Integrated Project on Pervasive Gaming
WorkPackage WP5: Design & Evaluation
Ethics of Pervasive Gaming
Markus Montola (University of Tampere)
Annika Waern (SICS)
Jussi Kuittinen (University of Tampere)
Jaakko Stenros (University of Tampere)
Release date: October 13 2006
Public IPerG Deliverable 13/10 2006
In this report we discuss ethical issues related to pervasive gaming. Due to their nature, the
pervasive games influence the ordinary life outside the game in many ways, some of which
are beneficent while others are problematic. In this report we focus on the latter issues, while
also demonstrating the power for beneficence and social commentary. The problematic issues
that we rise involve questions of involuntary participation, power use, privacy and deception.
Involuntary and unaware participation is relevant, as the nature of a typical game is
contractual, and in pervasive games outsiders are drawn to the game without their explicit
consent. Power use is relevant, as the game organizers and operators typically hold significant
power over player, who seek to complete tasks set by operators during the game. This power
division is typically very asymmetric and nontransparent. Privacy is a natural concern in
games that pervade everyday life bringing the required surveillance technology along.
Deception takes place in many ways from purposeful reality fabrication to players discussing
In discussing ethics the concept of harm is critical; differentiating lasting setbacks to one’s
interests or assets from momentary nuisances that are a natural part of being a part of a
society. While ethics can be applied to both categories, in practice the latter issues especially
are better solved by politics that ethics. When harm is caused by pervasive game, the question of accountability remains. Usually such
harm is caused accidentally by unforeseen circumstances. Obviously the accidents that
happen in pervasive games are typically not physical like the ones in sports, but psychological
and social. Responsibility of such accident is typically shared by players and game organizers:
While the game designers, orchestrators and operators strongly guide the player activities, the
only the players can react in real time to unforeseeable circumstances and incidents. We study the ethical issues by analyzing several cases of pervasive gaming. While the most of
our detailed studies focus on past games, one examines an upcoming one and one game is
constructed on conceptlevel only for the purposes of this report.
Even though this report focuses on problematic pervasive games, we want to emphasize that
only few pervasive games are offensive or harmful. The purpose of this report is to make that
Deliverable Identification Sheet
Full title Integrated Project on Pervasive Gaming
Project URL http://iperg.sics.se/
EU Project Officer Albert GAUTHIER
Deliverable D5.5 Ethics of Pervasive Gaming
Work package WP5 Design & Evaluation
Date of delivery Contractual M24 Actual M24
Status final ̨
Nature Prototype p Report ̨ Dissemination p
Public ̨ Consortium (CO) p
Authors (Partner) Markus Montola (UTA), Jussi Kuittinen (UTA), Jaakko Stenros (UTA),
Responsible Markus Montola Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Partner University of
Annika Waern (SICS)
Phone +358 44 544 2445
This report discusses the ethics of
pervasive gaming, based on five case
examples as well as brief review of
central ethical standpoints related to
pervasive gaming. Keywords pervasive game, unaware participation, social expansion, temporal expansion, ambiguous gameplay, ethics
Issue Date Rev No. Author Change
th of Aug. 0.1 Montola First draft
th of Aug 0.2 Montola Added EM2 etc.
th of Aug 0.3 Montola Added ethics chapters from Jussi and Annika etc.
th of Aug 0.4 Montola Added autonomy and deception from Jussi etc.
th of Sept 0.5 Montola Reorganized, added stuff.
th of Oct 0.9 Montola Addressed reviewer comments, added text.
Executive Summary …………………………………………………………………………….. 2
Table of Contents ………………………………………………………………………………… 4
1 Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………. 5
2 Introduction to Ethics……………………………………………………………………. 6
2.1 Traditional Starting Points………………………………………………………………………….6
2.2 Applied Ethics………………………………………………………………………………………….7
2.3 The Ethics of Technology Usage …………………………………………………………………8
2.4 Artistic Motivation and Societal Commentary……………………………………………..14
3 Case Studies ……………………………………………………………………………….. 15
3.1 Vem Gråter ……………………………………………………………………………………………16
3.2 Prosopopeia Bardo 1: Där Vi Föll………………………………………………………………19
3.3 Epidemic Menace 2…………………………………………………………………………………22
3.4 Beneficent Gaming, a Casuistic Exercise…………………………………………………….24
4 Practical Considerations ……………………………………………………………… 25
4.1 Unaware Participation ……………………………………………………………………………..25
4.2 Public Space…………………………………………………………………………………………..27
4.3 Ludic Interpretation…………………………………………………………………………………27
4.4 Story Spin ……………………………………………………………………………………………..28
4.5 Reality Fabrication………………………………………………………………………………….29
4.6 Player Rights………………………………………………………………………………………….29
4.7 Operator Power………………………………………………………………………………………30
5 Conclusion………………………………………………………………………………….. 31
6 Acknowledgements……………………………………………………………………… 32
7 References………………………………………………………………………………….. 32
The salient feature of pervasive games is the way the borders of game and nongame are
blurred (see Montola 2005; Montola, Waern & Nieuwdorp 2006 for definitions and
discussion). As the interface of the pervasive game is ambiguous, the game actions conducted
by players and game orchestrators are both game actions and nongame actions.1 In addition
of wondering what is acceptable in the context of game, the pervasive game designer needs to
contemplate on what is acceptable in real life. Perhaps the two most important aspects are
Pervasive games are structures of makebelieve fabrication overlapping with the ordinary life
of the players. This fabrication ranges for example from playing combat robots (Botfighters)
to vampires (Vampire: The Masquerade), medical scientists (Epidemic Menace 2), ghosts
(Prosopopeia Bardo 1: Där vi föll) and assassins (Killer: The Game of Assassination). For the
gamer the context of game is accessible, but to a bystander the game might appear as a prank,
a weird event or everyday reality. This friction of ludic and ordinary is an important source of
ethical conflicts and opportunities, as a game can directly influence ordinary lives of the
participants. (See Montola & Waern 2006a for discussion on unaware game participation).
Surveillance is important for orchestration of most pervasive games. The sensory functions
vary greatly, but they might include video surveillance (Prosopopeia Bardo 1: Där vi föll), playerbased reporting (Isle of Saints), cell phone positioning (Botfighters), GPS (Epidemic
Menace 2) et cetera. The ethics of surveillance are relevant for the privacy of the player, but
also it’s important to avoid the surveillance of outsiders or bystanders.
The purpose of this report is to open ethical discussion on what makes a pervasive game
design feature acceptable or unacceptable from the ethical point of view. Thus, it can also be
read as a guideline document for reflecting individual game designs.
In the work leading to this report we have found out that many ethical issues described in here
easily spark controversy. Apparently the most challenging, risky and unique ways of creating
pervasive games also hold the potential for the most interesting artistic expression, the
sharpest political commentary and the most engaging gaming experiences. We try to cover
both permissive and restrictive arguments in this report without taking sides as such. Thus,
there are few clear answers in this report, but rather some ethical guidelines for the use of the
The concepts and most of the game examples used in this report have been earlier discussed
in an earlier IPerG report, D5.3B: The Domain of Pervasive Gaming (Montola, Waern &
Nieuwdorp 2005), which is publicly available in Internet.
Ethical issues have been touched earlier within IPerG at several occasions. D5.1 Initial
Design and Evaluation Guidelines provided a few considerations, and the work on social
adaptability and interaction design in D9.1 Guidelines for Socially Adaptable Games partially
touched a couple of related issues. Pervasive gaming business ethics have been briefly
discussed in D4.1 Business Guidelines.
1 This phenomenon, discussed earlier as interface ambiguity, stems from the fact that pervasive games are not played entirely inside the so-called ”magic circle of gameplay”. Walking into a shop with Botfighters on in one’s cellphone
constitutes a game action, as the player’s bot is moving in space – even though the player’s intent was not to perform
This document does not discuss legislation and should not be used as legal advice.
2 Introduction to Ethics
In this report, we discuss the ethics of the pervasive aspects of pervasive games in particular.
Our discussion does not include ethics of gaming or ethics of pervasive applications, but is
restricted to pervasive games only. As discussed in previous reports, games are needless and
voluntary activities2 (Huizinga 1938); this distinguishes games from other pervasive
applications and poses particular ethical requirements.
2.1 Traditional Starting Points
The basic starting point for all professional ethics is the question of the right action: what
action in a given situation might be considered the right one and on what grounds. This
underlying fundamental issue is reflected in approaches such as utilitarianism and deontology.
The theoretical approach most notably put forth by Mill (1987) and Bentham (1982), utilitarianism relies on evaluating the consequences of actions. Utilitarianists hold that all
ethical considerations should be based on calculating the utility of an act, which is the amount
of good it produces, so that when faced with a moral dilemma, one must consider the
consequences of each possible act and choose the one that produces the most good. This is the
crudest form of utilitarianism aptly called the actutilitarianism.
There are quite many problems associated with actutilitarianism. First off, predicting future
consequences is very hard. Secondly, the biggest moral problems are often those that require
instant decisions, but utilitarianism forces the agent to consider all the alternatives and
calculate their consequences as far into the future as possible. Thirdly, although act utilitarianism might maximize goodness on individual situations, it might produce worse
results if everyone were to act in certain actutilitarian ways. For instance, stealing money
from a bank to help a family in need might maximize happiness in a single instance, but if
everyone started doing it, the macroeconomical consequences would produce great amounts
Ruleutilitarianism tries to address the two latter problems by stating that it is not the utility of
an individual act that should be considered but the utility of a rule. If there is a rule that
maximizes goodness when followed constantly, then it should be chosen. Although this would
reduce the time needed to make decisions, this would still leave the utilitarian with one major
problem: how to make good rules that address the needs of individual situations. For instance, a rule stating that one should never lie would need an exception that would allow lying in
order save a life. This exception in turn might need an exception that would deny lying in
situations where saving a life by lying would risk more lives, e.g. when one would lie to save
a known murderer, and so on forth. This formulation of exceptions and subrules can in fact
reduce the ruleutilitarianism back to the actutilitarianism as Lyons (1965, 137) has argued.
