Location-based game

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A map of players' trails in a location-based game Trail on a location-based game.jpg
A map of players' trails in a location-based game

A location-based game (or location-enabled game) is a type of pervasive game in which the gameplay evolves and progresses via a player's location. Thus, location-based games must provide some mechanism to allow the player to report their location, frequently this is through some kind of localization technology, for example by using satellite positioning through GPS. "Urban gaming" or "street games" are typically multi-player location-based games played out on city streets and built up urban environments. Various mobile devices can be used to play location-based games; these games have been referred to as "location-based mobile games", [1] merging location-based games and mobile games. Examples of such games include geocaching, BotFighters, [1] Ingress , and Pokémon Go .

A pervasive game is a video game where the gaming experience is extended out in the real world, or where the fictive world in which the game takes place blends with the physical world. The "It's Alive" mobile games company described pervasive games as "games that surround you", while Montola, Stenros and Waern's book, Pervasive Games defines them as having "one or more salient features that expand the contractual magic circle of play spatially, temporally, or socially." The concept of a "magic circle" draws from the work of Johan Huizinga, who describes the boundaries of play.

Gameplay is the specific way in which players interact with a game, and in particular with video games. Gameplay is the pattern defined through the game rules, connection between player and the game, challenges and overcoming them, plot and player's connection with it. Video game gameplay is distinct from graphics and audio elements.

Geocaching outdoor recreational activity

Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.


Some games have used embedded mobile technologies such as near field communication, Bluetooth, and UWB. Poor technology performance in urban areas has led some location-based games to incorporate disconnectivity as a gameplay asset

Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances using short-wavelength UHF radio waves in the industrial, scientific and medical radio bands, from 2.400 to 2.485 GHz, and building personal area networks (PANs). It was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables.

Ultra-wideband is a radio technology that can use a very low energy level for short-range, high-bandwidth communications over a large portion of the radio spectrum. UWB has traditional applications in non-cooperative radar imaging. Most recent applications target sensor data collection, precision locating and tracking applications.


In 2006, Penn State students founded the Urban Gaming Club. The goal of the club is to provide location-based games and Alternate Reality Games. Some of the games played by Penn State's UGC are Humans vs. Zombies, Manhunt, Freerunning and Capture the Flag. Students at other American universities have formed similar organizations, such as the Zombie Outbreak Management Facilitation Group at Cornell College.

Humans vs. Zombies live-action game

Humans vs. Zombies is a live-action game predominantly played at US college campuses. The storyline of the game dictates that players begin as Humans and try to survive a Zombie invasion. The ultimate goal of the game is for either all Humans to be turned into Zombies, or for the humans to survive a set amount of time. Humans can defend themselves using any item that is approved by a moderator and thereby deemed safe and appropriate. The most common equipment includes balled up socks, marshmallows, and foam dart blasters. Humans may throw or launch these items at Zombies, who become stunned once hit. Safe zones are also established so that players can eat and sleep in safety. Zombies, on the other hand, are unarmed and must tag Humans to gain a kill. In some cases, if a kill is not made within a set time period, Zombies "starve" and are removed from the field of play.

Manhunt refers to a number of variations of the game of tag. The goal is to avoid being tagged by anyone designated as "it" or to tag anyone who has not been tagged. It is played in the dark. Some variations include teams and point scoring. In some variants flashlights are used.

Freerunning is a way of expression by interacting with various obstacles and environment. Freerunning may include flipping and spinning. These movements are usually adopted from other sports, such as gymnastics, tricking or breakdancing. Freerunners can create their own moves, flows and lines in different landscapes. It is all about becoming creative in an objective environment. Practitioners of Freerunning usually do Parkour as well. Freerunning is often associated with Parkour by adding acrobatic and stylish moves, showcasing the art of movement. Freerunning was founded by David Belle, who discussed the subject in Jump London in 2003.


Location-based games may induce learning. De Souza, (2006) [2] has observed that these activities produce learning that is social, experiential and situated. Learning however is related to the objectives of the game designers. In a survey of location-based games (Avouris & Yiannoutsou, 2012) [3] it was observed that in terms of the main objective, these games may be categorized as ludic,(e.g. games that are created for fun), pedagogic, (e.g. games created mainly for learning), and hybrid,(e.g. games with mixed objectives). The ludic group, are to a large extent action oriented, involving either shooting, action or treasure hunt type of activities. These are weakly related to a narrative and a virtual world. However, the role-playing version of these games seem to have a higher learning potential, although this has yet to be confirmed through more extended empirical studies. On the other hand, the social interaction that takes place and skills related to strategic decisions, observation, planning, physical activity are the main characteristics of this strand in terms of learning. The pedagogic group of games involve participatory simulators, situated language learning and educational action games. Finally the hybrid games are mostly museum location-based games and mobile fiction, or city fiction.


