Connecting with the countryside
: designing location based games to optimise the experience for older children in natural environments

  • Catherine Anne Grundy

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This research considers how Location Based Mobile Games (LBMG’s) can be designed to promote an ‘optimal experience’ using flow theory as a framework; the work is directed at older children playing in natural environments to provide a challenging and topical case for the enquiry. LBMG’s have the potential to connect people to places as play spans both virtual and physical worlds. Environments can be augmented with information,
    entertaining media and gamified experiences that can appeal to players. LBMGs that are absolutely positioned and situated within a specific location have the most potential for immersing players within a landscape, they have been retitled ‘place-based mobile
    games’ (PBMGs) to make a distinction for this study. Flow theory helps to define an ideal engagement during play and the prerequisites that help to form the experience. Entering
    a ‘flow state’ can be considered synonymous with being in a state of immersion for games, the feeling of being ‘at one’ with the game. The primary research questions were:

    • What are the prerequisites for optimising the experience of playing a PBMG?
    • What are the prerequisites for optimising the experience when older children play a PBMG in a natural environment?

    The experience of playing PBMG’s within a natural environment is not well understood for design. The game and the landscape require particular physical and cognitive effort to negotiate, which can threaten conditions for flow. Maintaining a flow state involves
    finding appropriate levels of challenge for the player and enticing them to overcome inherent trials by addressing their emotional needs. PBMGs also require divided attention across both real and virtual worlds; it is therefore also important to consider other game dimensions that can help to immerse the player in play across domains. The methodology, to address these issues, adopts a concept driven design research approach, which places the player at the centre of the enquiry through an iterative and
    constructive process. Design guidelines are developed through a ‘bottom up’ process, through this methodology, using participatory, mixed methods that include observational
    field studies, and the co-design of concept prototypes. The analysis of these detailed findings leads to broader theoretical conclusions, including a new model of flow for PBMG’s. Considering principles of interaction, to support design guidelines, also revealed how concepts of ‘feedforward’ and ‘feedback’ can work correspondingly with other prerequisites
    for flow, by enabling communication during the game. An ‘experience map’ for PBMG’s was also created to define game dimensions and prompt design research. New knowledge has also emerged about the child’s latent needs for this situation alongside methods developed for working with them, using characters and stories (CAS).
    Date of AwardAug 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorLyn Pemberton (Supervisor), Richard Morris (Supervisor) & Nicholas Gant (Supervisor)

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