It had to happen, and Big Heritage stepped up to the plate and made it happen. Tomorrow and Sunday, there will be a Pokémon Big Heritage event around the streets of Chester.
Part of Chester’s Heritage Festival, but officially in partnership with Niantic, the creators of Pokémon Go, the event was brought to my attention via the Pokemon Go app. Chester Castle will be open to the public for the first time, and there will be re-enactors a-plenty there, but there will also be Pokestops and Pokegyms. There are also two paper-based trails: a Pokémon Pastport that you can get stamped at four (currently secret, to be revealed on the day) locations; and, a ten question quiz trail that you’ll need the help of the app to solve.
Big Heritage may have been canny in approaching Niantic for an event this weekend, and it’s the first anniversary of the launch of Pokémon Go. Would Niantic be so willing to support similar events in the future at different times of the year?
My family are cast to the three corners of the country that aren’t near Chester this weekend, so I won’t be able to go. But I’ll try and drop Big Heritage a line, and see if they’ll share their evaluation. 2400 Facebook users have said that they are planning to attend. Are they all from Chester? Or are any of the travelling? Of course Niantic will know exactly where everyone comes from 😉
My son pointed out that one thing the game has, especially over its Niantic stablemate, Ingress, is the Pokemon brand, which two or three generations have grown up with since the mid-nineties. Speaking as someone who didn’t grow up with Pokemon however I could not believe this was the only reason for its success.
A huge difference from Ingress is ease of entry. As my survey a couple of years ago may have indicated (though I could not disprove the null hypothesis) here-to-fore locatative games have only held any interest for Hard Fun (otherwise Hardcore) gamers. Pokemon seems to be the first truly casual locatative game (though some might give that honour to Foursquare, I don’t think it was much of a game).
So lets run it though the model:
Leaderboards – Although Pokemon Go doesn’t have a leaderboard as such, it does have Gyms. Just today with my 11 year old son’s advice I managed to (very temporarily) take over a local gym from some quite high powered Pokemon of an opposing team. So a few minutes after that, I was indeed at the top of a very local leaderboard.
Badges – There are a huge variety of medals you can win for achievements like, for example, collecting ten Pokemon of a particular type.
Rewards – Pokemon Go has LOADS of rewards. For a start, visit a Pokestop, and spin the dial and you will acquire a randomly generated reward of Pokeballs, Eggs, and Potions etc, all of which will be useful in the game. Take over a Gym (as I did this afternoon) and you can claim a reward of 10 Pokecoins every day that you keep the Gym under your control. Capture a Pokemon, and not only can you add it to your collection, but you are also rewarded with Stardust and Evolution Candy. Every time you go up a level you also earn rewards such as new equipment.
Points and Levels – To level up, you need to earn experience points, which you get for pretty much everything you do, collecting Pokemon, especially new types, spinning Pokestops, hatching eggs, earning badges, evolving Pokemon, battling in gyms, etc.
Story/theme – There isn’t much of a story inherent within the Pokemon Go game, but players who have been brought up on the other computer games and TV series, will know of quite a complex backstory. However, not knowing this story does not seem to be a disadvantage to players. Story knowledge isn’t essential to play, and the lack of story within the game seems to attract (or at least not be a barrier to) players of all generations, many too old to have been captured by the original Pokemon game. My son also points out that as you play you do procedurally generate a story of your own trainer avatar, even if that is only in your head, as Sylvester describes.
Progress – As you go up in level, you do get better equipment, and are more like to catch Pokemon with higher combat power, and you are more likely to encounter rarer Pokemon.
Feedback – The game is casual enough that you don’t need to be looking at the screen all the time, but because the game does not allow you to put your device into sleep mode, you end up holding it, waiting for the tell-tale buzz of nearby Pokemon.
Spectacle and Environment – The graphics and Augmented reality are not very sophisticated, but they are fun. Two things make it so. One is that creatures that only exist in fiction now appear in our real life world. The other is that they can (with some luck and an little movement of the screen) appear in amusing places (on your knee, in your dinner or drink, on your friend’s head), and if they do, you can take and keep a photo.
