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Playful and Playable Locations: Rethinking Pokémon GO and Ingress

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Playful and Playable Locations: Rethinking Pokémon GO and Ingress

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The following talk was presented at the public seminar series 'Media@Sydney', October 14, The University of Sydney, Australia

The following talk was presented at the public seminar series 'Media@Sydney', October 14, The University of Sydney, Australia

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Playful and Playable Locations: Rethinking Pokémon GO and Ingress

  1. 1. The University of Sydney Page 1 Playful and Playable Locations Rethinking Pokémon GO and Ingress Kyle Moore PhD Candidate, Department of Media and Communications Twitter: @kylejmoore
  2. 2. The University of Sydney Page 2 What is Pokémon Go?
  3. 3. The University of Sydney Page 3 User Engagement Over Time Source: Kawa and Katz (2016)
  4. 4. The University of Sydney Page 4 Foundations of Location-Based Gaming – Older games involved checking in or broadcasting of location – Mobile interface, and using material environment as the site of play – ‘Pervasive Game’ as dominant early discourse – ‘Blurring’ of boundaries between play and non-play – Smartphones with GPS and location-aware capabilities changes landscape – Introduction of ‘augmented reality’ in last few years
  5. 5. The University of Sydney Page 5 Informed by On Going Doctoral Research – Doctoral research, an ethnography of Sydney- based Ingress players – Ingress, also developed by Niantic Labs, while still a subsidiary of Google – Team-based Resistance vs Enlightened – Research explores the sociocultural and material circumstance underscoring urban play
  6. 6. The University of Sydney Page 6 ‘Situated Play’ – The notion that all play is underscored by socio-cultural and material circumstance – Draws from HCI ‘situated actions’ (Suchman, 1987; 2007) – ‘Situated Gaming’ – Yates and Littleton (1999); gaming within ‘cultural niches’ – Apperley (2010); tensions between local and global and embodied players within this space – See also Chess (2014) for Ingress as regional and global
  7. 7. The University of Sydney Page 7 Location, Location, Location Representing, Interacting, and Playing with Location,
  8. 8. The University of Sydney Page 8 Representing Location: Maps
  9. 9. The University of Sydney Page 9 Representing Location: Portals and Pokestops
  10. 10. The University of Sydney Page 10 Capturing Location Vs Capturing Pokémon – Each game presents a different mode of engaging with ‘location’ – Based around ‘capture’ – To capture and link locations vs capturing Pokémon – Pokémon location based on ‘biomes’ – location is variable, software-sorted, and subject to updates – Portal locations user- generated submissions approved via submission criteria and process
  11. 11. The University of Sydney Page 11 Software-Sorting Location – Ingress Portals are user generated – roughly 3,500 in Sydney and 200 on Sydney University alone – Data set of Portals subject to algorithmic filtering based on interaction and use – Filtered Portal data base becomes PokéStops and Gym Locations – Each hold specific value in regards to resource management and extraction – See Graham (2005) for software-sorting
  12. 12. The University of Sydney Page 12 Portals and PokéStops: Location as Resource Management – Portals and PokéStops act primarily as a mode of resource extraction – ‘Spin’ PokéStops to gain items Pokémon Go – ‘Hack’ Portals to gain items in Ingress – Locations gain in-game value based on these elements – strategic and sociocultural value is not fixed, and subject to ongoing negotiations
  13. 13. The University of Sydney Page 13 Pokémon Gyms and PokéCoins – Gyms and portals can be ‘captured’ – ownership alters value of location – Subject to change e.g. team based territories which become implicated in larger social gaming practices – Gyms as a form of in- game revenue – can gain one PokéCoin per Pokémon present at gym once per day.
  14. 14. The University of Sydney Page 14 Producing Location Immaterial Labour of Ingress impacting how we understand Pokemon Go and value of location
