Today is the day in which CitiTag, a wireless location based multiplayer game designed to explore spontaneous social interaction and novel experiences in city environments, was due to undergo its second trial in real life testing. As one of the iPaqs was faulty due to its connector, only nine of the original 10 could take part in the experiment. The hardware consists of a GPS receiver, to provide positional information, connected to a Wi-Fi enabled iPaq Pocket PC.
CitiTag is a game created to explore social experiences and emergent behaviours in public spaces through playful interaction, based on the awareness of other players presence. The project is motivated by the hypothesis that very simple game rules based on presence states (e.g. I am Green and tagged) can result in an enjoyable social experience, stimulated by real world interaction among players. The aim of Yannas (who is head of this experiment) studies is to identify the design implications for future technology mediated social experiences and how such experiments can inform the experience design process.
CitiTag is a revolutionised version of the old school playground game tag which relies on GPS to work. There are two teams green and red, and the aim of the game is for your team to tag all the other teams members before they tag you. While doing this you can free members of your own team if you are not tagged, and if you are, look for someone on your team to untag you.
The GPS satellite picks up your coordinates and of all of the others around you and when it receives information that two untagged players of the opposite team are near to each other or a tagged member and an untagged member of the same team are near to each other the iPaq shows that you can tag them or release them by pressing a button.
It was a brilliantly sunny day so it was a perfect setting to try out the experiment. Bas and Chris videotaped the proceedings so that Yanna could have a reliable source of information to look back on, so she could see the results in more depth and different angles, an 'overview' perspective and an 'inside' perspective. The technological side of things went very well compared to the last trial, the only problem being that the GPS could not pinpoint the coordinates of the player accurately enough to help the game flow, meaning you could be standing five to ten metres away from where you actually were. This did not help the game as a player could be standing next to you and you could not take any action even though an action was due, e.g. they were not on your team so you needed to tag them etc. Nevertheless the game worked to an extent and you could see the many players different reactions to the scenarios set.
Participant interaction during the game was very interesting and the experiment proved once more that people are far more quick and intelligent than technology 'assumes'. This meant Yanna had to introduce nicknames and rules like 'no talking' and change team ID's (green or red) for every run of the game, so that people wouldn't know who their team mates were. Even so you could see how people would try and subvert the rules by making gestures.
The feedback proved how much the participants enjoyed the game and the huge potential CitiTag has. Participants found that the stage of the game when you had to work out who were your friends and foes was as or more enjoyable as the actual tagging and untagging itself, the tension of not knowing a friend from foe created a tense atmosphere were you had to suspect everyone. Also it was found that people prefer to have significantly different sound alerts for tagging and for untagging, also two different sound alerts for feedback. This would reduce relying on the visual display and help focus on the physical environment. A radar that actually worked and was not just there for show would also enhance the gaming experience, you may be able to see people who were playing but you do not know what colour they are until they are in striking distance.
There are many different scenarios that could be created for CitiTag, if it was played in the city the tension level would increase as you would not know who was playing the game or just going about there daily lives, everyone would be a suspect. This would be a huge change from knowing and being able to see who was playing the game.
The game is being developed in close collaboration with the mobile Bristol team at the Hewlett Packard Laboratories in Bristol and trials in the centre of Bristol are being planned.