Challenge – There isn’t much skill based challenge in the gameplay. Capturing rare Pokemon, is more of a feat of luck than skill. There is a real-world challenge of sorts though, and that is to walk around, which is the only way to hatch eggs. Some eggs only require two kilometer walks, but other more rewarding eggs require ten kilometres.
The game lacks (or doesn’t make the most of) a number of emotional triggers:
Music – My son likes the music, but I turned it off early in my play. The music isn’t a very sophisticated feedback generator. One track plays pretty much continuously, and the only changes are for evolution cut-scenes (my boy likes this track best) and Pokemon encounters.
Insight – There is very little learning through play. My son teaches me most of what I need to learn, and he has leaned most of that through YouTube.
There is no Threat or Sex (even when you capture Male and Female Nidoran), and no real character arc.
So, given the affordancies listed above, we can predict which emotions players will be feeling: playful Amusement (from humorously placed AR Pokemon); the social emotions Fiero and Naches (because though the gameplay isn’t inherently social there are enough players currently on the streets for conversation; advice and insight; and even a degree of cooperation; to take place); the seeking emotions, Excitement and Curiosity (especially when find new types of Pokemon); Frustration, a rage affect (when Pokemon randomly break out of your Pokemon); and some degree of Care (from nicknaming, nuturing and powering up your stable of Pokemon).
And let us not forget the Panic/grief, when nothing makes your phone buzz -you are out of mobile reception or have a weak signal, and especially when your phone battery is running low!
Yesterday’s post was timely, it turns out, because today, Pokemon Go was released in the wild. I downloaded it and caught my first two Pokemon in the Great Hall at Chawton, waiting for a meeting that I’ll write more about tomorrow. But after that meeting I was off down to Petworth to have a go with the new(ish) Park Explorer.
The Park Explorer is one of the outputs of a three year long archeology project, exploring what’s under the Capability Brown landscape that survives today. I have some responsibility for the way it works. When my colleague Tom explained his plan to build a mobile application, I dissuaded him. There is little evidence that many people download apps in advance of their visit to Heritage sites. And even fewer wish to deplete their data allowance on the mobile network to download it on site.
Together, we came up with an alternative – using solar powered Info-points to create wifi hotspots around the park that could deliver media to any phone capable of logging on to wifi, and browsing the web. Though in this case it’s not the World Wide Web, but a series of basic webpages offering maps, AV, etc. We’re running this installation as a bit of an experiment to gauge demand, to see, if it’s offered, how many people actually log on.
Pokemon Go demonstrated why the technology might be useful. With the app newly downloaded on my phone I, of course, wanted to try it out in Petworth’s pleasure grounds. I’d guessed right, the garden’s Ionic Rotunda and Doric Temple are both Pokestops. But the wireless signal is so weak and patchy (on O2 at least) that the game could hardly log on, let alone do anything when I got within range. After a frustrating few minutes I gave up and returned to the local wifi.
That crummy phone signal is one of the reasons we went to solar powered local wifi. Once I logged on I was soon listening to the voice of my colleague Tom as he explained some of the archeology of the garden, watching an animated film of the development of the park and scrubbing away a photo of the current three person gardening team and their power tools to reveal a black and white photo of the small army of gardeners that used to work here.
All of this was very good. But there are some issues that I think need to be addressed if the idea is to catch on. First of all, finding the wifi signal and logging on isn’t as intuitive as I’d hoped. Your browser need to be pointed at 10.0.0.1 to find the home page. The home page design leaves something to be desired. The floating button to change text size seems an afterthought that annoyingly obscures the text its trying to clarify. Navigation isn’t intuitive (no obvious way forward from the welcome splash pictured above, for example) or that well organised – I’d hoped that I’d be offered media that was closest to my position (as identified by the hotspot I was logged into), but the browse button just led to a list of things. Switching to the map view was easier, but it showed the design lacked a degree of responsiveness – see below how the word “Map” is partially obscured by the tile with the actual map on. The pins that link to different media suggest that its good to be standing in particular places to view that media, but on the few that I tried around the pleasure grounds, there seemed to be no discernible benefit to being in the right spot. In the end I settled under a spreading Oak to sit and work my way through what was on offer.
