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Supergaming! Design for Massively Collaborative Public Play
PARC Forum

28 April 2005
George E. Pake Auditorium

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This talk examines four experiments in supergaming, an emerging constellation of mobile-social network practices that are both ludic, or game-like, and spectacular - that is, intended to generate an audience. I focus on a flash mob, an urban superhero game, a flashmob supercomputer, and the award-winning alternate reality game I Love Bees to identify and analyze four key attributes of supergaming. I propose that it is 1) massively scaled, as in supersized gaming; 2) embedded in and projected onto everyday public environments, as in superimposed gaming; 3) able to heighten the perceived power and imagined capabilities of its players, as in superhero gaming, and 4) able to harness the play of distributed individuals into a high-performance problem-solving unit, as in supercomputing gaming. Using performance theory, cognitive psychology and my own experience as a supergames designer, I argue that supergames are capable of producing shared ludic frameworks, or gameworks, that can be extended to everyday life, making public spaces, public utilities and public information more open for persistent, playful engagement.


Jane McGonigal is a Ph.D. candidate in Performance Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where she is also a member of the Alpha Lab for Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. Her research focuses on networked play and performance in public spaces, and the design & development of systems and software for massively-scaled collaboration. Outside of academia, she is an active pervasive game designer, currently with 42 Entertainment. She has worked on numerous award-winning projects, including most recently the massively multiplayer alternate reality game I

Love Bees, which won the 2005 Innovation Award from the International Game Developers Association and was honored by the New York Times' 2004 Year in Review, and the mobile phone Go Game, which was named "Best Way to Rediscover Your City" in 2002.) She has collaborated on art-game installations for the Whitney Museum's digital artport and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, and has consulted recently for Intel, Microsoft, Nokia and the Macarthur Foundation.


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