The nature of location-based gaming may mean that certain real-world locations will be visited by higher-than-normal numbers of people who are playing the game, which generally has been received favorably by nearby attractions or local businesses. However, these games may generate activity at locations that are privately-owned or have access limits, or otherwise cause undesirable congestion. Pokémon Go notably has several publicized events of players being drawn to inappropriate locations for the game, requiring the developer to manually remove these areas from the game. [4] [5] [6] In one of the first legal challenges for location-based gaming, a Federal District court ruled that a Wisconsin county ordinance to require game developers of such location-based games to get appropriate permits to allow locations in the county's public park systems was likely unconstitutional. While the county had felt there was no First Amendment rights involved due to how locations were generated in-game, the Federal judge disagreed. [7]

<i>Pokémon Go</i> augmented reality mobile game based on the Pokémon franchise

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality (AR) mobile game developed and published by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. A part of the Pokémon franchise, it was first released in certain countries in July 2016, and in other regions over the next few months. The game is the result of a collaboration between Niantic, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company. It uses the mobile device GPS to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, which appear as if they are in the player's real-world location. The game is free to play; it uses a freemium business model and supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items. The game launched with around 150 species of Pokémon, which had increased to over 480 by 2019.

See also

An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive networked narrative that uses the real world as a platform and employs transmedia storytelling to deliver a story that may be altered by players' ideas or actions.

Encounter is an international network of active urban games.

An entertainment district is a type of arts district with a high concentration of movie theaters, theatres or other entertainment venues. Such areas may be officially designated by local governments with functional zoning regulations, as well as public and private investment in distinctive urban design.

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<i>Pokémon Ruby</i> and <i>Sapphire</i> Pokémon video game

Pokémon Ruby Version and Sapphire Version are role-playing video games developed by Game Freak, published by The Pokémon Company and Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance. They are the first installments in the third generation of the Pokémon video game series, also known as the "advanced generation". For the first time after years of Nintendo publishing the games alone in all regions, The Pokémon Company began co-publishing the games since the establishment of the company by the owners of the franchise. They were first released in Japan in late 2002 and internationally in 2003. Pokémon Emerald, a special edition version, was released two years later in each region. Remakes of the two games, titled Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, were released for the Nintendo 3DS worldwide on November 21, 2014, exactly twelve years to the date of the original Ruby and Sapphire release date, with the exception of Europe, where it was released on November 28, 2014.

<i>Pokémon Pinball</i> pinball video game

Pokémon Pinball is a pinball-based Pokémon spin-off video game for the Game Boy Color. It was released in Japan on April 14, 1999, and in North America on June 28, 1999. In it, the ball is a Poké Ball, and most of the objects on the table are Pokémon-related.

Mobile game video game played on a mobile device

A mobile game is a game played on a feature phone, smartphone/tablet, smartwatch, PDA, portable media player or graphing calculator. The earliest known game on a mobile phone was a Tetris variant on the Hagenuk MT-2000 device from 1994.

A mixed reality game is a game which takes place in both reality and virtual reality simultaneously. According to Souza de Silva and Sutko, the defining characteristic of such games is their "lack of primary play space; these games are played simultaneously in physical, digital or represented spaces ". There is equivalence in definitions pertaining to their existence in mixed reality. Given the definition for mixed reality by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino for the virtuality continuum, virtual reality games are not mixed reality games, because they take place only in virtual reality. Souza de Silva and Sutko state that pervasive games are a subset of hybrid reality games.

Locative media or location-based media (LBM) are media of communication functionally bound to a location. The physical implementation of locative media, however, is not bound to the same location to which the content refers.

Mscape was a mobile media gaming platform developed by Hewlett Packard that could be used to create location-based games. The development of Mscape was discontinued on March 31, 2010.

BotFighters is a location-based mobile game and a pervasive game developed by It's Alive Mobile Games AB! designed to be a MMORPG played in an urban environment. It was possibly the world's first commercial location-based game. It was first released in Sweden in 2001, and later in Russia, Finland, Ireland and China.

Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements. Gamification commonly employs game design elements to improve user engagement, organizational productivity, flow, learning, crowdsourcing, employee recruitment and evaluation, ease of use, usefulness of systems, physical exercise, traffic violations, voter apathy, and more. A collection of research on gamification shows that a majority of studies on gamification find it has positive effects on individuals. However, individual and contextual differences exist.