One feature that worked well to compare old and new and see change over the centuries was the scrub away photo feature. Even here though there was a fault in the responsiveness of the design. If I turned the phone into landscape mode, the picture became full screen and I lost the ability to reset it.
I imagined how good it would be, if it looked and felt (and responded) like the National Trust’s current website. Maybe, with a bit of work, it can.
More work would be and investment though, so, first of all though we need to interrogate the system’s solar powered servers, and see how many people are giving it a try.
I don’t normally post on Wednesdays, but I am driven to write tonight, because something is happening that seems to be an actual phenomenon. Pokemon Go, the locatative game from Niantic, using IP from Nintendo keeps breaking records. It is apparently already the biggest mobile game ever in the US. Not just the biggest locatative game, this game is bigger than Candy Crush.
Long-time readers may remember the post I wrote introducing some research into attitudes to locatative gaming. I’d run an internet survey pushed towards gamers from all around the world. At the time, the biggest locatative game around was Niantic’s Ingress. I’d asked everyone what they knew of a list of different digital games. I’d got about 220 responses. 178 respondents had never even heard of Ingress, which was at the time “taking the world by storm”. A site called Android Headlines said that. Let me tell you AH (I can call you AH can I?), you don’t know storms.
Another post on that same survey concluded “I can’t yet claim from this research, that the world is ready and waiting for locatative games.”
What does that mean for heritage sites? Well, I don’t think it means heritage organisations should rush out their own AR scavenger hunts. But it does mean that people are already using your sites to play games. A few weeks ago, a team member from one of the places I’m currently spending time at for work told me about a security alert. In the middle of the night they went to investigate and found three people who had broken into the gardens. The people explained that they were there to take control of an Ingress portal.
Heritage locations are already, without their knowledge, Ingress portals. They are very likely already “Pokestops” too. This may be a problem for some sites’ spirit of place. Its already being seen as an opportunity. [EDIT: This article on what you can do if you find that your place is a Pokestop is also interesting.] I bet there already many more Pokemon Go players in the UK than there are players of Ingress, and it hasn’t even been released in this country yet.
Its happening. Its big, very big. Heritage Managers, you need to be thinking about this.
I spent yesterday morning at Chawton, locating and counting plug sockets so @ll know my limitations as I design whatever the experience there will be next March. The visit reminded me that I had meant to write here of a previous digital interpretation experiment at Chawton.
Back then, in 2005, the Chawton House Library was not widely open to the public. Primarily a centre for the study of Women’s Literature, one could argue that the visiting academics were also heritage visitors of a sort, and the house and gardens also welcomed some pre-booked visiting groups, such as the Jane Austen Society of America, and local garden societies. In their conference paper, a team from the universities of Southampton and Sussex describe how, looking for “curators” to work with they co-opted the trust’s Director, Estate Manager, Public Relations Officer, Librarian and Gardener. All these people may have taken on the role nut just of curator, but also guide to those visiting academics and groups. The paper attempts to describe how their tours interpret the place:
visitors’ experience of the house and its grounds is actively created in personalized tours by curators.
“House and grounds are interconnected in a variety of ways, e.g. by members of the family rebuilding the house and gardens or being buried in the churchyard. Thus artifacts or areas cannot be considered in isolation. There are many stories to be told and different perspectives from which they can be told, and these stories often overlap with others. Thus information exists in several layers. In addition, pieces of information, for example about a particular location like the ‘walled garden’, can be hard to interpret in isolation from information about other parts of the estate – there is a complex web of linked information.[…]
“Curators ‘live the house’ both in the sense that it is their life but also that they want to make it come alive for visitors. The experiences offered by Chawton House are intrinsically interpersonal – they are the result of curators interacting with visitors. Giving tours is a skilled, dynamic, situated and responsive activity: no two tours are the same, and depend on what the audience is interested in. They are forms of improvisation constructed in the moment and triggered in various ways by locations, artefacts and questions.”