  15. 15. The University of Sydney Page 15 Crowdsourcing Portals – With PokéStops as algorithmically filtered Ingress Portals – the production of Portals becomes important to understand Pokémon Go – Portals are submitted via users – confirm location, submit photo – Portal criteria from Niantic Labs: – A Location with a cool story, a place in history of educational value – A cool piece of art of unique architecture – A Hidden gem or hyper-local spot – Public libraries – Public places of worship – Cartographic practices of users are a form of immaterial labour, mapping for Google and Niantic – Data sets of locations as valuable – as evident by the release of Pokémon Go
  16. 16. The University of Sydney Page 16 ‘Cultural Heritage’ and Location – Criteria of Portals works towards an idea of ‘cultural heritage’ – Location-based gaming grounded in a perceived authorship of what constitutes as culture – Sites of historic or cultural importance become legitimised and further valued via process of incorporation into game – Portal criteria and user submission present a form of crowdsourced knowledge regarding ‘culture’ of location – E.g. University of Sydney portal images portray a history and focus on educational function of buildings – Portraying specific functionality and tensions between use of location
  17. 17. The University of Sydney Page 17 The Cultural Value of Locations
  18. 18. The University of Sydney Page 18 Contested Histories – Alternative histories and forms of cultural heritage may be told via street art (Moore, 2015a; Stark, 2016). – Sites of contentious history, subject to colonisation, preference specific landmarks and ignore traditional landowners, – e.g. Monuments to traditional landowners at Opera House ignored, as are indigenous street art in favour of game-focused murals in Glebe – In game locations are not valuable as in game and playable objects, but present a playful mode of engaging with a cultural heritage. – To read these locations critically, as produced via immaterial labour is to challenge further legitimising specific modes of reading place
  19. 19. The University of Sydney Page 19 Curating and Editing Location – With the success of Pokémon Go, there is more chances to ‘edit’ the representation of these locations – Photo comps around recent global event, Anomaly – Removing PokéStops from Sydney parks based on council and resident co- operation and contacting Niantic – There are implications here for who ‘owns’ and manages these spaces then – ‘Public’ spaces digital overlays owned and operated by proprietary companies
  20. 20. The University of Sydney Page 20 Labour and Leisure – To play Ingress and Pokemon Go is to engage with forms of play as a mode of labour (playbour) – Early communities as ‘valuable’ in re-thinking modes of engaging with the urban, foundation for further re-reading of city spaces – As such, we need to think critically about who has the time and means to engage in such practices
  21. 21. The University of Sydney Page 21 The Politics of Public Play Play can no longer be thought of frivolous, outside the everyday, but rather as tied up with the politics of everyday public space
  22. 22. The University of Sydney Page 22 Everyday Mobility – Moving through public space – safety as a concern – Those who are able to move freely – fluid work schedules – Those who work in ‘portal dense’ areas – regular meet ups in CBD areas – Built environment density, access to transport, etc all contribute to uneven power distributions within community – Being critical of ‘the urban’ in urban play
  23. 23. The University of Sydney Page 23 Survey of Player Demographics Winegarner (2015) surveyed 1,250 Ingress players via Facebook, G+, in game communication, and regional/local hangouts
  24. 24. The University of Sydney Page 24 Everyday Locations and Routines – No specific ‘marginalisation’ occurred during fieldwork – ‘Outside’ life, e.g. everyday social and domestic responsibilities come into play – Portals at playgrounds – intersection of children’s free play and parents desire to play Ingress – ‘Walkies’ missions to incorporate daily routine of dog walking in to play
  25. 25. The University of Sydney Page 25 ‘Walkies’ Missions in inner west Socio-Cultural Functions of Location – In performing everyday routines alongside play, in- game locations take on and reflect broader socio- cultural functions of space and place – Parks as place of public leisure, for child and also animal play – mapped to become grounds for digital play – Function of parks based on broader socio-economic boundaries of ‘suburbs’
  26. 26. The University of Sydney Page 26 Socio-Cultural Functions of Location – Suburbs, regions, and modes of engaging with structures surrounding place and space – E.g. CBD lunch time gatherings as reflection of greater mobility and built environment density – Inner suburbs leisure revolving around access to adequate transport – Outer suburbs spread, inaccessible, located in traditional spaces of play e.g. parks
