I’ve just noticed that the Wikipedia page for “pervasive game” redirects to the page for “location-based game,” though I don’t believe the two are congruent. Location-based games leverage the player’s presence at a specific location in some way, while pervasive games don’t necessarily need to.
Humans vs. Zombies, for instance — in which college students hunt each other around a campus — takes place in the physical world around the players, without being dependent on particular locations. One could imagine a host of other gameplay possibilities that leverage mechanics that depend on interactions with other players or with categories of objects or locations (“coffee shops,” for instance) rather than interactions with particular locations (“the Starbucks at 2nd and Market”).
With that in mind, what’s the best definition for a class of games we could call “pervasive”? Here’s my current thinking:
A pervasive game is a game that takes place in the physical world, concurrently with the normal activities of players’ everyday lives.
Let’s pick that apart a little:
- a game that takes place in the physical world
- a game that takes place concurrently with the normal activities of players’ everyday lives
In the graduate studies course on the history and techniques of games that I’ve been teaching, I have my students create a prose Exquisite Corpse as part of our unit on parlor games. (We are also talking about participatory storytelling around this time.) This involves one person writing the beginning of a story at the top of a sheet of paper, then folding the page so that only the last line is visible. The page is passed to the next person, who writes the next part of the story and folds the page so that only the last line is visible, etc.
What I love about this particular story is that the last installment is the classic Exquisite Corpse ending — and was written (in huge block letters) by someone who had never helped write an Exquisite Corpse before. Here it is in all its glory, with passages from one person to the next marked by “/”
I came to work on Tuesday and looked out to see a sea of shining faces, all eager to learn. But when I asked them for their homework / they chose to instead turn it in late, causing a ruckus of epic proportions. / The two dogs continued to fight until one ripped the head off the other. / So thinking he had won, he strolled down the street but fell down a hole. / Even after waking up at the bottom of the inescapable hole, the LSD had yet to wear off. / Disturbed by the enduring effects of the neurotoxins, Mickey jumped in his riverboat and rushed downriver to find a doctor. Trying to conceal his distress, he started whistling a tune. / It was an old military song. His father used to sing it every night. But despite the old good memories, it still brought back the terrible details of his death. / To top it off, he found out his father was the pope and he had a hand in the hoax of the lunar landing. / Where they had a drink and then the pope killed him. / The pope was arrested and no one knew what to do. How can you send the pope to prison for murder? / And could it even be called murder? Although there was much confusion, many claimed it was self-defense and he had no other choice. / So he should just tun away or call the police. However, he doesn’t do anything. / EVERYONE EXPLODES AND EVERYTHING DIES.