We tell stories - real or imaginary - in order to add meaning and create a sense of place in the world. Large-scale, real-world games, aka Big Games, capture the magic of shared fiction by engaging players in an interactive narrative across time and space using mobile communication and location technologies. A Big Game might involve transforming a city into a giant board game, hundreds of players roaming the streets looking for invisible treasure, or a TV show built on real-time audience interactions. Kevin Slavin takes us on an entertaining tour of today's Big Games, the technology behind them, and what lies ahead in the future of big play.
Big Games are games with computers in them, rather than computers with games in them, explains Slavin. Cell phones, messaging, wifi, GPS, and semicode (barcode recognition via a phone cam) connect players in a giant social network. Game rules and clues are worked right into the landscape. Slavin highlights several humorous stories and activities in Big Game space. Along with other measures of popularity, he notes a satisfying sign of success: people care enough about the games to figure out how to cheat.
Orchestrating the logistics for Big Game events such as Pac Manhattan (a city-sized version of the popular Pacman video game) or ConQwest (a recent multi-city search game) can be a challenge. Games may depend on multiple network services which can and do go down. A lot of manpower is needed for testing codes, charging gadgets, and coordinating activities in multiple cities. Slavin sees potential to spin Big Games in new directions, and on different scales such as more persistent, pervasive play. The next generation of games will include even more location-based services, cross media integration with TV, and use of more subtle location cues.
Progress often begins with play, Savin concludes. Imaginative application of new location technologies will serve the ultimate goal of Big Games: bigger lies, told better.
Kevin Slavin is the Managing Director and co-Founder of area/code, the New York-based big games developer. He has worked in corporate communications for technology-based clients for 13 years, including IBM, Compaq, Dell, TiVo, Time/Warner Cable, Microsoft, Wild Tangent, and Qwest Wireless.
For over five years, Kevin was the Vice President, Digital Markets, at SS+K in New York, which is partially owned by the Hollywood talent agency CAA (Creative Artists Agency). Previously, he served in similar roles at Chiat/Day and at DDB, where he was Creative Director for the New York office of DDB's digital division.
Slavin has lectured at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and the Parsons school of design, and has written for various publications on games and game culture. His work has received honors from the AIGA, the One Show, the Art Directors Club, and the Clios, and he has exhibited internationally, including the Frankfurt Museum fuer Moderne Kunst.
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