The other predominant traditional theory on right action is the deontology, a term and theory
created by Kant (1998) in the 18 th century. If utilitarianism is teleological, then deontologism
2 Needless does not mean useless or worthless. Pervasive gaming offers many opportunities for education (Regensburg
Explorer, Visby Under) and physical excercise (PacManhattan, Wanderer), for example.
might be considered as causal in its application: there are some a priori duties that always
oblige one to act in a certain way regardless of the situation. Instead of looking at the
consequences of the action, the agent should focus on the duties having relevance with the
So, how does one know one’s duties? For Kant, these were the product of the rational human
mind. If a rational human would think about it hard enough, he could have no other choice but
to come to a certain conclusion i.e. a rule Kant called the Categorical Imperative, which in
one form stated that one should only act according to a rule that one could at the same time
will to become a universal law. For Kant the Categorical Imperative imposed an
unconditional duty to all individuals and was the basis for all other moral duties.
The difference between deontology and utilitarianism is difference between the right and the
good as Rawls (1980, 30) puts it. While utilitarianists argue that an act is right when it
produces the most good, deontologists claim that an act may produce the most good even
though it is clearly wrong by violating another person’s universally acknowledged right or
some other generally agreed upon ethical principle. So, deontological thinking is not
dependent only on the considerations, but also on other issues.
The question now becomes, what are these rights and principles and how can they be agreed
upon by all the members of the society? Rawls’ answer is the hypothetical concept of original
position. He argues that if a group of rational people each acting as a representative for a
group of citizens, were stripped of, for example, such information as the wealth, race and
gender of the citizens they represent, they would choose a set of rights and principles that
would also benefit those citizens that have the least in terms of talent or wealth.
The problem of utilitarianism and deontology is that they are not concrete enough to be easily
applicable to everyday moral dilemmas, that is, they are more concerned with creating a
general theory of ethics instead of providing means to solve ethical problems. Applied ethics
is specifically aimed at creating methodology for solving practical ethical issues.
Before going further with the different approaches in applied ethics, it is necessary to go
through two central notions in contemporary ethical discussions: rights and principles.
Put simply, rights impose duties on other people or society to either act or refrain from acting
in a certain way. If a right imposes a restraint on acting, then it is a negative right and when a
right imposes a duty to act, it is a positive right. As an example, a right to life is a negative
right, since it imposes a duty to restrain from acting in manner that would kill someone, and
the right to social security is a positive right as it imposes a duty on society to provide social
services to those in need. Rights can also be absolute, in which case it is always inviolable
and should be respected regardless of any other considerations, or prima facie meaning that in
some cases other rights might outweigh the right.
In ethics a moral principle is a universal rule i.e. notion that defines a duty. Deontology and
utilitarianism are monistic theories in that they rely on one single moral principle. The
former’s principle is the Categorical Imperative and the latter’s the principle of utility. The
methods in applied ethics are usually pluralistic defining a set of principles, which in turn can
Beauchamp and Childress (2001) introduce four principles upon which the medical
professionals could base their reasoning in moral dilemmas. Each of these principles is
supposed to be prima facie, so that depending on the circumstances any principle could
outweigh the other. These principles are:
Respect for autonomy i.e. the duty to respect the right of every individual to make
decisions regarding their own life. Beneficence i.e. the duty to try to do good to other people. Nonmaleficence i.e. the duty to not harm or offend other people. Justice i.e. the duty to treat all individuals equally in similar situations.
The view purported by principlism is not an altogether unproblematic one. When a conflict
between the principles occurs, the method can actually produce several different outcomes
instead of a single correct one. Although not necessarily a bad thing, it can lead to confusion
The benefits of the four principles approach lie in the practicality and the usefulness of the
method. As almost a checklist, it helps medical professionals to both identify the possible
ethical conflicts and also provides a terminology to discuss them. One can argue whether the
selected principles actually constitute the most important ones in healthcare professions, but
as it often is in ethics, no single set can be selected with absolute certainty.
Principlism has been criticised for being overly individualistic by emphasizing autonomy as
the key factor in ethical considerations. Although the four principles are supposed to be
equally strong in preference, some critics have claimed that the other three principles are in
fact more or less defined by autonomy. In the case of casuistry 3
mostly from the fact that some western societies such as United States and Great Britain have
a long history of individualistic preference.
Communitarianism is a somewhat loose term for those philosophers and political scientists
who emphasize the importance of the community over that of an individual. Communitarianism itself is not as much a method than criticism over the prevalent principles
in both the casuistry and the principlism. For instance, Callahan (2003) notes that in case of
an ethical problem, the questions should focus on “its social meaning, implications, and
context, even in those cases which seem to affect individuals only”.
Although the criticism raised by communitarians is often valid and well justified, it can make
ethical problems more complex requiring even more professionalism from the reviewers and
thereby rendering ethics out of reach for the practical everyday problems.
2.3 The Ethics of Technology Usage
When technology is put to use, it affects individuals as well as the society as a whole. The
value of those changes are typically judged in other terms than purely economical; Friedman
(2004)) uses the term human values to represent ethical and moral values that people take into
account when describing such changes. As there are large individual and cultural differences
in how such values are described and judged, it can be debated (and has been debated) to what
this criticism has stemmed
extent they are universal. However, as we can see from the debates arising around computer
technology, it is still possible to provide terms and classifications that help us analyse the
values embodied in a particular application design and its usage. Although such
categorisations never become complete, they provide a common ground for analysis, standardisation, and debate.
Starting in the analysis provided by Friedman, we can classify values that commonly are
embodied by computer technology as privacy, accountability, (freedom of) bias, autonomy
and universal access. We can start by noting that as games are voluntary and needless, the last
one is less applicable to games than to most other computer applications. The impossibility to
access a particular type of game may be frustrating but does not cause any secondary harm
(e.g. limited access to central societal functions). Similarly, autonomy is deemphasised by
the game rules; entering a game usually implies accepting to be bound by its rules. For games,
the autonomy is relevant for player’s ability to stop playing at any time; and even this is often
compromised e.g. in teambased games where the common good of the team may be
dependent on players not quitting. As we will see in our case analysis, accountability, bias and
privacy are central values in the ethics of pervasive games.
As noted by Friedman, the actual technology used in an application will sometimes directly
impact these values. More commonly however, the way the technology is distributed and its
usage regulated is much more critical. In our analysis, we will not primarily analyse the
technology as such, but the whole game setting, including the rules, the selection of players,
and in particular the relationship between players and bystanders. 4
Privacy is a critical and delicate consideration for designing pervasive games, as the games
may considerably intrude on both players and bystanders. As noted by many authors, privacy
is primarily a socially regulated contract, where people regulate their openness about private
issues depending on the social context.
According to Allen (1996), there are three typically used dimensions as to how the concept of
physical privacy, meaning that people have the right to private physical space from
where other people may be excluded (e.g. private toilets), informational privacy, meaning that a person has the right to control access to
information about oneself (e.g. privacy of information on one’s health), and decisional privacy, meaning that people have the right to exclude other people from
the decisions concerning oneself (e.g. the decision to make an abortion).
These dimensions of privacy are intertwined and overlapping on some situations. For
instance, placing a hidden camera without her consent in a person’s toilet would clearly
violate her right to physical privacy, but also the right to informational privacy by violating
her right to control access to sensitive information about herself. In the same way, physical
and decisional privacies would be overlapping in a situation where a group of religious
missionaries are forcefully trying to convert an atheist.
4 This is due to the claim (Montola, Waern & Nieuwdorp 2005) that pervasive games are not explicitly defined by the
technology used, because pervasive experiences can be constructed without any computer equipment.
Informational privacy is regulated by the most legal systems in Europe (as in other parts of
the world), in terms of unsolicited information solicitation and use. These laws typically rely
on the informed consent for information sharing (Zevenbergen 2004). However, Grudin
(2001) has argued that the major privacy problem with modern information technology is a
lack of immediacy. The effects of information sharing are not obvious at the time of
disclosure, and this harms the individual’s ability to adapt their openness according to context. Bearing this in mind, supporting explicit privacy agreements (Ackerman et al 2001) is not a
sufficient solution, as the immediacy may be compromised both by the explicit representation
and lack of timing. Palen and Dourish (2003) provide a more useful basis for privacy
negotiations by deconstructing the potential negotiation into three aspects: negotiation of
content, negotiation of identity, and negotiation of time (past, present, and future solicitation
Palen and Dourish’s analysis makes it possible to restrict privacy negotiations to contexts that
are naturally graspable. For ordinary, nonpervasive games, the magic circle of gameplay and
the decision to enter into or leave a game forms a natural and easily graspable boundary to
which such contextual negotiations can be associated (Montola 2005). Both the solicitation
and usage of information can be restricted to the game context. It is common for players to
adopt a game identity, which exists solely within the gaming context. Finally, due to the
voluntary and needless properties of a game, players will typically only accept that the game
gathers such information that is needed to run the game. For example, players may agree to
solicit personal data about their past, but only under the conditions that the data is shared only
in the present (during the game) and under a temporal identity. For pervasive games however,
the lack of a clearly defined boundary between the game and ordinary life compromises the
ability to negotiate information disclosure both for players and nonplayers.