<i>Ingress</i> (video game) Location-based augmented reality mobile game

Ingress is an augmented reality (AR) mobile game developed and published by Niantic for Android and iOS devices. The game first released on December 14, 2013 for Android devices and then for iOS devices on July 14, 2014. The game is free to play, uses a freemium business model, and supports in-app purchases for additional in-game items. The mobile app has been downloaded more than 20 million times worldwide as of November 2018.

Niantic (company) mobile app development company

Niantic, Inc. is an American software development company based in San Francisco, which is best known for developing the augmented reality mobile games Ingress, Pokémon Go, and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The company was formed as Niantic Labs in 2010 as an internal startup within Google. The company became an independent entity in October 2015.

Transreality gaming, sometimes written as trans-reality gaming, describes a type of game theory or a mode of gameplay that combines playing a game in a virtual environment with game-related, physical experiences in the real world and vice versa. In this approach a player evolves and moves seamlessly through various physical and virtual stages, brought together in one unified game space. Alongside the rising trend of gamification, the application of game mechanics to tasks that are not traditionally associated with play, a transreality approach to gaming incorporates mechanics that extend over time and space, effectively playing through a players day-to-day interactions.

<i>Turf</i> (video game) video game

Turf is a location based mobile game with MMO and augmented reality elements developed by Swedish video game developer Andrimon. It was released on 10 July 2010 for Android, and later for iOS. The game was originally created by Andreas Pantesjö and Simon Sikström, who still actively maintain and develop the game. The game has more than 150,000 registered players and is free to play. Players can pay a voluntary fee to receive "supporter" status, which gives access to additional in-app statistics, but comes with no gameplay benefits. The game has received media attention from Swedish, Finnish and Danish newspapers.

<i>Harry Potter: Wizards Unite</i> location-based augmented reality mobile game

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is an augmented reality (AR) mobile game developed by Niantic and WB Games San Francisco, and published by Niantic, under license from Portkey Games. The game is based on the Wizarding World. It was launched for Android and iOS mobile devices on 21 June 2019. A beta version was released in New Zealand in April 2019, and in Australia in May 2019.

Nintendo, a Japanese home and handheld video game console manufacturer and game developer, has traditionally focused on games that utilize unique elements of its consoles. However, the growth of the mobile gaming market in the early 2010s led to several successive fiscal quarters where they were running at a loss. Nintendo, led by president Satoru Iwata at the time, developed a strategy for entering into the mobile games market with development partner DeNA, as a means of introducing their franchise properties to mobile players with a goal of bringing them to buy Nintendo's consoles later. Since 2015, Nintendo has internally developed a number of mobile games, while also licensing out their properties to other developers. Several of them have been entered the top-downloaded games list on the iOS App Store and Google Play stores, earning over US$100 million in revenue.

<i>Pokémon: Lets Go, Pikachu!</i> and <i>Lets Go, Eevee!</i> role-playing video game

Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! are role-playing video games developed by Game Freak and published by The Pokémon Company and Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch gaming system. The games are the first entries in the Pokémon main series for the system, and are the first main titles to be released on a home console. The games are remakes of Pokémon Red and Blue, and the 1998 video game Pokémon Yellow.The games also feature integration with the mobile game Pokémon Go and support a new optional controller, the Poké Ball Plus.

<i>Minecraft Earth</i> Upcoming AR Game that brings Minecraft into our World

Minecraft Earth is an upcoming augmented reality sandbox mobile game developed by Mojang based on the video game Minecraft. It was first announced on 17 May 2019, and will be available as a free to play game on Android and iOS smartphones. A closed beta is now available for iOS, with Android's coming soon.


  1. 1 2 von Borries, Friedrich; Walz, Steffen P.; Böttger, Matthias, eds. (2007), "BotFighters: A Game That Surrounds You", Space Time Play, Basel, Boston, Berlin: Birkhäuser Verlag AG, pp. 226–227, ISBN   978-3-7643-8414-2
  2. De Souza, E Silva; G. C Delacruz (July 2006). "Hybrid Reality Games Reframed Potential Uses in Educational Contexts". Games and Culture . 1 (3): 231–251. doi:10.1177/1555412006290443.
  3. Avouris, N; Yiannoutsou N. (2012). "A review of mobile location-based games for learning across physical and virtual spaces". Journal of Universal Computer Science . 18.
  4. Velloso, Eduardo; Carter, Marcus. "Some places should be off limits for games such as Pokémon GO". The Conversation. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  5. "Holocaust Museum, Auschwitz want Pokémon Go hunts out". USA Today. Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  6. Phillips, Tom (July 12, 2016). "Holocaust museum pleads: stop playing Pokémon Go here". Eurogamer . Retrieved July 13, 2016.
  7. Kravets, David (July 20, 2017). "Augmented reality wins big in 1st Amendment legal flap". Ars Technica . Retrieved July 20, 2017.