Monday, 21 June 2010

Come Out & Play

A prediction for you - in the next year we're going to see a steady trickle of brands organising pervasive games. A quick definition of pervasive gaming, courtesy of Fabien Girardin:

Location-based games that surround you, 24 hours a day, everywhere. When you walk down the street, you're walking through an adventure world draped on top of the real world. Pervasive games are built upon three core technologies: mobile devices, wireless communication, and sensing technologies that capture players’ contexts. It is the blend of technologies combined with the location-based and often public nature of game play, gives pervasive games their distinctive identity.

This kind of thing has been around for years, but limited to a niche of tech-heads and hardcore gaming enthusiasts.

Some great examples of pervasive games can be found at New York's recent Come Out and Play Festival. Nokia's Game which ran for six or so years is perhaps the best known foray by a brand into this territory, Nike's The Grid was a recent low tech way of turning London into a games board for the brand to play on.

The growth of location based social networking apps such as Four Square has opened a whole spectrum of new street based gaming opportunities to a far wider audience. There are number of things that suggest this growing audience will embrace pervasive gaming and that brands will be keen to facilitate them.

1) I recently saw games developer Paulina Bozek talk at Honda's Dream Factory, she worked on the development of Singstar and commented that its success was driven by the inclusion of two microphones. Games are more fun when played together and this is fundamental to pervasive gaming.

2) Connecting to strangers is something many of us are increasingly comfortable with; Generation Y do it instinctively. Trendwatching recently asked: with online going mobile, why stay inside? The relationships we build online are more and more being transferred into the real world.

3) We enjoy breaking down the boundary between life and play. People's desire to become mayor of their local cafe on Four Square is testament of this.

Far from gatecrashing a grassroots trend, brands presumably have a useful role to play in pervasive gaming. Brands are perfectly placed to create the information infrastructure that can be layered onto daily life via mobile devices. What's more, a brand's physical presence can be activated within games, providing a clever way of drawing people to stores or to other face-to-face experiences.

Many brands have found themselves with large online fan bases, but these audiences only stay around if they are entertained or informed. Pervasive games are an opportunity to activate that audience and turn an online relationship into deeper real world one.

Brands are finding the blurred boundary between physical and digital experiences to be a great place to be. Pervasive gaming seems to offer them yet more opportunities in this space.