Pervasive Games

Quickly emerging from the fast-paced growth of mobile communications and wireless technologies, pervasive games provide a worldwide network of potential play spaces. Now games can be designed to be played in public spaces like streets, conferences, museums and other non-traditional game venues, and game designers need to understand the world as a medium —- both its challenges and its advantages.

This book shows how to change the face of play—who plays, when and where they play and what that play means to all involved. The authors explore aspects of pervasive games that concern game designers: what makes these games compelling, what makes them possible today, how they are made and by whom. For theorists, it provides a solid theoretical, philosophical and aesthetic grounding of their designs.

Pervasive Games covers everything from theory and design to history and marketing. Designers will find 13 detailed game descriptions, a wealth of design theory, examples from dozens of games and a thorough discussion of past inspirations—directly from the game designers themselves.

“This book is the definitive guide to the past, present, and future of stories and games that jump out of their cages and into your real life. Whether it’s characters that call you on the phone or game play that happens on the bus on your way to work, this kind of immersive entertainment will define the culture of the next century as surely as the movies dominated the last one.”

Sean Stewart.

“Standing at the intersection of games, design and theory, the authors of Pervasive Games: Theory and Design, bring fresh air into game studies with this look at the field of ubiquitous play. Deeply connected to critical game studies, and filled with design case studies, this book is an excellent source for those involved in the design, study or play of pervasive games.”

Tracy Fullerton.

Montola, Markus, Stenros, Jaakko & Waern, Annika (2009): Pervasive Games: Theory and Design. Morgan Kaufmann. [blog]

Nordic Larp

In the Nordic countries, live-action role-playing has developed into a unique and powerful form of expression. Nordic larps range from entertaining flights of fancy to the exploration of the intimate, the collective and the political. This incredible tradition combines influences from theatre and performance art with gamer cultures, in order to push the boundaries of role-playing.

Nordic Larp presents a critical cross section of this vibrant culture through 30 outstanding larps, combining stories told by designers, players and researchers with over 250 photographs of play and preparations. In addition the book contains two essays that explain the history and rhetorics of Nordic larp, and contextualizes it in relation to theatre, art and games.

“Nordic Larp is a rare and vivid glimpse into a fascinating gaming tradition. If anyone knows how to imagine better worlds and build a more engaging reality, it’s larpers.”

–- Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

“The rise of the ars ludorum is not confined to the bombastic power fantasies of the videogame but is manifest all over the globe in diverse ways, from the doujin games of Japan to the passionate intensity of the indie games movement to the rise of the Euro-style board game. Not least among these movements is larp, brought to its apotheosis in the Nordic countries, where vast, imaginative works of enormous artistic ambition receive attention not only from game geeks but from their national cultures as well. This vital phenomenon is now accessible to English speakers through this landmark work, an anthology of articles describing some of the most impressive and compelling works of the form. Anyone seriously interested in role-play, interactive narrative, and the collision between games and theater will find it of enormous interest.”

–- Greg Costikyan, Game Designer

“Now evolved far from its roots in genre consumption and modification, the progressive Nordic live roleplaying scene is building the tools for participatory performance that artists internationally will be using for generations to come. Nordic Larp is the first book to put the community’s key pieces in one easily digestible and visually seductive format.”

–- Brody Condon, Artist

Stenros, Jaakko & Montola, Markus (eds.) (2010): Nordic Larp. Tallinn, Fëa Livia. [pdfwebsite]

On the Edge of the Magic Circle

On the Edge of the Magic Circle studies two threads of contemporary western gaming culture: Role-playing and pervasive games. Recreational role-playing includes forms such as tabletop role-playing games, larps and online role-playing games, while pervasive games range from treasure hunts to alternate reality games. A discussion on pervasive role-playing connects these strands together.

The work has four larger research goals. First, to establish a conceptual framework for understanding role-playing in games. Second, to establish a conceptual framework for understanding pervasive games. Third, to explore the expressive potential of pervasive games through prototypes. And fourth, to establish a theoretical foundation for the study of ephemeral games.

The central outcome of the work is a theory complex that explains and defines role-playing and pervasive gaming, and allows them to be understood in the context of the recent discussion in game studies.

In order to understand these two borderline cases of games, the work establishes a theoretical foundation that highlights gameplay as a social process. This foundation combines the weak social constructionism of John R. Searle with the recent game studies scholarship from authors such as Jesper Juul, Jane McGonigal, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman.

“The cold, hard fact is that this book and the seven constituting articles form a cornerstone that should be nearly mandatory reading for game scholars, both the next generation as well as the luminaries who have established many of the conventions and core concepts of the field. The reason for this is that while questioning various existing definitions and concepts, Montola opens up an expanding view of how just big a phenomenon we are talking about, on its various platforms and in its varying forms.”

J. Tuomas Harviainen.

Montola, Markus (2012): On the Edge of the Magic Circle. Understanding Role-Playing and Pervasive Games. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Tampere. Tampere University Press. [pdf]

Playground Worlds

Playground Worlds is a collection of articles on role-playing games by leading researchers, artists and other experts. The book documents the theory and practice of the Nordic role-playing scene – one of the most vibrant in the world – and presents numerous methods and techniques that are directly applicable to larp design and production. It also offers a peek into some Anglo-American role-playing cultures.

The book is divided into three sections. Community and Journalism includes articles on role-player communities written particularly with an eye for approachability. Art and Design covers role-play as the product of a creative process, exposing philosophies and intentions behind specific role-playing works while providing advice and guidance for prospective designers. The Research and Theory section focuses on recent advances in analytic and academic thought on role-play.

Montola, Markus & Stenros, Jaakko (eds.) (2008): Playground Worlds. Creating and Evaluating Experiences of Role-Playing Games. Jyväskylä, Ropecon. The book for Solmukohta 2008. [website]

Beyond Role and Play

Beyond Role and Play is a collection of articles by researchers and role-playing game enthusiasts from seven countries, made for the Nordic role-playing convention Solmukohta 04. The book offers practical tools, analytical viewpoints, inspirational game reviews and fresh methodological ideas for all who take role-playing seriously. The book covers both tabletop and live-action role-playing as an artform, a political tool, an educational method and as great entertainment.

The theory section consists of articles that are mostly of interest to researchers, practice includes tried and true tools for both game designers and players. Games holds descriptive reviews of coompleted projects and analyses of a number of Nordic larps, and finally openings provokes with radical new ideas that are of equal interest to both researchers and game masters.

“[E]xtra effort must be taken to underline the significance of larp and role-playing — as art, as popular culture, as something that not only the small core group of the initiated, but a much wider audience can learn and profit from. This is an important book, indeed.”

Frans Mäyrä.

Montola, Markus & Stenros, Jaakko (eds.) (2004): Beyond Role and Play. Tools, Toys and Theory for Harnessing the Imagination. Vantaa, Ropecon. The book for Solmukohta 2004. [pdf]