Physical privacy is probably the most problematic dimension in pervasive games. The
structure of games as systems of rules where players are constantly required to make
decisions in an artificial context will rarely create situations where one’s decisional privacy
Although fundamental, right to privacy is not absolute. In western legal tradition it is common
to make an exception if the person in question could be seen to have given implicit consent,
like in the case of active publicity seekers. A person’s right to privacy can also be limited if
she has no reason to expect privacy, for example in public places. Thirdly, privacy can be
outweighed by other rights that are considered more important, such as the right to security. As mentioned previously, most privacy regulating laws also provide the option of signing
Looking at the different groups of people whose privacy can be violated in a pervasive game,
there are at least players, aware spectators, unaware participants, and unaware spectators. There are some differences between these groups as to the types of ethical problems arise.
The key distinguishing factor between these groups is clearly the awareness of the game. Both
the players and the aware spectators have some understanding about the game i.e. its name,
concept and so on forth, so that they have some idea what to expect. Players will also have to
know at least part of the rules so that they should have even more reasonable expectations and
also consent regarding the rules they have information of.
Although seemingly unproblematic, the issue of consent can be rather complex in some
pervasive games. Once participants have given their consent to the game by opting to play it,
their privacy protection could be considered void from the game in question. But this assumes
that players have reasonable expectations on the nature and the content of the game. But in
order to be able to give full and informed consent, the participant would have to know all the
events and rules in the game before consenting. This of course is impossible with some
games. One potential solution would be to allow players to quit the game once they run into a
situation where they feel that their privacy has been or will be violated: This may happen for
example in some alternate reality games based on “this is not a game” aesthetic, when the
players may realize their participation in a game well after the game has started. In any case,
the game designers and operators should never infringe privacy without sufficient and
The right to privacy of the aware spectators is higher than for players. Again, physical and
informational privacy are primarily considered: the aware spectator will for example expect to
be able to escape from the game to carry out private activities. Unaware participation and
unaware spectatorship pose even higher challenges for game design. They cannot be seen to
give any other consent than the possible implicit consent maybe given by entering a public
Following Friedman, we will use the term accountability to refer to an individual’s
responsibility for a given harm. In juridical systems, the ability to identify such individuals
(or juridical persons including organisations and companies) forms the basis of providing
retribution for harm (e.g. indemnity). Within the context of a game, such retributions are often
part of the rules governing the game (e.g. the yellow and red cards used in soccer).
In this report we mostly discuss psychological harm, as has been earlier done by e.g.
Feinberg, Vandeveer and Ellis: Harms include lasting setbacks to one’s assets, including
physical and psychological setbacks. Offences include harms, but also minor, ‘harmless’ nuisances. Ellis (1984) works on Feinberg’s listing of offensive, but not necessarily harmful, nuisances, classifying them as: 1) Irritants to senses, 2) Excessively bad manners, 3) Flaunting
one’s contempt for people’s values as an insult as well as pointless flaunting of one’s
contempt for people’s values and 4) Indecency. Vandeveer (1979) points out that many
offensive actions are offensive only to certain group, as dictated by traditions, beliefs or
cultural identity. Thus, it’s important to consider the needs of an average person (“almost
anyone chosen at random”) as well as the needs of the minorities. Weighing the good of all
versus the good of minority remains a question of reasonability, where no clear answers can
According to Feinberg, an individual is morally blameworthy for a harm if his or her actions
caused the harm, and his or her actions were ‘faulty’; that is, that the responsible person had
either intended the harm, neglected the risk of causing harm, or failed to realise a risk for
harm that he or she should have been able to realise.
For computer applications as well as games, the individual’s moral responsibility for a harm is
lessened by the fact that there are a host of people involved in each activity; a game
development project involves people in roles such as distributors and producers, sales
representatives, managers, designers, and developers, and many people partake in a game
event in a multitude of roles such as spectators, organisers, referees and players. In such
complex and longterm projects, where decisions are taken collectively in obscure processes,
it will often be difficult to find individuals who fulfil the requirements above to be held
accountable. A specific problem for complex systems of software and hardware is the
omnipresence of bugs; when a system becomes sufficiently complex it always contains bugs, no matter how conscientious and clever the programming staff has been. Who then can be
held accountable for the effects of those bugs?
When individuals cannot be held accountable, organisations (and sometimes nonorganised
collectives) will often be informally (or even legally) blamed. This is in general not desirable,
as it leads to ‘guilt by association’; the blame rubs off to individuals of the organisation that
were completely innocent in the matter at hand. For some organisations, the solution has been
to appoint a single person who is officially responsible for the organisation; examples of this
include ship captains and newspaper editorsinchief. This practice is useful in fields where
accidents are statistically bound to happen, and minimization requires strong concentration of
power and responsibility. In a context of game, the responsible producer can only take
responsibility of choices of designers and operators, but in games such as Prosopopeia Bardo
1: Där vi föll, the high unpredictability of player means that the responsible producer can’t
take the responsibility of every potential problem scenario.
A distinct difference between game and nongame activities is that within games, accountability is partly regulated within the rule set of the game. This is closely related to the
fact that games occur in a magic circle, within which the rules are different from those of the
social world outside of the game. What is considered an offence may be a vastly different
thing within a game setting; icehockey players and boxers execute harmful violence within
the game that would lead straight to court if used outside the game. Secondly, even for actions
that are considered offensive, the sanctions are regulated within the game context rather than
by external authorities (legal or otherwise). If a soccer player intentionally trips another
player, the accountable player will be punished within the game – he will not be (typically)
charged in a court. As we will see from our analysis of case examples, similar approaches can
In pervasive games the players’ perception of the game rules may clash with what is
considered legal or appropriate behaviour within the real world social context, and as the
magic circle is blurred in many fashions, this becomes a very relevant concern. Speeding on
the highway to catch up with another player is just as unlawful as speeding for any other
reason (and, as games are voluntary and needless, may be considered even less morally
acceptable). But from the player perspective, he or she may consider the accountability to lie
with the game designer or game organiser, as they developed a rule set that rewarded
speeding. Again, as with privacy clear player and participant agreements only partly alleviate
the problem as they lack immediacy. In the heat of the game, it may be difficult to remember
what responsibilities you have accepted as a player.
In addition to harm and offence, a third important concept for thinking about accountability is
risk. Even though drunk driving is harmless most of the time, it’s considered unacceptable
and punishable because it involves a small risk of significant harm to outsiders. Drunk driving
is especially condemnable because it’s harmful to individuals in the scale of the whole
society: the harsh punishments are legitimate due to statistically large number of accidents
caused by recklessness, even though the risk in a particular case (driving slowly in desolate
area) might be very small. Understanding the risks of pervasive gaming is only possible after
more largescale games are organized, as currently most of the occurring problems are
Again following Friedman, we use the term ‘bias’ to refer to activities that systematically and
unfairly discriminate against certain individuals or groups, in favour of others.
For traditional games, it is hard to claim that they ever are biased in favour of one player to
another. The player whose children beat him in Counter Strike may get aggravated and
frustrated, but will probably not blame the game for bias. The ‘bias’ is in this case an
emergent effect of the rule set, and when volunteering to enter the game you thereby agree
with those effects the discrimination is systematic but it is not unfair. Computer games may
however introduce bias based on their dependence on technology. For example, realtime
games such as Counter Strike will often systematically discriminate against players with
lower bandwidth or less optimal computer hardware. Some games have also been accused of
bias when they contain hidden rules that affect game play in ways that players were not able
to foresee. More serious bias is sometimes introduced between different categories of participants. Online games will often provide game operators with abilities that are not necessarily
perceived as ‘fair’ by the players. Many pervasive games give considerable power to game
masters over the participants, as the orchestrators keep secrets, issue assignments, and
technologically observe the players. Often the organizers also operate in secrecy, not
revealing their identity to the players during the game, and the transparency of the game
orchestration is kept to minimum. Personal relationships of players and game orchestrators
might become especially problematic as due to this asymmetry; maybe the jealous game
orchestrator can use the exact position information to track his girlfriend who signed a broad
disclaimer to participate in the game, or maybe he gives her a privileged status in the game.
For pervasive games, there can be a serious bias between aware and unaware participants in
several roles. This is further discussed below.
2.3.4 Autonomy and Deception
In addition to privacy, the right to autonomy is often regarded as one of the fundamental
human rights enjoying strong protection. In ethics autonomy is essentially the individual’s
right to selfdetermination i.e. the right to make one’s own decisions, and as a concept it is
close to the right of decisional privacy. The difference between these two rights is that
whereas decisional privacy entails more the right to withhold one’s decisions from other
people, autonomy refers both to the right to make decisions but also to the capacity to make
them. If a person’s capacity to make an informed, ethical decision is harmed, then one’s right
The need for consent is also a question of autonomy: the ability to give an informed consent
on a matter concerning oneself is dependent on the autonomy of the subject (Patry 2001). Therefore this question is particularly evident with the case of unaware participation, since
there is a possibility that using unaware participants requires some sort of deceiving, as was
the case in Prosopopeia Bardo 1: Där vi föll.
Psychology and social sciences in general use deception in research experiments where there
would be a possibility that being truthful would somehow affect the results of the test. This
used to be more widespread and less controlled in the 1960’s, but ever since Milgram’s
, deception has become a criticised practice and its use is quite
commonly controlled by ethical boards. Nowadays it is common to distinguish unnecessary
and justified deception, where the latter is deemed to hold more benefits than harm.
