Layering with Games
Big Games are one way to use the physical world as a gameboard, layering the "game" with the "real."
Another common way for games into happen in space are called ARGs. Here's an ARG Quickstart Guide geared toward perspective players with answers to frequently asked questions about the genre. This Brief Introduction to ARGs is from more of a social media perspective. Educase has also developed this 7 Things You Should Know about ARGs guide for educators.
Serious and Educational ARGS
Although World Without Oil was a simulation that went on at a particular period in time and was not explicitly designed for formal education, the developers have included lesson plans that allow teachers and independent learners to use the media generated by players to engage in with the questions the games explored. Teachers are encourage to make the crisis real, just as a the original participants did, and produce their own in-game stories that can be sumitted to the World Without Oil archive.
The STEP Lab at MIT has been creating augmented reality games in colloboration with various youth groups since 2003. In Environmental Detectives, the first game they developed, students played the environmental engineer faced with a toxic spill on the MIT campus. Using location-aware pocket PCs, students "sampled" simulated data from all over campus, conducted interviews, and strategically used their time to indentify the source of the spill, decide how it should be handled, and prepared a debreifing presention with their findings. The STEP AR Toolkit is downloadable for free for educational and nonprofit purposes. It contains software for GPS-enabled Windows Mobile PDAs and a a Windows desktop AR Editor to create or modify AR game.
The "A" in ARG can stand for a couple of different things, and each has a different meanings and implications. These terms are in debate even among those who make or study these games professionally, but a good starting distinction might be that Alternate Reality Game, like World Without Oil, ask players to imagine that "this is not a game." They "realplay" instead of "roleplay," imagining that they are themselves living out a different reality. In Augmented Reality Games, like Environmental Detectives, the emphasis is on the simulated information that is used to supplement reality. Game data "augments" the physical world. Most of the time, the right term for the game is whatever the developers choose to call it, which can give insight into the underlying ethos upon which they see the game depending.
Using ARGs explicitly for formal learning purposes can be very valuable, but also comes with a special set of considerations. In a report (PDF) by Dr Nicola Whitten at Manchester Metropolitan University on using ARGs as part of learning in college campuses, highlighted a number of ways in which ARGs education are necessarily different from ARGs for entertainment:
DIY Student ARGs
Playing ARGs can be a great way to practice the NMLs like play, networking, and collective intelligence, but in a participatory culture, students should pushed to design these kinds of games as well. As James Paul Gee writes in What Video Games have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy (2003), “active, critical learning should lead to learners becoming designers, either by physically designing extensions to the game or by cognitively extending the game design and using that to inform their play.”
Find Chesia, an ARG developed by a Frederick, MD library as part of a youth summer reading initiative, centered on helping a 12 year-old-girl find her parents who'd gone missing at an archeaological dig and was designed by 5 groups of middle schoolers. Although, according to his CNET article that profiled Find Chesia and other small-scale ARGs, Find Chesia encountered many structural problems, figuring out how to work these problems out was one of the most valuable aspects of the learning experience.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/35836355@N02/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The grassroots ARG group Akward Hug
In correspondence about the development for this guide, Eric Klopfer of the MIT STEP lab wrote:
A lot of ways our Augmented Reality games most closely resemble live-action roleplaying games (LARPs). So one can certainly create similar experiences with low tech. The technology adds some components that are important for schools and teachers. First, they allow the game to be run without the intervention of the teacher. So the technology manages the logistics in a number of ways that would be hard to do with LARPs. Second, they can structure certain kinds of interactions between players and support role play. The technology can provide distinctly different skills and information to the players and enforce them to stay within those constraints. It can also facilitate collaboration between roles by requiring "jigsawing' of information that would be easy to work around without technology. In a lot of our games we also provide quantitive scientific data that students can "sample" from using their location-aware devices (e.g. to take a sample of the air quality wherever they are standing). The data is fictional but based on real models. That kind of feature would be hard to implement without the technology. We also can provide them with rich media like audio and video that deepens the experience.Clearly, technology plays an important role in the development of an ARG, but students can author ARG-like experience that layer game information over the physical space or tell transmedia stories. Even without access to basic tech tools, students can make low-fi ARGs using paper, costumes, and their imagination. After studying the mechanics of ARGs, the traditional scavenger hunt can be made more complex when clues from a fictional or hypothetical world are layered over real geography and used to solve stimulated problems. In February 2009, Dean Groom started End of Web, and educational ARG project that includes in its list of lesson ideas a list questions indicating multimodal ways students might contribute to an ARG:
A bibliography of ARG resources by Zach Whalen.
A compilation of ARGs made for use in libraries, museums and schools.
New Media Literacies: Simulation, Performance, Play, Transmedia Navigation, Collective Intelligence