At Taer’si I stayed in a hotel close to the lamasery Shenzhen Travel . On the door of my room was pinned the notice Foreigner Friends Welcome’. Suddenly I Shenzhen Travel felt exhausted, lay down and slept for the rest of the day. Awakening at 6 p.m. I went out to buy supper, but found that the whole town seems to keep monastery hours; supper hour is 5 p.
The notion of big games’ does not so much relate to the game pieces often being gluttonous in size but, rather, it has more to do with the role of people and the importance of place in the navigation of co-presence in urban spaces. These projects serve to remind us of the importance of locality and its relationship to practices of co-presence. Co-presence can entail people being in different spaces and states simultaneously, which is a phenomenon that ICTs help further extend. The potentiality of big games’ to expose and comment on the practices of co-presence by traversing virtual and actual, here and there in contemporary media cultures has gained significant attention. Big games highlight some of the key forms of co-presence of everyday life that have been exemplified in mobile media projects such as location-aware gaming. The forms of co-presence include virtual and actual, online and offline, cerebral and haptic, delay and immediacy.
A New York-based game designer who has been involved in such pivotal projects as Pac-Manhattan, Lantz (2006) argues that location-aware mobile gaming, or big games’, will play a pivotal role in the future of gaming. Big games are, for Lantz, large-scale, real-world games that occupy urban streets and other public spaces and combine the richness, complexity and procedural depth of digital media with physical activity and face-to-face social interaction’ (Lantz 2006: n.p.n.). As Lantz notes, the precursors to big games were undoubtedly the art movements of the 1960s, such as Happenings (impromptu art events in public spaces) and the Situationist International (SI) tactics of the derive, which served to interrupt everyday practices. He, as does Mary Flanagan (2009), signposts the significance of the US version of the SI in the form of New Games Movement. In response to the Vietnam War and the dramatic social and political changes of the 1970s (such as the energy crisis, civil rights and feminism), Stewart Brand and others established the New Games Movement. This movement, paralleled by environmental art projects such as Buckminster Fuller’s World Game (1961, 1964, 1967), Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970) and Christo’s Valley Curtain (1970), highlights the importance of role play and games in political commentary and change.
Alternatively, the development of urban mobile games can be compared to the trend in contemporary art from the 1990s that French curator and critic Nicolas Bourriaud dubbed relational aesthetics’ (2002). As Bourriaud observed, relational aesthetics’ dominated the international art scene from the 1990s onwards and emphasized locality, the deinstitutionalization of installation and the international’, in favour of the vernacular and local. These factors of the vernacular and local are central in the practice of urban mobile games. Urban games use the city space as the game board by offering multiplayer games that are played out in the streets and city. Three projects that exemplify big games are B.U.G (Big Urban Game), Pac-Manhattan and Shoot Me If You Can. In each example, the urban space is transformed into a place for play. Play cultures are local cultures (Sutton-Smith 1997).
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