Computing research has long been interested in location-aware mobile games, such as hybrid reality games, location-based games and urban games. With an increas- ingly pervasive IT infrastructure and comparatively affordable mobile devices, such games are becoming part of everyday play around the world. A study of an urban night-game called Encounter widely played in the Former Soviet Union and the Russian-speaking Diaspora is presented. The ways in which IT enables a complex interaction between the local experience of play in the urban environment and the geographically distributed nature of the player community are considered. The findings illustrate how this form of location-aware mobile game-play pulled together local engagement and global player communities into socio-technical assemblages, showing the interplay between local attachments, distant connections and the location-based communication in daily experience. The most important outcome of these games then was not the direct individual engagement with the urban environment through technology or the collaboration with strangers in the course of play (although these were the necessary prerequisites), but the social relationships that, while gained in-game, could be leveraged for civic engagement, belonging and mutual support. While the local, physical experience of the everyday and the game was important, the connections to the distributed community resulted in expanded horizons and changed the nature of the local experience as players felt they could belong to something larger than the locales they physically inhabited.
Information, Communication and Society, 2013, Vol 16, Issue 3, p. 340-361