Tours are a brilliant way of organising all those layers of information, and I’m sure a personal tour from any one of the curators that they identifies would have been excellent. But the problem comes as soon as you try to scale, or mass produce, the effect. As I said at a conference I presented at a couple of weeks ago (I’m reminded I should write about that too) people, even volunteers, are an expensive resource, and so only the smallest places can afford to give every visitor a guided tour experience. Even then, individuals or families have to book on to a tour, joining other people whom they don’t know, and whose interests they don’t necessarily share. The guided tour experience gets diluted, less personal, less tailored to your interests. Which is when you start getting people saying they would prefer to experience the site by themselves, rather than join a tour. Of course some tour guides are better at coping with these issues than others, but visitors are wary of taking the risk with a guide they don’t know, even if they can recount experiences of brilliant guided tour experiences.
The project written about in the paper had two sides, one was to try and produce content for schools, but the other was of particular interest to me:
“The curators are interested in being able to offer new kinds of experience to their visitors. We aim to find out what types they would like to offer, and help to create them. There is thus a need for ‘extensible infrastructure’ based on a basic persistent infrastructure that supports the creation and delivery of a variety of content.”
And four questions they ask themselves are also of particular interest:
“How can we enable curators to create a variety of new experiences that attract and engage different kinds of visitors, both individuals and groups?
“How do we engage curators in co-design of these experiences?
“How can curators without computer science backgrounds contribute to the authoring of content for the system?
“How do we create an extensible and persistent infrastructure; one that can be extended in terms of devices, content and types of experience?”
At the time of writing the paper, they had conducted a workshop with their chosen curators, using a map with 3D printed features. Although “use of a map in the first instance may have triggered somewhat different content,” they discovered that “Eliciting content from curators is most naturally and effortlessly done in-situ.” (Which is my plan – I’m in the process of fixing a date with one of Chawton’s most experienced tour guides.)
I particularly liked the observation that “Listening to them is much more lively and interesting than listening to professionally spoken, but often somehow sterile and dull audio tapes sometimes found in museums and galleries.” So enthusiastically did the team connect with the curators’ presentation, that they decided to record the tours and edit them into the narrative atoms that were delivered by their infrastructure. That infrastructure was not the subject of the paper, but if I recall correctly, GPS based running on “Palm Pilot” style hardware.
More importantly, the most pertinent conclusion was that the curators were best placed, not just to select the narrative atoms from the recorded materials but also “sort them into
themes and topics, so that the system can cater for people with different broad interests, for example landscape, flora and fauna, or how Jane Austen’s writing reflects the environment. This necessitates a learning process, which must build on existing practices and over time develops new practices based on experience and reflection.”
Heritage sites experimenting with MLA take note. The ICO yesterday released a blog post addressing the potential danger to privacy of Mobile Location Analytics and, incidentally, Intelligent Video Analytics. Simon Rice, Group Manager for Technology, who also sits on the International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications, says “Here at the ICO, we’re interested in Wi-Fi location tracking because it could involve the use of personal data. This means it falls under the Data Protection Act and that’s where we come in. […] The use of this type of technology is not just confined to the retail environment – airports, railway stations and even city-wide Wi-Fi networks could use it to monitor individuals. […] Therefore the working group has written a list of recommendations for use of the technology.”
The working paper itself is worth a read, and definitely more balanced than some newspaper coverage (as usual). It makes many references to checking out what you are planning against the local legislation wherever you are working, but also recommends seven safeguards that should be built into your work (and which, I imaging will be built into legislation over time):
Notification to individuals – Organisations must ensure that there is sufficient information, including a range of physical and digital signage, to clearly inform individuals that location technology is in operation. The information must clearly state the purpose for collection and identify the organisation responsible. It is recommended that the industry develop a standard symbol which can be distributed throughout an area to remind individuals that the technology is in operation, similar to the effect from CCTV signage. Specific consideration must be given to staff, employees or other individuals who, if not excluded from the tracking, may be subject to extensive data collection;
Limiting the bounds of data collection – Collection should only take place once the
individual has been suitably informed and organisations must not seek to collect and
monitor outside their premises. This can be achieved through careful placement of receivers, limiting data collection through a sampling method and to specified time periods or times of day (e.g., during store opening hours). The frequency of collection
