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Entering an age of playfulness where persistent, pervasive ambient games create moods and modify behaviour. Mark Eyles Roger Eglin. Advanced Games Research Group.

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Entering an age of playfulness where persistent, pervasive ambient games create moods and modify behaviour

Mark Eyles

Roger Eglin

Advanced Games Research Group

If the seminal 1976 ambient music album Music for Airports became a 21st century ambient role playing game, what would it play like?
  • Computer technology
  • Ambient intelligence
  • Pervasive games
  • Ambient music
  • Ambient games
  • Ambient Quest
  • An age of playfulness…
growth of computer technology5
Growth of computer technology
  • One computer – Many users
    • Charles Babbage designs a computer 1821
    • EDSAC 1 (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) 1949 the world’s “first complete and fully operational regular electronic digital stored program computer” (Jones, 2001)
growth of computer technology6
Growth of computer technology
  • One computer – One user
    • 1981 IBM introduced the ‘personal computer’

Digital Rainbow 100 1982

growth of computer technology7
Growth of computer technology
  • Many computers – One user
    • The current state of play
growth of computer technology8
Growth of computer technology
  • Ambient intelligent environments (the future)
  • Massively many intelligent computers – One user

Tom Cruise in Minority Report

(Everyone is a user, not just Tom Cruise)

ambient intelligence
Ambient intelligence
  • There are a number of different technologies that are enabling the development of ambient intelligence:
    • Interconnectivity
    • Artificial intelligence
    • The proliferation of computers
  • These technologies support ambient intelligence, which has:
    • Ubiquity
    • Transparency
    • Intelligence

(Aarts et al., 2001)

ambient intelligence predictions
Ambient intelligence predictions
  • By 2010, when Intel expects that every chip it produces will have an antenna, there will be around 1,000 microprocessors per person
  • Harbor Research predicts that by 2010 worldwide revenues from network-related devices and associated services will be $800bn, around half of which will come from valued-added apps and services.

Department for Trade and Industry

ambient intelligence11
Ambient intelligence
  • Ambient intelligence environments offer a promising technology for creating pervasive games…
computer game properties commitment to play
Computer game properties: Commitment to play
  • Learning curve
  • Play time
  • Civilization 2 vs. Tetris vs. Hangman
computer game properties location and movement
Computer game properties: Location and movement
  • Fixed (Console, PC, Set top box)
  • Mobile (Mobile phone, Nintendo DS)
  • Require movement
    • In one location (Football, Eye Toy)
    • In many locations (Alternate Reality Game)
pervasive games
Pervasive games
  • Pervasive games are games which extend gaming experiences into the real world
    • They include locative games in which players move into the real world while playing and their position and actions in the real world affect, and are affected by, events in a virtual world

(Waern, 2006)

pervasive games16
Pervasive games
  • Ambient games are a type of pervasive game
  • The pervasive game examples mentioned vary from ambient games in
    • The intention of the games (ambient games create moods, they are not treasure hunts - ARGs)
    • The commitment the player makes to the game (they do not have to put on back packs of computer equipment - AR)
    • The level of attention required from the player
ambient music
Ambient music
  • Ambient music informs ambient games
  • Brian Eno coined the term ‘ambient music’ on his 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports
  • In the sleeve notes of Music for Airports Brian Eno gives a definition of ambient music:
    • “Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting” (Eno, 1978)
ambient music19
Ambient music
  • “I wanted to make a kind of music that would actually reduce your focus on this particular moment in time that you happened to be in and make you settle into time a little bit better.” (Eno, 2003)
  • Think about the ways games might do this while accommodating many levels of attention and intervention
defining ambient games
Defining ambient games
  • Progress Quest - a game that requires minimal player intervention

( (Fredricksen, 2004))

defining ambient games21
Defining ambient games
  • Imagine a game similar to Progress Quest in which, when the player starts the game, their actions in the real world affect progress in the game world
defining ambient games22