The discussion and criticism on the Milgram experiment offers good insight into ethics of
deception. In his assessment of the criticism, Herrera (2001) notes that the Milgram’s test and
the use of deception in research has been mainly criticised for causing harm and involving
significant risks for the participants, generally invading the autonomy of the participants. However, Herrera continues, there have been numerous studies on the effects of deception on
test subjects and the contention of them is that deception causes little or no harm at all. Similarly, a survey conducted among the Milgram test subjects showed that the majority of
the subjects thought of the experiment as a positive thing (Milgram 1964).
As Herrera points out, the test subjects in Milgram’s experiment were not tricked to doing
anything that they would not have done without the deception (Herrera 2001). The invasion
on the right of autonomy is questionable on the same grounds: the choice to administer the
electric shocks was always the subjects’ alone. The teacherlearner –setting could not have
given them to believe that the shocks were in any way more acceptable that in their normal
life. So, if their freedom to make a choice and the capacity to make ethical decisions were not
diminished, it cannot be said that their autonomy was in any way compromised.
Even so, Milgram’s experiments have been heavily criticized. We will have reason to come
back to this in our analysis of the Vem gråter example, where one informant explicitly
mentioned the deception as problematic in itself; independent of the harm it might have
caused. Deception introduces a bias between the people ‘in the know’, typically game masters
and some players, and the people who are unaware. There are situations where deception can
cause real harm on the game’s participants and spectators.
2.4 Artistic Motivation and Societal Commentary
Discussing offenses not causing bodily harm, Vandeveer (1979) points out that in political
conflicts, it’s in the interests of the third parties to have both sides of the conflict brought to
public, and offensive provocation is often the only or the best way to do so. From the
perspective of this third party interest, he formulates what he calls the Standard of
Permissiveness toward Conscientious Offence:
Individuals engaged in conscientiously motivated dissent aimed at securing what
dissenters judge to be more desirable social arrangements have a claim to restraint
from coercive interference even if their dissent is seriously offensive.
Applied to pervasive gaming, Vandeveer’s argument is that if a pervasive game is aimed at
improving the social system, it should be tolerated even if it might offend someone, as long as
it’s motivated by the organizers’ conscience. In the spirit of free speech, the benefit of the
society demands tolerance for such expressions.
5 Stanley Milgram’s psychological experiment on obedience was a series of controversial tests conducted in 1960’s, on which the participants were deceived to be participating on a test on the effectiveness of punishment in
education. In the experiment, the participants were ordered to give electric shocks for every wrong answer to
“another test subject”, who was in fact an actor faking the shocks. The results of the test were staggering with 65 %
(26 out of 40) of the people willing to give the final shock of 450 volts to the student. (Milgram 1963)
Deciding what counts as such “conscientiously motivated dissent” is a complicated question;
Vandeveer discusses the examples of antiabortion activism and NeoNazism, concluding that
“We must, as the standard insists, tolerate the conscientiously offensive; it is not obvious that
we must exercise similar permissiveness toward the unconscientiously offensive, or, as some
have put it, tolerate (to the same degree) the intolerant”. Thus, the acceptability depends on
the conscientious motivation or lack of it. Whether a game can be “conscientiously motivated
dissent” as well as a commercial product depends on the case; it’s certainly possible, as many
profitable yet also conscientiously motivated books and documentaries demonstrate. As a
principle, the freedom of expression includes playful expression as well.
This argumentation is valid when discussing Prosopopeia Bardo 1: Där vi föll, as – for
example – one of the points consciously planned into the game was that all reality is
construction, we should open people’s eyes to see the fabrication – be it done by mainstream
media, the Pentagon, or pervasive gamers. Seeing this fabrication and acting against societal
norms empowers people to better criticize the constructed society.6 Many gamelike flash mob
events, such as Whirling Dervishes (McGonigal 2005), also fall under this definition, demanding the society to engage in more public playfulness and claiming the streets back to
In this chapter we analyze some relevant case examples that have attracted our interested
during IPerG. Some of the examples have been created within the project, while some of them
come from external games. In some examples we have focused on some detail in game design
or execution, while in other cases we have evaluated complete game designs. In addition to
the case examples presented here, we have sought to integrate our other experiences in
pervasive gaming in this report as well. Most of the ethical issues are related to social expansion, or, expanding the game beyond the
people who start to play the game. Several game designs offer ambiguous roles for players
and spectators through a deliberately ambiguous game context. When a person first makes
contact with the game, it does not make itself fully known. It will be noticeable that
something is taking place, but not exactly what is happening. The typical pattern is that people
become aware of the game through passing through three broad stages of awareness.
Unaware state: The game experiences go unnoticed or are interpreted as ‘everyday’ phenomena.
Ambiguous state: The experiences produced by the game are too obvious or too
closely related to each other to be ignored; still there is no frame of reference that
would reveal and confirm the fact that it is a game, which we will refer to as the
Conscious state: The game context is accessible to the person.
The critical stage is that of ambiguity, as this is when it is possible to misinterpret the
experience as reality. The game experience in this state is that of a reality game, a piece of
6 Based on email discussions with lead designer Martin Ericsson (in 2005 and 2006).
fabricated reality that is a game but does not reveal itself as such.7 A particular problem is that
the audience will form their own interpretation of the context. Unless the ambiguous
experience is carefully designed, these interpretations can very well be much more dangerous
and worrying than the true explanation (that it was a game).
It should be noted that the ambiguous state can still support a playful, ludic, interpretation
both for the people in ambiguous state and the people in conscious state.
Vem gråter was planned to be a weeklong sequence of mysterious poltergeistevents staged
within the Gotland University premises, in winter 2005 – a project work on a course on
pervasive gaming. We got the opportunity to study Vem gråter after the game had concluded,
by interviewing players, organizers and university staff.
Vem gråter created a series of events with hidden clues allowing the participants to dig deeper
into the mystery, a ghost story based on historic events concerning the role of Sweden and
Gotland in the Second World War. The game comprised of the following elements:
A set of staged paranormal events, carried out at the university, including a tape
recorder hidden in a ventilation shaft, sending out sounds of a crying child, a tower of
furniture built overnight, and coal scribbles on a wall. The installations were staged
late in the evenings when the premises were relatively empty. An actor pretending to be ‘SpiricomThomas’, an occult investigator. He appeared
at a couple of occasions in the university and in some cafés. Two web sites, ‘created by’ SpiricomThomas and a local ghost hunter society. Announcements at university bulletin boards. Two of these were from Spiricom Thomas and the third announced a fake seminar on parapsychology. A set of hidden clues around the town intended for the people solving the riddle.
All events and clues were supposed to point towards a final scene concluding the game. For
numerous reasons this final event was never staged. These game elements were also the only
possible way of learning that there was a mystery puzzle; there were no invitations or
possibilities to sign up. Rules of the game were not explained anywhere.
The game did not work out as intended. Instead of students or teachers, the maintenance staff
of the university turned out to be the main audience. In their frame of interpretation, the
historical and ethical perspectives of the ghost story were lost, and the game elements were
interpreted in the frame of vandalism instead of the frame of playfulness or mystery. Thus, the
police and local newspapers became also interested.
In our research it soon became clear that the vast majority of bystanders had never noticed
anything at all, or interpreted their experiences as ordinary life. Thus, we only interviewed six
people, and only one of these people was actually a student trying to solve the puzzle as
The game managed to keep many participants in the ambiguous state for the most of the time.
The ambiguous state is a labile, transitional state, which most people try to resolve by making
7 Candid camera, scambaiting and invisible theater are practices deceiving outsiders in a similar fashion.
assumptions regarding truth behind the events faced. Summarizing our interviews, we ended
up in four prototypical interpretations for Vem gråter:
1. Ghosts are real. This was the interpretation implied in the game design, although the
organizers did not intend this interpretation to be made. This interpretation did not
show up in our interviews. 2. The ghost investigator is dangerous and mentally unstable. This interpretation
accepts that SpiricomThomas exists, but he is crazy and potentially dangerous
intruder instead of any kind of an investigator. This interpretation was not intended by
the organizers but became widespread among the university staff. 3. Students are making pranks. This interpretation indicates that the students are
making trouble at the school. This interpretation prevailed among the staff, even after
the true nature of the events was uncovered.
4. Someone has created a cool adventure. This ludic interpretation is the driving force
of alternate reality gaming. It requires an understanding of the fact that the events are
fabricated, even though they become more engaging through ambiguity. The player is
thrilled by the fact that he does not know what is going on or what could happen next.
Obviously the professional role and personal history strongly influence the interpretation
made. In the case of Vem gråter a younger, gameoriented audience would probably have
been more inclined towards an adventurous interpretation, while in the eyes of a janitor
already frustrated with students, the same events appear as vandalism. In order to enjoy Vem
gråter the observer had to make the cool adventure interpretation. However, the second and
3.1.2 SpiricomThomas Story Spin
The university administration quite quickly figured out that a student group must have put up
by students, but rather by the external person SpiricomThomas, who had been visible in the
This suspicion was interpreted as potentially dangerous, and measures were taken to protect
the university staff from the potentially dangerous person lurking in the corridors. We thought that he was not well, and there is an uncertainty when a person is
psychically ill how they act, and since we have personnel here in the evenings we had
to take action immediately. (Head of the janitor staff)
They had not made the connection between the parapsychology investigator and the
game, so they thought that he was a schizophrenic psychopath who had been attracted
by the game… they thought that they had to deal with a real psychopath. (Teacher at
According to one of our informants, some women had got in contact with Kvinnojouren, a
phone service for harassed women, expressing fear for the person playing SpiricomThomas.