should also be limited to that which supports the specified purpose. The use of airgaps to create a non-contiguous data collection area and ensuring that collection only takes place in areas which are relevant to the specified purpose should also reduce the risk of privacy intrusion. Organisations should also seek to identify “privacy zones” where no tracking can take place as a result of technical or physical measures. This can be important in areas which have particular sensitivity such as toilets or rooms set aside for first-aid or worship. In jurisdictions where tracking outside of the organisation’s premises can be carried out in compliance with the law, sufficient safeguards should be in place to protect individuals’ privacy;
Anonymise data without delay – Organisations should seek to delete or anonymise
data as soon as the data is no longer required in its original form;
Appropriate retention of individual level data – In cases where there is a clear legal
basis for the processing of personal data, organisations should apply methods to
convert unique identifiers, such as MAC addresses, into a form which reduces the potential for privacy intrusion. For example, if the identification of repeat visits is not envisaged then pseudonymising the identifier would prevent this possibility yet still provide sufficient analytics of daily footfall and routes taken. At the end of the legally
permissible retention period, the relevant data should be anonymised or securely destroyed. An analysis comparing events over multiple reporting periods (e.g., percentage change in visitors in a given period of time) can be performed by comparing individual period aggregates;
Consent for the combination with other information – Individuals should be fully
informed when location data is intended to be combined with other information such
as transaction history. This is especially relevant when location tracking is added as a
feature to an existing loyalty scheme, for example, adding BLE beacon functionality to
an existing retailer’s smart phone app. The user’s acceptance of an update via the
app store is unlikely to be sufficient to qualify as being fully informed. Legislation in
some jurisdictions may also require explicit consent for certain types of personal
Consent for the sharing of individually identifiable data with third parties – Organisations should not share data which could be used to identify an individual with
third parties without the valid informed consent of the individual concerned (this would include sharing data with other clients of a single third-party location analytics provider) unless there is a lawful exception; and
Implement a simple and effective means to control collection – Organisations
should also establish a system which allows individuals to control the collection of
such data even in cases where this is not explicitly required by applicable privacy legislation. Organizations should prominently display the existence of choice and control options in the area of data collection. This should include an easily accessible, clearly communicated and effective means to exert control. It is recommended that a single mechanism be supported by all operators of location analytics services such that an individual is only required to express their preference once. If the tracking is based on informed consent then individuals must be enabled to revoke their consent in an easy and persistent manner. Where technically possible, clear audit trails allowing end users to know when and for what purpose data has been collected about their devices and by whom would also be recommended. Users should also be enabled to delete all or part of the previously collected data.
Hmmmm, looks like I might have found myself on two online teams for Heritage Jam 2015. The first looks like being more story based, the second more technological. Were I more stupid I’d try and get the two teams working together, but the scope of the second team’s project seems perfect for the time available, and layering story on top would kick it into the realm of impossibility. Also though I know I have one conspirator on the story project, another who expressed an interest has since been silent, so it may not be a team as much as a duo!
I have a teleconference with the second team this afternoon, so beforehand I’m pulling together a few links I’ve seen recently about the challenge we have set ourselves: Mobile Location Analytics.
All the rage in the world of retail, this is technology that tracks mobile devices around shops and malls (shopping centres), to learn about how the people those devices are attached to, move around the space. A bit creepy, eh? The key thing is that this information is anonymised. The point is not to learn about the behavior of particular individuals, but rather to understand how the spaces work – how long do shoppers have to wait at the tills for example.
(It’s worth pointing out that there are creepier applications. One company, for example, offers to tell brands whether individuals go into their shops after being served an advert for the brand, which implies somewhat less anonymity.)
Most of the systems rely on extant wi-fi networks to do the job, as this white paper from Cisco explains. But of course many museums don’t currently have wi-fi throughout their galleries, so the opportunity to use established services, even the free Euclid Express, is limited.
So we’ve got an idea about using Heritage Jam as an opportunity to hack a cheap, open source solution for museums, without extant Wi-Fi, wanting to track their visitors around their collections. We’ve got a location that wants to try this out, too. One of the challenges (and luckily the one which I think, being a noninexpert-technologist, I’ll be most useful on) will be working out how we make visitors aware of, and (hopefully) comfortable with, the study and/or give them the opportunity to opt out.
If it works, it might even form the basis for a more responsive museum environment, as I described when I was last at York. But we’ll leave that idea until Heritage Jam 2016!
