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Pervasive AR mobile games encourage players to experience the “real” world

Digital Technologies
01 Sep 2020
Pervasive AR mobile games encourage players to experience the “real” world

In two journal articles, Dr. Woods discusses the effects of pervasive, augmented-reality mobile games on the ways in which players of these games navigate public space. In particular, his two papers explore how playing Pokémon Go nudged players to do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do and to engage with other players in ways they wouldn’t ordinarily engage with them — by forming collaborative teams with players they did not necessarily “know” and by going to places they might otherwise never visit, for example. His works show how playing Pokémon Go can cause other mundane public spaces to be reimagined in “heterotopic” (or different/other) terms, and how digital connectivity can create an interpretative layer that mediates the experience of tourism.

Together, these papers contribute towards understanding how digital cultures become increasingly embedded within everyday life, shaping it in both positive and negative ways. On the positive side, “pervasive augmented-reality mobile games encourage players to navigate and experience the “real” world, rather than withdraw from it,” states Dr. Woods. “They also foster real-life and in-person friendships through collaborative forms of play. In many respects, digital augmentation also makes the real world more interesting.” On the downside, he notes that they are “a source of constant distraction, as games are no longer played at home, or from a fixed location, but anywhere and everywhere. Also, they encourage the idea of “gamification” to be extended beyond games per se, and to include things like shopping, mobility, and even relationships as well.”

Many of the ideas in these papers were first mooted with students of Dr. Woods’ “Digital Cultures” class in SMU, some of whom were interviewed as part of this project.

Woods, O. (2019) Gamifying place, reimagining publicness: the heterotopic inscriptions of Pokémon Go’, Media, Culture & Society, DOI: 10.1177/0163443719890528

Woods, O. (2020) Experiencing the unfamiliar through mobile gameplay: Pokémon Go as augmented tourism, Area, DOI: 10.1111/area.12633.