It was this amateur researcher, the actor, who went around and made contact with the
students, that was perceived as scaring in particular by women… one woman at
. However, the other game elements were not immediately thought to be planted
8 The posters contained a web address to a server with an IP address from within the university.
Kvinnojouren at Gotland has received a lot of phone calls from scared women, she told
me about this… (Woman aware of the gameness of the events)
The student group was however highly sceptical towards the idea that SpiricomThomas was
actually able to scare anybody. The following cite is from the interview with the developer
R4: These rumours that were spread that this Thomas would be a threat against
people, I found that almost shocking. R2: And it was strange. R4: He was acting, and I don’t know if it was due to bad planning or something like
R1: and some of it might be rumours spreading… R4: A tad eccentric, but not to the extent so that he actually acted as ‘off’ as people
It is quite possible that the students are right in this. After all, a simpler explanation would
have been to immediately suspect the students (which the university staff already knew were
behind some of the posters) to be responsible for the whole set of events. But as we will see
from the following quote, the university staff had an independent incitement to end up in a
‘lunatic’ explanation. The head of the janitor staff described his thoughts at the first encounter
with the events – a tower of chairs in one of the classrooms – the following way. We have a student here, who used to be a student, who hangs around here and is not
entirely well, but we have still let him hang around here because he wants to be here
and we have some staff that have some contact with him. But then we thought that it
was him who was fooling around, because he likes this particular room. He is often
there and just stands in the dark, so our first thought was that it must be him. But it
turned out that he had nothing at all to do with this. (Head of janitor staff)
There was thus an incidental connection between one of the very first observations made by
the janitors, and a person who was mentally ill. When the university staff started to connect
the events to the appearance of SpiricomThomas, they were already mentally prepared for
the ‘lunatic’ interpretation of the events.
A largely unforeseen problem was that the game was, to a very large extent, perceived as
vandalism by the university staff. Installations such as scribbles and piled chairs were
considered messy, unpleasant and potentially dangerous to clean up. Also, they were seen as
purposefully scary. To some extent, the staff continued to look on the events as vandalism
even after the game had been outed as a reality game.
This is about our profession and our job, it is not acceptable to create this kind of
situations for us, not from the perspective that this is our working environment. (Head
This reaction should have been foreseeable, but the student group was only semiaware of the
problem even at the time of the interview. The problem was recognized in conjunction with
the wall scribbles, as these were reported to the police.
In a sense the vandalism interpretation is related to the issue of bias. The janitors guessed
quite correctly that the Vem gråter installations were created by students, but their previous
experience of some students lead to the assumption that the students might have done the
installations in order to intentionally cause harm – differentiating a “prank” from an “act of
vandalism”. Apparently, in addition to requiring game designers and operators to be free of
bias, it is important to convince the players and unaware participants of the lack of bias and
goodwilled nature of the game. Otherwise the perceived or assumed bias may destroy the
3.2 Prosopopeia Bardo 1: Där Vi Föll
Prosopopeia Bardo 1: Där vi föll9 was a pervasive larp 10 about players being possessed. In a
nutshell, the players were expected to roleplay themselves in Stockholm mostly identical to
ours, where they were possessed by ghosts of deceased people. For 52 hours, the players
mixed roleplaying themselves and the possessing ghosts, going on with their everyday lives
while simultaneously roleplaying ghosts walking in the world of living (see Jonsson & al
In a sense, every player took the role similar to that of SpiricomThomas, engaging in
pretence play with unsuspecting people. As Prosopopeia was a roleplaying game, the players
could have long, intricate and credible discussions with outsiders as part of the game. As they
could never know where the game ended and began, they had to often interact with outsiders
in order to progress in the game. Prosopopeia was an alternate reality game in the sense that it
was contextualized in the everyday lives of the players, and this feeling was heightened by the
fact that it was also contextualized in the everyday lives of the outsiders unaware of the game.
According to the players, perceiving the routines of the ordinary world, with the heightened
perspective of the game fiction, created an intense feeling of Prosopopeia being more than a
The following citation from player feedback illustrates a typical encounter in the game. The
players met a complete outsider whom they thought to be a part of the game, even after the
game when writing their research debriefs.
First, there was a meeting on the cemetery, when a man came strolling by who
obviously had something to do with the game. I appreciate the way it was handled. He
introduced himself as passingby, and waited for us to make a move, which we didn’t.
So he left. As I understand it, he had knowledge about the EVPrecorder, which we had
problems with. Even if this was not a roleplayingencounter, it worked fine. And it
made me feel like it wasn’t hopeless; someone was looking out for us. In this particular
game it worked fine, as everything already made me feel part of a big conspiracy, and
he fit in there too. Many players were asked to conduct interactions of ghosts and unaware outsiders. For
example, one ghost (and thus the player) was to shelter a real, homeless person, having been
an activist working for the shelters for homeless in Stockholm. Another ghost had a message
to deliver to the local Catholic monsignor. These outsiders were not chosen by the game
organizers in any way, they had no connection to any homeless people or Catholics before the
game, but it was assumed that the players could find the unaware participants on their own. These were some the most serious, intense and engaging tasks in the game, in a sense a ‘price’ ghosts had to pay for returning to life.
9 A collaboration of IPerG project and volunteers, June 2005. By Martin Ericsson, Adriana Skarped, Staffan Jonsson
and others. 10 A live-action roleplaying game staged in a pervasive fashion.
After the game, an ethical debate emerged on the message board of a Finnish roleplaying
magazine where the game was presented, to discuss the dilemmas of unaware participation.11
Especially attempt to involve a priest in the game heated up discussion. The discussants of
Roolipelaaja forum used the following restrictive argumentation styles against Prosopopeia:
People should not play pranks on others without their consent. Unaware participants are unwillingly commodified by the players. Wasting person’s professional working time with a game is not right. Helping an unfortunate person in a fashion that secretly is a game actually exploits his
plight. Games should not toy with events and things that are considered holy. Many discussants argued on behalf of the game with following permissive arguments:
Art, including Prosopopeia, is supposed to break borders, and thus games classifying
as such should be allowed unaware participation. If the unaware participant has a positive experience or benefits from the game, the
game is acceptable. As all reality is constructed, fabrication motivated by gaming is just as right or wrong
as the construction made by e.g. media and governments. Most of the people – professionals especially – play some kind of fabricated roles
anyway in their interactions with unknown people. Gaming is no worse.
Commodification of time is an interesting sidetrack in the Prosopopeia discussion, as
‘wasting’ outsiders’ time was seen as a bad thing. At the same time other discussants saw
priest’s professional time in terms of money and efficiency. Thus, a homeless hobo would be
commodified involuntarily by the game, while working for money is voluntary self commodification. Using the working time for the game can be seen as stealing that resource
from the employer. These interpretations are highly culturespecific: imposing oneself on
another and privacy issues in general are more highly regarded in Finland than, for example,
In a detailed analysis of different categories of exploitation Feinberg (1988, 205) writes that
“A may simply utilize some traits or circumstances of B’s for his own purposes without
wrong or harm to B or anyone else. Sometimes this is called “exploiting” the other’s traits or
circumstances, but in this sense “exploits” is nonpejorative, and it’s just another way of
saying “puts to use”. Not all use is illuse. In these cases, A blamelessly “exploits” B’s
characteristics or situation without exploiting B himself”. Although Feinberg understandably
does not analyze a case on pervasive gaming, many fabricated discussions with unaware
outsiders can be classified as harmless parasitism, where A gains advantage of B while B
suffers no harm from A’s actions. If such exploitation is harmless and not disrespectful, it’s
One interesting thing in Prosopopeia is that the players never execute the most challenging
tasks involving outsiders (such as ones involving priest and the homeless person). Obviously
11 Article was written by Markus Montola and published in Roolipelaaja magazine (www.roolipelaaja.fi). He also
facilitated the discussion by providing further information as needed. Some parts of the discussion were dominated
by a misunderstanding as the participants assumed that the priest encounter had actually taken place, but it was later on clarified that the player had autonomously decided to not perform the task.
such playing is intense and requires effort, but the player with the priest quest also
commented that he didn’t perform the task since he found it unethical.
In both the cases of Vem gråter and Prosopopeia there was a clear undercurrent condemning
the fabrication of reality for the purposes of gaming in particular. A potential explanation for
this could be that the informants’ implicitly assume that games are always played for
entertainment, ignoring the suitability of games for purposes of art, research, education and
3.2.1 Uncontrolled Environment
The Prosopopeia players had many interactions with complete outsiders during the game.
Many of these encounters, such as the one described above, were greatly appreciated by the
players, for the thrill of not knowing where the borders of the game lie. Combined with the
fact that in many pervasive games the players are observed constantly, or the players at least
believe so, there might be a false feeling of safety in these interactions. Even though the
protective frame of gameplay does not extend to people unaware of the game, this is
something that might be forgotten in the thrill of the game.12
The fundamental question is about accountability in uncontrolled environment. If a game tells
players to go at a bad area of town during night, is the game organizer responsible of placing
them in the risk of getting robbed or mugged? The answer is clearly dependent on where the
game is played; while in Stockholm the risk might be insignificant, elsewhere it might be very
considerable. If the risk is significant, the most important thing in the game design is to
clearly communicate that the game does not protect the player to prevent a false feeling of
safety. As a clear ethical benefit, games like Prosopopeia that encourage players to talk with
the homeless or to wander into poor areas of the town can be also seen as beneficial, as they
have the potential to bridge gaps between socioeconomical classes.
One example of problematic design in uncontrollable environment is Wanderer
parkourinspired GPS game where player should travel in real world at set speed, while
receiving random orders on which direction he should be moving at a given time.14
During the tests the players where highly motivated to follow the commands given by
the game even when the environment was not allowing the player to perform the
instructed movements. For example, players crossed streets, even with cars
approaching that were forced to stop in order not to hit the player. During this
example the players made it clear that they were not unaware of the environment, but
were willing to force the environment in order to keep playing the game. (Hielscher &
In Wanderer, the commands are received aurally and the focus of the game is in the
environment. The (relatively rare) chases of Botfighters are unfortunately different, as the
players need to focus on their cellphone screens as well in order to maneuver properly. This is
one of the reasons why Can You See Me Now left the street runner position to game
organizers and allowed random players to only play the online side.