Defining ambient games
  • The player chooses the degree to which they wish to manage events in the game
  • At one extreme the game runs itself, gathering data from the player’s actions in the real world and automatically applying this to the game world
  • At the other extreme the player can determine how the real world data is applied in the game world, micromanaging game interactions.
defining ambient games23
Defining ambient games
  • An ambient game should be ‘as ignorable as it is interesting’ (Eno, 1978)
  • Players can dip in and out of the game
  • The game is persistent, running in the background, creating a mood, while players are engaged in other activities
  • They may respond to the game by modifying their behaviour to affect their game progress
defining ambient games24
Defining ambient games
  • Ambient games may be controlled by everyday actions(i.e. not using a dedicated game input device, mouse or keyboard) in everyday, real world environments that have gameplay consequences in a virtual game world
  • These game play environments may be facilitated by ambient intelligent technologies that embed the game transparently in the environment
defining ambient games25
Defining ambient games
  • Ambient games allow the player to have experiences that range from superficially shallow to profoundly deep
  • The player is able to choose how they focus their attention on the game, and can alter their degree of attention at will
  • As with Music for Airports an ambient game should accommodate many levels of attention, many levels of involvement or intervention, creating a mood in the environment
defining ambient games26
Defining ambient games
  • The involvement of the player in the game is not determined by the game
  • This is not a ‘push’ technology, but is determined by the player who can choose when to ‘pull’ game experiences from the ambient game
a definition of ambient games
A definition of ambient games
  • Ambient games are designed to create a mood in an environment through game interactions with players whose behaviours, mediated by an ambient intelligent environment or similar transparent game interface, create changes in a virtual game world.
  • Ambient games are persistent and are as interesting as they are ignorable, facilitating a wide variation in player determined levels of involvement, from unaware to intensely attentive play.
ambient quest single player ambient game simulation
Ambient Quest – single player ambient game simulation
  • Distance walked by players determines progress in the virtual game world
  • Players may engage more or less with the game by
    • Altering, or not altering, distance walked
    • Choosing moves for their avatars or letting the game move them automatically
  • The game is ‘always on’
virtual world
Virtual world…
  • The Ambient Quest game world consists of a virtual environment containing quests to complete (achieved by defeating monsters at various locations)
ambient quest single player ambient game simulation31
Ambient Quest – single player ambient game simulation
  • Ambient Quest is designed to create a mood in the playing environment, overlaying a sense fantasy adventure on the real world and giving a hint of other hidden worlds
future ambient games
Future ambient games
  • Imagine a job which involves fairly repetitive actions which are not in themselves especially rewarding.
  • Could an ambient game be designed that ran alongside this work and brought an element of playfulness to the job?
future ambient games34
Future ambient games
  • Ambient Shelf Stacking Game
    • Imagine an ambient game that drew its data from supermarket shelf stacking
    • Employees belong to different teams that are represented by competing avatars in a virtual world
future ambient games35
Future ambient games
  • Co-operative gaming
    • Ambient Garden Game
      • Imagine an ambient game in which players are together trying to nurture the plants in a virtual garden through their actions in the real world
  • Interpersonal relationships
    • Ambient Relationships Game
      • Imagine a Sims like game where the players’ real world actions affect relationships of avatars in a Second Life like virtual world
final thoughts
Final thoughts
  • Game players may play even when they are not playing!
  • Embed mood and behaviour altering game playing in the world around us
  • Open ended, endless nature of play points towards new mechanisms and ways of playing games in an emerging age of playfulness
final thought
Final thought

A sense of otherworldliness:

‘It is another world entirely and is enclosed within this one; it is in a sense a universal retreating mirror image of this one, with a peculiar geography … composed of a series of concentric rings, which as one penetrates deeper into the other world, grow larger … each perimeter of this series of concentricities encloses a larger world within’

Little Big by John Crowley

(Crowley, 1981)


Entering an age of playfulness where persistent, pervasive ambient games create moods and modify behaviour


Advanced Games Research Group