Backseat Games – turning travel into a fantasy adventure
“Are we there yet?” For kids, travelling in a car can be very tedious, but with Backseat Games any trip can become an exciting adventure. The game turns churches, bridges and other roadside objects into a fantasy land filled with virtual creatures, treasures and adventure. By pointing the gaming device towards objects as they pass by, players can defend themselves against attacking creatures, pick up magic artefacts or collaborate with players in meeting traffic.
So far three different prototypes have been developed on handheld computers.
First we designed Backseat Gaming a game where we used a digital compass and GPS-receiver to connect the game to the surrounding world, and make it possible for the player to designate real world objects.
Then we designed Road Rager, a multiplayer game for traffic encounters based on ad-hoc peer-to peer networking, which connects players in each other’s vicinity. Mobile games have the potential to become compelling in a new way, if they include the vivid and dynamic mobile context. Travelling by car is a perfect example, where the everchanging scenes, the speed and the brief encounters help to provide an extraordinary experience. Our research questions concern how mobile games can benefit from travelling, and we want to better understand the possible connections between games and their surroundings. It is important to carefully take into account spatial relations and understand how the game should be designed so that the player understands what to do in this new environment. Children should be ale to enjoy exploring and travelling through the magic landscape, as well as encountering challenging game tasks.
The third prototype is called Backseat Playground, developed in collaboration with digital artist John Paul Bichard. The purpose of this project was to design and implement a game prototype that enables kids/big kids travelling in the back seat of cars to enjoy a rich gaming experience where narrative episodes and embedded gameplay combine with the experience of travelling through the road network. We have been looking at 3 core areas, i.e Episodic Narratives, Real World Game Engine, De-focusing & Lightweight technology.