12 There is unfortunately no research data on this. 13 By Jonas Hielscher and Jiri Heitlager (2006). 14 While it was run in Sweden, the hard-core players of Botfighters expressed comparable behavior.
Epidemic Menace 215 was a 23 hour crossmedia game that was played with 2 teams of 4
players, four times in a research campus area. The player teams were antivirus teams that
were supposed to track and catch escaped viruses, as well as try to figure out who had
The gaming was divided in two modes, command centre and fieldwork. The players in the
command centre could track and instruct the field agents but they were not able to directly do
anything, only the filed agents could do that. In addition to this the competing team could see
(but not hear) what was going on in the command centre through a webcam. In fact, any
internetuser could tap into the stream from the command centres and two web cams placed in
the park where the field agents played.
The players were constantly under video surveillance while they were playing. They were
directly observed by the other players, by the tech team, the designer, and via the webcams by
evaluators, other players, game designers, anyone on the internet and all of their actions on
the devices were being logged. In addition to this there was at least one cameraman present in
all the games documenting the experience.
In the interview that was conducted as part of the evaluation after the game, most of the
players felt like they had been observed, but most also stated that it had not bothered them. The fact that they had also been able to watch the streams from the webcams was perceived as
fun or even integral to the game by some players. A few interviewees would have wanted
more cameras, specifically mounted cameras worn by the players who were hunting the
viruses outside. A few players commented that though the surveillance as such had not been a
problem, the fact that there was a cameraman running around did break the illusion of the
game world. Also, the actions of the cameraman were perceives as metainformation: if the
cameraman was interested in filming something then that must be pivotal to the game.
I was constantly analysing why he filmed this or that.
These statements are in a bit of a conflict with some of the observation data. As the players
started to play the game they were given tshirts. In the fourth game the tshirts were given in
the gaming area and the webcams were already active. The players closed the door to the
room and huddled bashfully in corners while they switched shirts, yet they seemed oblivious
to the webcam (even though they were informed about surveillance and had the option of
changing their clothes in a nearby bathroom). Also, some players were a bit surprised by the
surveillance; they did not feel that they had been properly informed about it beforehand. One
player was also visibly relieved, after finding out about the extent of the surveillance, he was
told that the discussions in the room had not been broadcasted on the internet.
15 Epidemic Menace 2 was organized in cooperation by Fraunhofer FIT, Sony NetServices and Blast Theory together with the support of a number of other IPerG partners. The test of the second prototype was conducted on July the 6
th 2006 on the Campus Birlinghoven, near the city of Bonn in Germany. This report is entirely based on the
second iteration of the game, Epidemic Menace 2, but the findings are likely to apply to the first iteration of Epidemic
As long as the games stay a niche phenomenon, the surveillance doesn’t seem to be a
problem; provided that the players are properly informed beforehand. If the recordings are
broadcasted to a larger audience, then the attitudes may be very different:
It was a bit disturbing to run into people who were watching us on the monitor. How
It seems that as long as the surveillance stays within the magic circle, then the players do not
object to it. In fact that might even want to have as much of it as possible as shown by the
desire to have mounted cameras in player head gear. Yet when people who are not
participating in the game observe the players, then the players may be uneasy as they have no
control or knowledge of those viewers. One way to remind the players of the presence of the
camera is to make it very prominent and visible (as with the moving human cameraman), but
this then disrupts the game. If the cameras are hidden, then the game flows better, but the
participants forget about the surveillance.
These observations clearly support the aforementioned problem with privacy that computer
technology brings: the lack of immediacy obscures the effects of information sharing. The
players may also forget that they are being observed and do things that they would not if they
remembered this. On argument for game surveillance is that it may be for the best that the
players learn the implications of surveillance ubiquitous in our society in a ludic context of
pervasive gaming. Most of us are fundamentally unaware of the camera density in urban
areas, insecurity of internet communications, log data created by cellphone usage et cetera.
Pervasive gaming offers a good opportunity to change our theoretical knowledge about
surveillance into practical handson feeling on what can be recorded and what can not. Educating people on surveillance can help them to protect their privacy outside and after the
The game was partly played outside in a park in a campus area. The area was open to
bystanders and there were some people walking around who were not affiliated with the game
in any way. Yet, the area was clearly separate and in a way selfcontained.
Most of the players said in the interview that they would not feel comfortable playing the
game in a crowded area. The campus location was seen as a good place as bystanders seemed
to be either aware of the game or were just not surprised about the game. In the questionnaire
50% of the participants said that they would not want to play in city centre and only 10% said
that the game would fit at an art or culture festival.
These findings were echoed in the interview:
You just can’t play it in a normal crowded are. You can play it if it is very crowded, or
if it is empty. If there are just a few people here and there then you are a weird person
Someone might call the police if they saw you with all the equipment.
The central concern was ridicule. The fact that people might laugh at (or be confused by) the
players because they are carrying around weird equipment came up time after time in the
interviews. This is supported by the suggestion that if the game was moved to a city centre,
Playing in a crowded public area would also seem more acceptable, if the playing happened in
the context of a television series (if the game was part of a tvseries tiein) as then bystanders
would know what was happening. Generally, the interviewees reacted negatively to
ambiguous social expansion and had not talked to bystanders at all.
If it in a framework of a TV show and the whole nation knows what I’m doing, then
maybe it’s ok. Running around if everybody thinks I’m crazy wouldn’t be fun.
An empty warehouse or a similar empty location was seen as the ideal location for the game
(92% would like to play in a warehouse and 89% preferred a separate location over a festival
setting). These numbers are probably slightly tainted by the fact that the game in question was
built around the concept of a killer virus and thus would require a location with as few people
as possible as they would, following diegetic logic, all be dead or infected.
The paraphernalia needed to play Epidemic Menace is quite extensive. This seems to be the
problem with playing the game in an open public space. It would not be possible to point out
the players of Prosopopeia on the street, but the players of Epidemic Menace would stick out
immediately. On the one hand Epidemic Menace would thus be easier to play in a city centre
as bystanders would be alerted to the carnevalistic nature of the game by the presence of the
elaborate equipment. On the other hand precisely that would break the illusion of the diegetic
3.4 Beneficent Gaming, a Casuistic Exercise
The issues we have pointed out so far in the case studies have mostly demonstrated the
problems and challenges of pervasive gaming, and especially of unaware participation. As a
casuistic exercise to balance the aforementioned examples, we can construct a beneficent
example of a unaware participation, in order to prove the potential for utilitarian or altruistic
Casuistry is a method for analysing individual cases in relation to similar cases and
generalised ethical principles. The central notion is to identify the particular ethical features in
the case and try to find an analogous but clearer case to which virtually any rational person
would agree. These clear cases are called the paradigm cases.
Some games are already used for charity purposes (national lotteries for instance). As the
magic circle of gameplay is broken in pervasive games, the gameplay of these games can
create very tangible outsider benefits. Consider for example a roleplaying game where the
players are put into the role of a charity organization, for example making a game about
Salvation Army, inspired by Aki Kaurismäki movie Mies vailla menneisyyttä (2002).
Although the obvious benefits of players providing homeless people with soup and soap are
obvious, some considerations need to be made to minimize risks of causing harm. Exploiting
or stealing the brand of Salvation Army would be maleficent, so the charity organization must
be designed and costumed to be similar but still different enough to avoid confusion. Raising
money from outsiders is improper if the organisation pretends to be a real charity
organization. Finally, Salvation Army is a religious organization, but as discussed in context
of Prosopopeia, it’s typically considered more ethical to design a profane variant of the
charity organization for the purposes of the game.
Though it might, at first, be difficult to imagine why players would want to join such a game,
it becomes obvious in closer scrutiny. As long as the larps are well designed, larp players are
known to be willing to be subjected to mentally stressful conditions for long times (Europa),
to live in trash heaps (Amerika), to play predetermined tragedies (Hamlet) and so forth.16
“Entertainment” is not the only intriguing reason to play games, but others exist as well –
including broadening one’s perspectives by joining the Salvation Army lookalike for a week.
If we consider who might be harmed by such a game, we can come up with two parties. First,
the players might be subjected to a reality harsher than they’d expect. This, however, would
be exactly the reason the players signed up. The players need to be informed well enough to
acquire an informed consent, and the harsh reality is actually the selling point of the game.
Secondly, if the game went on for months or more, it might create a group of people whose
welfare depends on continuation of the game.
Finally there’s the matter of exploitation discussed in the context of Prosopopeia. If this is
considered to be a problem, in our ideal example we can also provide announcements to the
possible visitors of the charity organization, explaining that it is all a game about charity. This
precaution should cancel any issues on commodification of the poor and exploiting their
The casuist method helps to remove ideological differences as long as the focus is kept on the
features of the case (Jonsen & Toulmin 1988, 18). Therefore casuistry should be very useful
in particularly pluralistic situations where there are a number of different religions and
ideologies in play. According to some critics, the major problem with the casuist method is
that it leads to the ethics of the masses by reflecting the currently dominant views of the
society thereby not concentrating on what is right, but what is acceptable by most. Secondly,
finding paradigm cases relies on the features that the reviewers decided to include in the case
description making casuistry a rather subjective method. This exercise is intended to speculate
some potentials of pervasive gaming.
4 Practical Considerations
In this chapter we try to discuss practical issues of pervasive game design, making
conclusions based on the ethical discussion and our case analyses.
