Designing engaging experiences with location-based augmented reality games for urban tourism environments.
Authors: Weber, J.
Gameplay has recently unfolded as playfulness in various cultural forms using mobile technologies. The rapid affordability paired with the latest technology improvements enabled the diffusion of mobile devices among tourists, who are among the most avid users of mobile technologies. The advent of mobile devices has initiated a significant change in the way we perceive and connect with our environment and paved the way for location-based, mobile augmented reality (AR) games that provide new forms of experiences for travel and tourism. With the recent developments like Pokémon Go and a prediction of 420 million downloads per year by 2019, the mobile game market is one of the fastest growing fields in the sector.
Location-based AR games for mobile devices make use of players‟ physical location via the GPS sensor, accelerometer and compass to project virtual 2D and 3D objects with the build-in camera in real time onto the mobile game user interface (GUI) in order to facilitate gameplay activities. Players interact with the virtual and physical game world and overcome artificial challenges while moving around in the real environment. Where current mobile games withdraw players from reality, location-based AR games aim to engage players with the physical world by combining virtual and physical game mechanics in an enhanced way that increases the level of interactive educative and entertaining engagement. Despite some recent research on location-based AR games, game designers do not know much about how to address tourism requirements and the development of mediated playful experiences for urban tourism environments.
This study explores the use of location-based AR games to create engaging and meaningful experiences with the tourism urban environment by combining interdisciplinary research of social sciences, (mobile) game design and mobile game user research (mGUR) to contribute to experience design in the context of travel and tourism. Objectives of the study are to identify the influence of key game elements and contextual gameplay parameters on the individual game experience (GX). To achieve the aim, the study has taken a pragmatic interpretivist approach to understand the player‟s individual GX in an evolving gameplay process in order to inform location-based game design. The project explores the interaction between the player, the game and the tourism context, which is assessed by a sequential triangulation of qualitative mixed methods.
Two games were identified to be relevant for the tourism application that fulfilled the attributes of a location-based AR game. The first game is a role-playing adventure game, set in the time and place of the Cold War, called Berlin Wall 1989. The second game, Ingress, is a fictive, large area, massively multiplayer role-playing game that uses the real world as the battleground between two game fractions.
A conceptual framework has been developed that presents the player engagement process with location-based AR games in urban tourism environments. The findings of the study indicate that gameplay is a moment-by-moment experience that is influenced by multiple aspects. The creation of engaging experiences between players, the game and the tourism context is related to six identified engagement characteristics; emotional engagement, ludic engagement, narrative engagement, spatial engagement, social engagement and mixed reality engagement. The study identified that the main motivations of playing a location-based AR game are the exploration of and learning about the visited destination, curiosity about the new playful activity and socialising with other players. Emotions underlie the creation of engagement stimulated by the alteration of playful interactions. The findings revealed that storytelling and simple game mechanics such as walking, feedback and goal orientation are essential elements in the creation of engaging experiences. Augmented reality, as a feature to connect the real with the virtual world, needs to create real added value for the gameplay in order to be perceived as engaging for players. The study proposes serious location-based AR games as an alternative form for tourism interpretation and has showed opportunities to enhance the tourist experience through self-directed, physical and mental interaction between players, the environment and the location-based AR game.
The findings of the research illustrate the complexity of designing location-based game experiences. The developed conceptual framework can be used to inform future location-based AR game design for travel and tourism.