and design to history and marketing.

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Editorial Reviews


"This book is the definitive guide to the past, present, and future of stories and games that jump out of their cages and into your real life. Whether it's characters that call you on the phone or game play that happens on the bus on your way to work, this kind of immersive entertainment will define the culture of the next century as surely as the movies dominated the last one.” -Sean Stewart, Chief Creative, Fourth Wall Studios, and author of the cross-media international bestseller, Cathy's Book

"Standing at the intersection of games, design and theory, the authors of Pervasive Games: Theory and Design, bring fresh air into game studies with this look at the field of ubiquitous play. Deeply connected to critical game studies, and filled with design case studies, this book is an excellent source for those involved in the design, study or play of pervasive games.” -Tracy Fullerton, Associate Professor, USC School of Cinematic Arts and Author of Game Design Workshop

About the Author

Markus Montola (M.Soc.Sc.) is a grant researcher in the University of Tampere Gamelab research group and a doctoral candidate in Literature and the Arts. Before being given a three-year dissertation grant by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, he worked as a project researcher and manager in the Gamelab, since the year 2004. His dissertation work discusses various forms of role-playing and pervasive gaming. He has already edited two books on role-playing with Jaakko Stenros (Playground Worlds, 2008, and Beyond Role and Play, 2004) and works in the board of the upcoming International Journal on Role-Playing. He has published about a dozen book chapters and conference papers on Pervasive Games and is a known expert on the topic of pervasive games. The most significant award given to Markus Montola is the three-year research grant from the Finnish Cultural Foundation: Only 1-2 are given to each broad field annually.
Stenros is currently a researcher at the Game Reserch Lab at the University of Tampere. Stenros is one of the key people in the Nordic role-playing movement. He has written extensively on role-playing games, both in and out of academia, has edited two books with Markus Montola on role-playing games and has published numerous papers and reports on pervasive games. Before returning to academia in 2006 Stenros made a career as a trainer and customer support manager in data security company F-Secure. Stenros has the unique combination of skills required to tackle the cultural contexts that pervasive games tap into: Having worked as a journalist and a critic he has an extensive understanding of popular culture; his background in sociology helps ground the observations, and his understanding of the unique Nordic live action role-playing scene has been instrumental in approaching pervasive games.

Product Details

  • Series: Morgan Kaufmann Game Design Books
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: CRC Press (June 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0123748534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0123748539
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,034,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Catalog of Pervasive Games! September 30, 2009
The first time I saw this book, it was in manuscript form on the laptop of one of the editors, next to whom I was sitting as a bus brought us to the airport from the a conference on live action roleplaying. I was immediately taken with the project: an attempt to catalog the variety of instances in which game-play has spilled out beyond the special "magic circle" of the gaming table, playground, or sports field and into "real life": live-action Pac-Man on the streets of Manhattan, Killer on college campuses, even races on reality television.

The finished product comprises 13 case studies describing a different sort of "pervasive game." Each case study is accompanied by a longer analytic essay, moving from the descriptive (what are pervasive games and where do they come from?) through the technical (how are pervasive games designed, run, and played?) to the philosophical (what are the ethical implications and aesthetic ramifications of pervasive games?). In order to make sense of the sprawling breadth of material that they have collected, the editors have divided the chapters into three parts, labeled "Theory," "Design," and "Society." More importantly, they provide an analytic framework based on the idea that pervasive games are best understood as extending play spatially, temporally, or socially. In other words, pervasive games are those in which the game somehow intersects with or infringes upon ordinary life. "Pervasive games," say the editors, "can take the pleasure of the game to ordinary life," and the "immediacy and tangibility of ordinary life to the game."

In spatial extension, the playing field is overlaid upon regular spaces: the whole world is the playground.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive work on pervasive games July 6, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had the pleasure of pre-reading this book in draft before it came out. Seeing its final version, I was nevertheless amazed. The primary authors, along with the 15 other contributors, have created by far the best published work on pervasive games. It draws the material from around the world, ranging from global ARGs to reality TV and small Nordic larps, as well as studies conducted on those and more. Furthermore, it creates a seamless merger of it all, being able to confidently discuss pervasive games as a phenomenon, not a bunch of events organized by isolated cliques. It is holistic, yet attentive to minute detail.

The topics range from history to the ethics of involving unaware people in play. Nearly half of the book is nevertheless dedicated to design concerns, making it an invaluable tool to anyone developing or researching pervasive games (or ARGs, or larps, for that matter). As this is done in the context of examples - some of them successes, others clear failures - it is easy to pick useful ideas from those presented. I would have liked a few more case examples on some topics, such as the problem of people entering and leaving such games mid-way, but I presume this was simply not feasible due to a page limit. And I can but applaud the authors' decision not to do everything by themselves, meaning that some case examples and sections on things like marketing and art-games are written by experts in those particular subjects.

This book is something one may agree or disagree with, but never ignore, if one works in the field of pervasive games in any fashion. Both the designer and the game studies professional in me find it immensely valuable. It is also a damn enjoyable read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wide subject, many voices September 1, 2009
I've let this book simmer for a while. I'm not a big reader anymore; that is, I read a lot, but in the fragmented and impatient way I've been taught by the internet. Reading through several hundred pages in one go isn't for me, these days, if it ever was.

So I've attacked the book from several angles. Jumping into one chapter, checking out a reference to another, occasionally googling interesting games or reading up on the book's official blog. And, luckily for me, the book lends itself well to this form of reading. The text is full of interesting tidbits, fun and strange ideas that provide inspiration and matter for reflection. Jumping back and forth through the chapters also highlights a specific feature of the book: There are many voices, many situated authors, many discernibly different agendas*. These multiple frames of reference make for a multifaceted view of the pervasive games phenomenon.

While creators of pervasive games are often good at hyping their own games, making it sound like they've changed the lives of everyone involved and are on the verge of creating a social revolution, the editors let the projects speak for themselves; they describe the games objectively, cite research and questionnaire responses, and let the reader make up his/her own mind as to the quality and effects of the game. This is refreshing and relaxing after reading so many hyped-up articles about different pervasive projects. It also makes reading chapters like "Art and Politics of Pervasive Games" more rewarding; having facts** contrasted with vision and opinion make both parts stand out more clearly.

All in all, this is a brilliant book both for laymen, designers and researchers. I recommend it heartily, and remain a fan-boy.
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