4.1 Unaware Participation
The utilitarianist acceptability of a game with unaware participation depends on both the
features of the planned game and also the execution of the plan – both on the intentions and
on the results. A utilitarianist look at the ethics of Vem gråter obviously shows that the game
caused feelings of nervousness, uncertainty and stress in the unwilling participants. However,
as a failed experimental game it does not represent the whole of pervasive gaming or even the
In an upcoming pervasive game Cruel 2 B Kind17
acts of kindness. As the players do not know their victims or the other players, they have to
16 Examples mentioned here are larps from Norway and Sweden. Europa portrayed everyday life in a refugee center
where different ethnic groups were struggling for survival. Amerika was about consumerism and world literally
drowning in garbage. Hamlet told the pre-determined tragedy, where most of the players died and the idea of
‘winning’ the game was extremely irrelevant. 17 By Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost, to be played in Come Out and Play festival in New York, September 2006. http://cruelgame.com/ (ref. 1
the players have to kill other players with
st of August 2006).
perform their signature act of kindness to random bypassers until they manage to hit their
targets, the only people who know that the act of kindness is related to the game. In practice
this might mean players wandering around, giving flowers to everyone they meet in order to
give a flower to the target player, thus succeeding in the game.
On the drawing board, producing enjoyment and entertainment to unaware participants
motivates both Vem gråter and Cruel 2 B Kind. However, despite the best intentions Vem
gråter was read as a reckless prank or as scary acts of vandalism. We assume that the unaware
experience of Cruel 2 B Kind will be a spontaneous rush of carnivalistic benevolence.
The question of unaware participation requires discussion what can be done in public space.
Clearly, giving flowers to random bypassers in a park in order to succeed in a game is
acceptable to the most of us. Then again, scribbling on a wall might appear unacceptable,
even though it might be legal (provided the scribbler has the appropriate permissions), as the
observers are unable to perceive the legality of the act. Most of the time the nature of playeroutsider interaction is impossible to exactly control by a
game organizer. The game content emerging due to the friction on the edge of the magic
circle is one important reason why the players have found socially expanded games like Go
Game and Prosopopeia exciting and appealing (McGonigal 2003b, Jonsson & al 2006,
One thing that was perceived as particularly problematic in both Vem gråter and Prosopopeia
was that the games approached professionals in their work. Vem gråter was perceived as acts
of vandalism primarily because it became visible to maintenance staff at the university.
The primary motivation for this ethical standpoint is that professional time is money, and
when involving them into a game you are wasting their employer’s money. In Prosopopeia,
this was aggravated by the fact that the person to be approached was a priest participating in a
religious ceremony, as that was seen as a potential insult on the religious community present.
For the professional, the option to refuse involvement (see the discussion on invitation to
refuse from Montola & Waern 2006a) in the game becomes often unavailable. This was
clearly shown by a Swedish radio show Hassan, which made prank phone calls to unaware
people. On one occasion, Hassan called a woman who was working as the municipal contact
person for people with mental problems. Called upon in her professional role, she made every
attempt to answer Hassan’s questions in a composed and pedagogical manner, making for a
. Due to her role as a professional counsellor, she was literally forbidden to
The Vem gråter vandalism interpretation is an example of the practical problems caused by
not negotiating with the local staff for staging of a reality game. There are also strong reasons
to inform officials such as police and fire brigade prior to a game event that they may get
informed about. Even games that appear to have consent of all parties might end up involving
outsiders. One example of such safesounding but possibly risky game was Kidnap, where a
consenting participant was kidnapped for 24 hours by a group of artists.19
18 The show was aired in real time, and later on made available on CD. The woman did not consent to the latter. She was later forced to leave her job as she became flooded with prank calls. 19 By Blast Theory http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/bt/work_kidnap.html (ref. 9th of June 2006).
One central ethical challenge of pervasive gaming is their use of public space as a part of
spatial (and social) expansion. Feinberg’s Standard of Reasonable Avoidability states that:
No one has a right to protection from the state against offensive experiences if he can
easily and effectively avoid those experiences with no unreasonable effort or
inconvenience. (ref. Vandeveer 1979)
Obviously the unavoidable games, such as Vem gråter or to some extent Prosopopeia are the
core of the problem. Volunteers participating in pervasive games should not be protected from
“harm” caused by them, at least as long as they know what they sign up for. Also, this
emphasizes that the participant should (almost) always have a right to quit her participation in
One question is whether people have a right to solitude in public spaces. As advertisements, bouncers, beggars and salesmen are generally considered as nuisances, there is something
offensive in intruding personal space without invitation. The seriousness of these nuisances
depends on the fashion of intruding and requires specific consideration. Excessive stalking of
outsiders (or other players) is one particular problem, not to even mention issues like sexual
harassment. On the other hand, public spaces are just that, public, and the desire for not being
interrupted is fulfilled in private spaces.
There are also strong arguments for bringing games to public space. As participants engage in
public play, they are also redefining the public space, turning streets from no man’s land to
every man’s land. The ideology of reclaiming the streets suggests that traffic is not the only
function of urban outdoor areas, but they should be used creatively as well. In this respect
pervasive gaming can have similar functions as invisible theatre 20
parties have. The more radical street artists speaking for reclaiming the public space also
argue that all individuals should have the right to both use public spaces and also alter them –
the graffiti movement can be seen as a pervasive art movement taking visual arts outside the
contractual spaces typically reserved for art.
Staging games in public areas only is a doubleedged solution in terms of providing the
unaware participants the possibility of refusing the game.21 As the game stays in public space,
it can be refused by leaving the public space – but pervasive game organizer can’t except
random people to stay in their homes while running the game. This solution is used by many
Killer troupes, which only allow assassinations to happen in public spaces and thus reducing
, flash mobs and street
Pervasive games should typically be designed to be ambiguously visible primarily to people
that can be assumed to make ludic interpretations of the experience. Achieving this can be
difficult; a janitor has a professional reason for taking game events seriously, while generally
women and men react differently to mysterious stalkers in the night. Other factors that may
inspire preferred interpretations include the choice of location (ambiguous clues of The A.I. Game were presented in the movie trailer), the choice of theme (I Love Bees had the flavour
20 Undercover theatre play in public spaces, where actors pretend to be ordinary individuals. 21 Invitation to refuse, see Montola & Waern (2006a).
of honey farming), and the choice of aware players (SpiricomThomas was probably
perceived to be more scary than small children would have been).
The thematic choices are important. Whereas a scary, depressing or even violent theme is
often enjoyable in a contextualised game, the lack of contextualization makes the same theme
very problematic in the unaware or ambiguous game context. As the protective frame of game
or fiction is missing, a thrilling game inspires raw, unmediated fear in the participant. While it
is possible that some people might enjoy of such an extreme experience22
certainty on that before the beginning of the game is practically impossible.23 This is the key
difference between Vem gråter and Cruel 2 B Kind, where the latter is likely to create a
thoroughly agreeable atmosphere for nonplayers. Even selecting a nonscary theme will not
in itself guarantee that the game is not perceived as scary.
The most serious problem with Vem gråter was the amount of story spin that was generated
by the events. The major example is the interpretation of SpiricomThomas as a potential
lunatic. The other example is the interpretation of the game event as a prank staged by the
students to ‘get even’ with the school, and in general the organisational conflicts that the game
It is all too easy to dismiss these stories as the result of ‘freak coincidences’ with reality – in
this case there really was a mentally ill person related to the university and the students had a
real reason to be disappointed with university management. But such coincidences are legion
in reality and alternate reality games and form an essential part of the game aesthetics. Even
though the Vem gråter case is extreme, any game that offers ambiguous game experiences
runs a risk of backfiring this way. The advantage of establishing Huizinga’s magic circle
around a game experience is that it also keeps many issues outside the game: In traditional
games a poor person can easily play a millionaire, and the nightly wanderer does not get
mixed with a known mentally ill person.
For accountability reasons, it is important that there is a person (or several) who is both able
to justify the game design decisions afterwards, and take the responsibility for the game in
case it backfires. In the case of Vem gråter, the lack of a clear responsible designer/producer
created a lot of harm in the aftermath of the events, where the university, the game
development education, and the students suffered.
The risk of a harmful story spin is practically everpresent with expanded games. One
example of a game where risk certainly existed but was tolerably small was Epidemic
Menace 2, in which the players portrayed members of “European Epidemic Prevention
Agency EEPA”, trying to catch deadly viruses in campus area. Dressed up in EEPA shirts and
wielding complicated technology, there theoretically was a risk of misunderstanding leading
to a weird story spin. In practice, however, in campus area the risk of someone
22 In pop culture, David Fincher’s movie The Game (1997) suggests that some people might enjoy such fear at least in
retrospect, after the game is over and the ambiguity is cleared. It is also relatively common in the Nordic larp culture
to consider negative character emotions and experiences as positive experiences for the player. 23 A hardcore community of pervasive gamers might create a website, where they could publicly declare their willingnes to play unaware parts in pervasive games with certain, defined conditions. Restrictions and permissions established in such way would help designers to plan their reality games and choose their participants, even though
the legal status of such one-sided contracts would be an important consideration.
misinterpreting a PDA or a cellphone as real medical equipment was so small that the risk of a
story spin was probably acceptably small.