Enough pussyfooting around with ludic.interest. We conducted this survey because we wanted to get an idea of what would encourage people to play a game that used mobile technology to engage players in the story that take place in a number of cultural heritage locations around Southampton. (Though in other news, our funding bid for that project fell at the second hurdle, so this research is likely to now be, both literally and metaphorically “academic.”)
We already know that awareness to these sorts of games is relatively low, but by seeing if there’s a relationship between any of the four Fun preferences described by Lazarro and the respondents’ stated interest in location based gaming (which itself wasn’t explicitly covered in Lazarro’s work), we might have a better idea of what sort of game mechanics appeal best to the audience we’d need to attract.
We asked four questions suggested by our technology provider in this section, where the response was recorded on a 101 point Likert scale:
If a mobile game used location would this be of interest to you?
Use this slider to show how much you’d prefer working in a team or as an individual, in a location based game
Would you be interested in a mobile game that uses digital artefacts / objects alongside real world locations? and
How much does the game featured in this video interest you? [we used a promotional video for Chromarama]
So, the first thing I did in R was to change the variable names (which were sucked into R in the form of the whole question plus instructions about using the slider), into something that would be easier to read on plots, then create a scatterplot matrix ordered by degree of correlation:
So what does that show us? That the locatative gaming questions all seem to correlate with each other. As do the Fun preferences. But the correlation between fun preferences and locatative gaming responses is weaker. A preference for People fun, for example, only correlates with responses to the Teamwork question (and frankly I’d be worried if it didn’t!).
More worryingly, only the Hard fun preference correlates at all with the core measure of interest in a mobile game that uses location. Lets look at that in more detail:
Oh dear. There’s the positive slope which, at first glance, suggests some correlation, but check out the confidence curve (I used the R package ggplot2 to create this). There’s space within that to flatten out the regression line. I “cannot reject the null hypothesis”. Blast! And check out all those dots down on zero, expressing no interest at all in a locatative game! Double blast! Maybe its just as well we didn’t get the funding 😦
The matrix also shows some correlation between Easy fun preference and interest in searching for digital artifacts in real-world locations. And on closer examination, the plot looks more attractive, greater interest overall, but again, I can not reject the null-hypothesis:
And the so called correlation between Serious Fun preference and interest in the example video has even worse confidence intervals (and a massive p value of 0.36):
The only positive result I’ve found so far is the apparent correlation between working in a team and finding digital artefacts, wherein I can (just about) reject the null hypothesis.
I guess these two mechanics have some history together in the world of scavenger hunts. But it seems I can’t yet claim from this research, that the world is ready and waiting for locatative games.
Why haven’t I discovered this before? Last week an email from the Guardian Cultural network pointed me to a headline reading “Tell me a story: augmented reality technology in museums“. Now augmented reality articles are two a penny, but “tell me a story” had me intrigued. So I clicked through, and got very excited reading the stand-first, which said “Storytelling is key to the museum experience, so what do you get when you add tech? Curator-led, non-linear digital tales.”
“Non-linear”?! that’s a phrase very close to my heart, so I’ve spent all morning reading about the CHESS Experience project.
(Well I spent some of my morning thinking “Oh no, that’s what I wanted to do! How come Southampton University isn’t part of that project? Why didn’t I do my PhD at Nottingham? That’s where all the cool kids hang out, apparently.” But having wallowed in a bit a self-pity, I got back to reading.)
CHESS stands for Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling, which sounds right up my street. And the project summary says “An approach for cultural heritage institutions (e.g. museums) would be to capitalize on the pervasive use of interactive digital content and systems in order to offer experiences that connect to their visitors’ interests, needs, dreams, familiar faces or places; in other words, to the personal narratives they carry with them and, implicitly or explicitly, build when visiting a cultural site.” This is all good stuff.
But its good stuff, none-the less, and there’s a great looking list of references which I want to explore. There’s also project participant Professor Steve Benford (who does little to disprove the theory that all the cool kids go to Nottingham). He’s a banjo-pickin’ guitar playin’ musician and Professor of Collaborative Computing, who among many, many other things has published a bunch of papers on pervasive games and performance, which I think my Conspiracy 600 colleagues might want to (need to) read.
Steve also provides the soundtrack for this post, which I hope you enjoy.