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Urban gaming

In the USA, this term most frequently refers to the controversial issue of casinos being operated by Native Americans within cities. But it has recently started to refer to a different sort of game, one which combines computer technology with the actual geography of a town.

One game in London is called Uncle Roy All Around You, in which players use handheld computers to search for Uncle Roy, aided by a map and by incoming messages from online players who help them to reach their destination. The games firm Hasbro is setting up another, also in London, that uses specially equipped taxis to play an interactive, virtual-reality Monopoly game in the real locations of the British version of the board.

In a related case, researchers in Singapore have created a version of the arcade game PacMan that superimposes the game world on to the real environment by means of special goggles and headsets. Players move about a set play area to collect the little energy pills, which they can see through their interactive goggles, all the while being chased by ghosts who can “kill” them if they catch them. This version of the idea builds on a virtual-reality concept called augmented reality, but it’s not likely to prove practical until electronic locating systems can be made much more accurate.

He also happens to be a pioneer of a new social phenomenon, urban gaming. If you thought the computer games of the 21st century are only ever played by couch potatoes addicted to the new generation of Xbox, Nintendo or PlayStation consoles, you’d be mistaken. For urban gamers are harnessing the power of global positioning systems (GPS), high-resolution screens and cameras and the latest mobile phones to play games across our towns and cities, where they become spies, vampire slayers, celebrities and even Pac-Man.

New Scientist, 11 Jun. 2005

Page created 16 Jul. 2005

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Last modified: 16 July 2005.