Pervasive Gaming

DMS Special Topics 434/515


Prof. J. R. Anstey                                                                   Office Hours:  T.Th 10-11,
Spring 2007                                                                                        and by appointment
TR 2-3:50                                                                                Office: 248a CFA

242 CFA                                                                                 e-mail:



Course Description:

 Pervasive Games blur the boundaries between fact and fiction; sprawling between media and non media, (websites, phones, emails, websites, location-based activities). They are hybrids that may include performance, treasure hunts, art installation, political activism, advertising. In this course we will STUDY pervasive games in order to PRODUCE a pervasive game of our own.

 In the first few weeks we will read academic texts about pervasive games, visit websites with documentation of pervasive games, and play games in order to get our creative juices flowing. However, the major class project will be to design and produce ONE pervasive game. To give our game structure and purpose we are going to make a game for UB Green, the environmental stewardship office of the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB). Erin Cala, of UB Green will give a presentation to the class about the UB Green mission, the class will create a game proposal(s) for her. She will return for a first evaluation of the proposals and then keep an on-going dialog during production with a further schedule of presentations and feedback.

 The game will have some location(s) and a duration (hrs) & small teams of players will sign up to play on game day. The game should illuminate UB Green messages/agendas, raise awareness etc. The Game will minimally have the following elements:

 1. A website - will go up several weeks before game day, give information about the game, be the place for players to sign up, AND be used to give players updates in real time during the game

2. Location-based elements - performance pieces, art objects

3. Mobile phone + camera interfaces - for players to get information from the website during the game and to send in visual documentation

 Students in the class will be divided into production teams responsible for various areas of the game and the game as a whole. Students are expected to perform their responsibilities to the team to the best of their abilities, and peer evaluations will be partly used in determining each student's individual grade. The game day will be towards the end of April - determining a good day will be part of this student-controlled process.


This Might Be a Game: Ubiquitous Play and Performance at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century (Dissertation in Progress), Jane McGonigal 

Jane McGonigal  "The Puppet Master Problem: Design for Real-World, Mission-Based Gaming." Second Person. Forthcoming from MIT Press, Fall 2006. Eds. Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin.

Jane McGonigal  "A Real Little Game: The Performance of Belief in Pervasive Play."  Digital Games Research Associaton (DiGRA) "Level Up" Conference Proceedings.  November 2003

 Jane McGonigal  "This Is Not a Game: Immersive Aesthetics & Collective Play." Digital Arts & Culture 2003 Conference Proceedings.  May 2003.

 Fabien Girardin, "Pervasive Game Development Today," March 2005,

 Mauricio Capra, Milena Radenkovic, Steve Benford, Leif Oppermann, Adam Drozd, Martin Flintham, The multimedia challenges raised by pervasive games, International Multimedia Conference, Proceedings of the 13th annual ACM international conference on Multimedia, Hilton, Singapore, Pages: 89 - 95 , 2005

 Mauricio Capra , Milena Radenkovic , Steve Benford , Leif Oppermann , Adam Drozd , Martin Flintham, Bridging the physical and digital in pervasive gaming, Communications of the ACM Volume 48 ,  Issue 3  (March 2005) SPECIAL ISSUE: The disappearing computer, Pages: 54 – 57, 2005

 WebSites and Games:

Avant Games

Blast Theory

Big Urban Game

The Go Game

Riot Gear for Rollarista

Come out and play -

Water Cooler Games

Grand Text Auto

Serious Games

The Ludologist

Game Girl Advance

Course Evaluation

Reading, Preparation & Participation: 35 points

 Assignment 1: 10 points: due Feb 1

Catalyzed by the ideas on the Come Out and Play Site, Students are required to present a short game idea to the class. Presentation of your game idea will be limited to 1 minute. The class will vote on the games they want to play, and we will play in class.

 Final Project: : 55 points

The Final Project is a Pervasive Game designed for UB Green. Students will work as a team and are responsible for:


Attendance for every class is mandatory barring serious emergency.  Each student is allowed two unexcused absences for whatever reason (e.g., illness, weather). If extenuating circumstances arise (e.g., serious medical problems, child care), please contact the instructor as soon as possible to address the situation. Barring emergency circumstances, each absence after two will drop lower the final grade by a full grade for each additional absence (i.e.,3 absences =  B→C).  Punctuality is also expected.  For the purposes of grading, three tardies will equal one unexcused absence. 

 Criteria for Incomplete Grade:

 It is the policy of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Media Study to grant incompletes for a semester only under extraordinary circumstances. Under any circumstances, incompletes will be granted only to students currently in good standing (i.e., regular attendance and passing completion of assignments).  Requests for a grade of incomplete need to be submitted in writing, and should include a rationale, documentation for the reason, and a proposed schedule for completion. 


 Plagiarism is literary theft and a betrayal of trust. The term is derived from the Latin word for kidnapper and refers to the act of signing one's own name to words, phrases, or ideas, which are the literary property of another. Plagiarism comes in many forms, all to be avoided: outright copying or disguised use of words and phrases from an unacknowledged source. This includes copying and pasting from any online source. To avoid Plagiarism, students are encouraged to make it their habit to put quotation marks around words and phrases, or to isolate and indent longer passages that you are using from someone else's writing. Students can cite the source in a footnote/endnote, or within parentheses in your text. The penalties for Plagiarism can be severe: from an F for the particular assignment, to an F for the course, and to referral of the case to the Dean of Undergraduate Education for administrative judgment.

 WEAPONS AS PROPS: If you are planning a student production which involves using any prop which could be interpreted to be a weapon [toy gun, BB gun, knife, etc.] And you are planning to shoot on the UB campus or any other public place, you must obtain written permission from Campus Security or the equivalent authority before you shoot. If you do not you will face serious problems including possible expulsion from the university.

Course Outline:

 At the beginning of the semester, Tuesdays will be devoted to reading about pervasive games and Thursdays will be devoted to studying games in practice and playing games.

Readings are to be completed by the Tuesday class in which they are listed. If websites are listed please visit them before the Thursday class.

Jan. 16-18:  Introduction to Pervasive Gaming

Jan. 23-25

Jane McGonigal  "The Puppet Master Problem: Design for Real-World, Mission-Based Gaming."

 Jan. 30-Feb. 1

 Feb. 6-8:

Feb. 13-14: UB Green Presentation

 Feb. 20-22:

 Feb. 27-Mar. 1: Presentation to UB Green

Mar. 6-8: Formation of Production Teams

Mar. 13-15: Spring Break

Mar. 20-22: Work on Game

Mar. 27-29: Work on Game

Apr. 3-5:  Website Online?

Apr. 10-12: Work on Game

Apr. 17-19: Work on Game

Apr. 24-26: Work on Game