  27. 27. The University of Sydney Page 27 Examining Clusters – Clusters of portals often submitted around socio- cultural points of meeting – Cafes, bars as primary sites of gathering – With Ingress – focus on stillness and staying in one location – With Pokémon Go – focus on proximity to Stops, but fluid to engage with variable location of hidden Pokémon
  28. 28. The University of Sydney Page 28 Problems of ‘Clusters’ – Broader implications of ‘leisure’ and space – a park is for play – but mobile mediated play – to the extent it has been enacted becomes problematic – Modes of engaging with public space – sitting still vs wandering around – Public space vs commercial space of the game – tensions emerge around appropriate use and function of space made visible by excess use
  29. 29. The University of Sydney Page 29 Farms, Fracks, and Lures – Clusters also have specific economic functions – Resource management intersects with socio-cultural functions of space – Attention has been given to in-app purchasing for Pokémon Go – Lures: lure Pokémon to location – Fracks: multiplies resources extracted – Farms: social gathering with purpose of resource extraction and trade
  30. 30. The University of Sydney Page 30 Pay to Play, Pay to Stay – Farms – specific socio- economic practice dealing with everyday routines and functions of space – e.g. in CBD for city workers – Fracks and lures, in application purchases – Rather than moving through space, exchange of currency for resources and ability to ‘sit still’
  31. 31. The University of Sydney Page 31 Socio-Economic Value of Locations
  32. 32. The University of Sydney Page 32 Conclusion: Playful and Playable Locations – Locations are simultaneously playful and playable – Playful, in the sense that they we playfully engage with locations – location as linked to fluid construction of space and place – it is ‘at play’ and fluid – Playable, in that they become encoded into the game process, becoming objects of socio-economic function towards the game’s goal – Playful and playable are subject to broader socio-cultural and material circumstance that constitute ‘the urban’ – However, our incorporation via play, as a practice, results in new means of understanding the urban and the conditions that produce it.
  33. 33. The University of Sydney Page 33 References – Apperley, T. (2010). Gaming Rhythms: Play and Counterplay from the Situated to the Global. Amsterdam: Institute of network cultures. – Chess, S. (2014). Augmented regionalism: Ingress as geomediated gaming narrative. Information, Communication & Society, 17(9), 1105–1117. – Graham, S. D. N. (2005). Software-sorted geographies. Progress in Human Geography, 29(5), 562–580. – Katz, L., & Kawa, L. (2016, August 22). The three charts that show that Pokemon Go is in decline. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/pokemon-go-is-in-decline--these-charts- tell-the-story-20160822-gqyo61.html – Moore, K. (2015a). Painting the Town Blue and Green: Curating Street Art through Urban Mobile Gaming. M/C Journal, 18(4). Retrieved from http://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/1010 – Moore, K. (2015b). Playing With Portals: Rethinking Urban Play with Ingress. Analog Game Studies, 2(7). Retrieved from http://analoggamestudies.org/2015/11/playing-with-portals-rethinking-urban-play-with-ingress/ – Shaw, A. (2012). Do you identify as a gamer? Gender, race, sexuality, and gamer identity. New Media & Society, 14(1), 28–44. – Stark, E. (2016). Playful Places: Uncovering Hidden Heritage with Ingress. In M. Willson & T. Leaver (Eds.), Social, Casual and Mobile Games: The Changing Gaming Landscape. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. – Suchman, L. (2006). Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Actions (2 edition). Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. – Suchman, L. A. (1987). Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication. Cambridge University Press. – Winegarner, B. (2015, September 19). The 2015 Ingress demographic survey. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@beth_winegarner/the-2015-ingress-demographic-survey-6e7181790069#.oqensfmm8 – Yates, S. J., & Littleton, K. (1999). Understanding Computer GameCultures: A situated approach. Information, Communication & Society, 2(4), 566–583.

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