In Vem gråter interviews we asked the informants if they found this type of gaming ethically
acceptable. The answers varied from clear ‘yes’ over “it is not acceptable to scare people” to
clear “no”. Some interviewees motivated their ‘yes’ from a postmodern perspective: As the
world consists of a web of fabricated realities, reality gaming could make people aware on
how they were fooled. This educational perspective of shaking people awake was seen as a
justification for pervasive gaming. This opinion was also voiced in the online discussion on
I find the genre acceptable, the basic form that forced people to think again, when you
get to know that aha, this was not completely real and here I have been, believing it to
be real. (Student in the development team)
One of the interviewees in the Vem gråter study expressed an almost opposite opinion:
What I react against in this is that there is somebody who creates deliberate
deceptions, and then can stand at the side and think ‘ha, ha look’… (Observer aware of
The crucial issue is that to deceive somebody, there must be somebody who is ‘in the know’
and for that reason has power over the people who are being deceived. The alternate reality
game genre introduces a systematic bias between the aware and the unaware participants
(irrespective of role). From this ethical standpoint, the whole genre of alternate reality games
Many pervasive games are based on the TINGparadigm of aesthetics (see McGonigal 2003a,
2003b), where it’s important that the game does not explicitly appear to be a game to the
player. In this type of game, it’s sometimes not desirable to exactly inform the players of the
ways they are observed during the game.
An unfortunately easy solution is a carte blanche approach, where the players allow the game
operators to gather information and fabricate reality in unclearly defined or countless ways. The rationale behind the approach is that if the game operator acquires the permission to do
anything, the players cannot guess what the operator will do – leading to a better game
experience (for people appreciating the TINGaesthetic). Ethically the carte blanche approach
is problematic: the players’ ability to make informed decisions is compromised, as they do not
understand the possibilities and limitations of surveillance and fabrication in pervasive
games.24 The player might not know who stores the information, who are the people having
an access to it and for what purposes it will be used.
24 Would the players sign a form where they consent to “any means of technical surveillance for the duration of the game”, if they knew that they were accepting the fact that they may be surveilled 24 hours per day by audio and video, the recordings may be stored for unlimited time and used for any imaginable purposes by a large number of
people without internal regulation? In extreme cases, the game operator might even claim that “technical surveillance” includes covertly reading their email messages, monitoring their web use, tracking their cellphone movements et cetera et cetera (even though such claim might not hold in court).
The problems of a carte blanche approach are also relevant when obtaining information from
players, e.g. regarding special diets, health status et cetera. If the players are not appropriately
informed on the content and gameplay of the game, their ability of providing sufficient
information on their health status is difficult. Depending on the game, especially conditions
such as diabetes, epilepsy and heart diseases. Mental conditions may turn out to be relevant as
well, e.g. panic disorder and various phobias. In order to ensure player safety, a game asking
for carte blanche list of permissions in order to uphold secrecy, may also need to obtain a
relatively complete health information of all players and review it carefully.
All data stored on player activities should be deleted immediately when it is no longer needed
for operating and developing the game, and, in most games, the permission for the use of data
should be obtained in advance. It is far better to obfuscate the players by asking permissions
for types of sensory information not used in the game, than to use data without permission. In
addition, only needed data should be collected or stored, and after the game the players should
have a right to know what data was collected and how it was used. Data collected for the
game should not be used or stored for other purposes, except when an informed consent is
acquired. If medical data or other especially confidential information is collected, it’s access
and use may need special regulations and care.
4.6.1 Ridicule and Awkwardness
The players of Epidemic Menace 2 had concerns on ridicule on players. Although we do not
generally realize this, many societies place cultural restrictions on which games adults are
supposed to play in public. Games including e.g. elements of roleplay (Epidemic Menace, Prosopopeia and Vem gråter) might cause such awkwardness in some players. This
awkwardness and the potential social repercussions are rather unpleasant nuisances than
tangible harms; it’s unlikely that an outsider comment on Epidemic Menace would be more
than a passing irritation. Communicating the nature of a pervasive game early on is usually
more of a practical recommendation than an ethical one: In order to facilitate playing and to
make sure the players entering the game are likely to enjoy it, it is good to ensure that players
Placing this playfulness into public spaces not reserved for gaming can be seen as a beneficial
effect exactly because of the social norms that restrict playing: Loosening those norms allows
people to behave more freely in public, and can result in further pleasurable playfulness. The
openness and boldness required from theatre actors can be taught in stressful and awkward
(yet usually fun and rewarding) drama exercises, and pervasive gaming serves well in this
As McGonigal (2006) notes, many pervasive games tend to shift the focus from free play
within the illusory constraints towards becoming actors playing their part in a vision dictated
by the game designer. According to her experiences on Go Game and I Love Bees the players
are often willing to go surprisingly far with obeying the commands issued by game
organizers, even when those orders are misunderstood. The players of I Love Bees managed to
overcome surprising challenges when they convinced a restaurant proprietor to open an hour
earlier in order to complete an assignment, as the organizers had accidentally designed the
game event for wrong time zone. In Go Game the players’ literal interpretation of a spicedup
opening message became a surprising public show:
Just before the game started, another Go Game writer decided to revise the opening
text message I had prepared. My text was a bit dry: “Welcome, superheroes! Press GO
when you’re ready to start the game.” We both agreed it would be better to set a more
playful mood, so she added a colorful interjection to the welcome message: “Howdy
superheroes – hold onto your hats, it’s time to drop your pants and dance! Press GO
when you’re ready to start the game.” I had already forgotten about this minor text
change when the teams assembled in Washington Square Park to receive their first set
of instructions. […] Instead, something completely unexpected happened. Half a dozen
players began unbuckling their belts, unzipping their jeans, and showing off their
underwear while waving their arms in the air. This caught the attention of other
players, who quickly realized – A ha! ‘Drop your pants and dance’ – this is our first
mission! So they, too, dropped their pants and started dancing. Before long, most of the
players were dancing merrily in their underwear. They took photos of each other to
‘prove’ their success in completing the mission. (McGonigal 2006)
In Vem gråter, Prosopopeia and Wanderer the game operator wields considerable power as
well. The responsibility of operator is heightened by the fact that the player’s ability to
voluntarily accept the gaming contract is reduced due to insufficient advance information.
In Prosopopeia the players were expected to sneak into an abandoned mental hospital at
night, which would have been illegal if the area wouldn’t have been rented for the game. They
were not expected to break and enter, as one of the doors was left open, but if they had broken
a window before finding the unlocked door, the game organizer would have faced interesting
Still, the responsibility also falls on aware players of pervasive games, as they stand on the
thin line between game and nongame. Often the gamelife interactions are emergent, chaotic,
surprising and uncontrollable – thus it’s not feasible to plan for all the scenarios in the game
design. As the Prosopopeia priest example demonstrates, the players are able and willing to
use their own judgement during the game. As decades of experience in Killer25 groups and
among urban roleplayers has taught, the players can be trusted to use common sense, and the
players must also be expected to take responsibility of their actions (see e.g. Talvitie).
In regular gaming, the magic circle of gameplay creates a special, contractual state where
ethical rules are changed. Limited forms of violence may be allowed (icehockey), stealing
can considered being a part of game (Everquest) and players’ privacy can be intruded on (Big
Brother). Pervasive games are different, as the magic circle is expanded in terms of space,
time and social relations, and as game actions are so ambiguous that they are often
inseparably mixed with ordinary life actions. Thus, only the players who willingly and
informedly accept the gaming contract can be subjected to the magic circle ethics. Outsiders
and unaware participants can’t be treated with magic circle ethics.
An event that provides an appealing game experience to one person can be deeply
problematic for another person. When exposed to the idea, some people will take a strong
ethical standpoint against it whereas others find it unproblematic and attractive. We hope that
the discussion above sheds light to different sides of the argument, and shows some
problematic and recommendable game structures.
25 Assassination games, such as Killer: The Game of Assassination written down by Steve Jackson in 1981, are played among outsiders. In Killer the outsiders are witnesses and obstacles, who are to be avoided while conducting real- world murders of other players with water pistols.
Often the offences caused by pervasive games are rather nuisances than harms with lasting
effects, and usually the nuisances are caused by unlikely accidents rather than intentional
game designs. These nuisances might be compared with outdoor concerts and street festivals:
Disturbing the neighbourhood by playing loud music and causing traffic jam is better
addressed by politics than ethics. As public space is a shared environment, its use needs to be
governed contractually, and the political system exists for negotiating those contracts. As long
as pervasive gaming remains a niche activity, the nuisances it causes are likely to be too
trivial for the politics to address, so selfregulation is necessary within the field. To minimize
the risk of accidents, adapting the editorinchief model from media is probably a good idea in
major game projects. Appointing a person with extended responsibility and decisive power in
the project is a good way of minimizing the risk in the situations where the responsibility
would otherwise appear to disappear due to complexity of power structures. This would be a
natural role for the producer or lead designer of the game. In order for this system to really
work, the person must take a relatively public role transparent to players (and even outsiders
to some extent), and she needs to have the power to veto any elements of the game design. Many pervasive games and gamelike activities should be perceived as art or political
commentary in addition to being seen as games, based on their motivation, purpose and
design. Especially the issues of public space and privacy have been commented in many
pervasive games. The artistic games perhaps transcend a need for clear, utilitarian valuation
and are subject to public artistic critique instead.
As we look at the fear caused by a nightly wanderer or the way student art is interpreted as
vandalism, this justification becomes more understandable: Perhaps we need, as a society, some boundarybreaking games allowing us to play in public spaces, meet the most unlikely
of people and perhaps give some candy to strangers. Unaware participation has a strong
potential to be a powerful solution instead of being a problem, even though we have mostly
featured problematic scenarios in this paper.
We want to thank the Prosopopeia discussants for commenting the paper, as well as the staff
of Gotland University and the organizers of Vem gråter for allowing us to study the game
afterwards. Of the many people providing good feedback to this report, we want to especially
thank Staffan Björk, Alison Harvey, Jussi Holopainen, Frank Lantz, AriPekka Lappi and
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