Body Games : Designing for movement-based play in co-located social settings

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University

Abstract: The challenge of designing for games and playful activities has moved past the technical, to focus on how to design for a design space where the threads of the digital technologies and the physical world interweave and entangle creating a hybrid fabric where play can take place. But how can we bridge between the digital and physical world where play is enacted and unravel the tangle of this hybrid fabric? How can we braid the digital and digital threads to spur playful experiences? In this thesis, I focus on a concrete fabric of hybrid play: co–located physical and social play, and propose a framework for design in this scenario: the PLAY BOOST framework. The framework is elaborated and substantiated through design concepts drawn from literature – in the fields of movement-based games, social play, physical play, and playfulness – as well as from my own experiences designing movement-based body games. Two case studies are used to develop and illustrate the PLAY BOOST framework: the first one is about designing body games for a limited movement-based game platform, the Oriboo; the second case study is about redesigning rehabilitative physiotherapy sessions for the elderly of an assisted living facility. Both share the traits of technology-supported co-located physical and social activities. The PLAY BOOST framework is presented in this thesis as a tool in the form of lenses, which can be used both for opening up the design space, and for studying playfulness. The framework emphasizes the interplay between the formal structure of the activity and how it is implemented using certain design resources: the technology and the socio-spatial setting. I have used a particular perspective to spur and study playfulness, in which play is understood as “free movement within rigid structures”. With this approach, I use both the formal elements and the design resources to design a ‘rigid’ structure for the activity, which drives it. Then, I suggest to design for ‘free movement’ using concepts from game studies, such as self-effacing play, ‘unachievement’ and festive contexts, coliberation, and transformative play. This makes the structure of the activity flexible enough to afford its exploration, appropriation, bending, and transgression by the players. I encourage paying attention to when this happens, keeping an eye out for how, and what happens.

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