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The Hybrid Space of Collaborative Location-Based Mobile Games and the City: A Case Study of Ingress

Sengupta, Ulysses and Tantoush, Mahmud and Bassanino, May and Cheung, Eric (2020) The Hybrid Space of Collaborative Location-Based Mobile Games and the City: A Case Study of Ingress. Urban Planning, 5 (4). pp. 358-370.

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Abstract

Structural changes in the way we live and interact in cities are occurring due to advances in mobile communication technologies affecting everyday practices. One such practice, at the forefront of digital technology adoption, is digital gaming or play. Location-based mobile games (LBMGs), such as Pokémon Go and Ingress have surged in popularity in recent years through their introduction of a new mode of play, employing mobile GPS and internet-enabled technology. Distinguished by their embedded GIS, LBMGs can influence how people play, interact with and perceive the city, by merging urban and virtual spaces into ‘hybrid realities.’ Despite the popularity of such games, studies into how LBMGs affect urban dweller interactions with each other and the city have been limited. This article examines how the digital interface of the large-scale collaborative LBMG Ingress affects how players experience and use the city. Ingress is a collaborative hybrid or location-based game that uses GPS location information from smartphones, Google maps, and Google POI to create virtual gameplay environments that correspond to and interact with other players and the city. The methodology cross-references the MDA framework from game studies (Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics) within the urban mobility, sociability and spatiality characteristics of the hybrid realities theoretical framework. In this article, we explore how Ingress (re)produces hybrid space through deliberate design of interface game elements. By applying this analytical approach, we identify the game mechanics and their role in producing a hybrid gameplay environment with impacts on social and mobility practices altering the perception of and engagement with the city.

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