AR Game Research for veryveryspaceship
Geospatial located games have expanded in popularity, evolving from traditional events like scavenger hunts, to geo-caching, and augmented reality activities that blur the boundaries with the 'real world'. This research study had a notional goal of evaluating and generating ideas for 'urban adventuring' games, and was accomplished in partnership with the boutique video game agency veryveryspaceship. Our research question was to determine how to best support 'urban explorers' in AR games, in terms of orientation, spatial awareness, and clues in the urban landscape.
Research participants were outfitted with a proprietary 'Live-Link' streaming device. Live-Link is a cellular network-connected video, audio, and GPS enabled portable wearable system; the audio was the only two-way communication system, comprised of a microphone and headphones. Video and position were relayed back to the other researchers in the VVS offices, located in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle WA. Participants were asked to navigate to two different geographic points using their own instinct for sense-making. Research prompts were provided in the form of different stimuli for each geographic point - either a hand-drawn 'pirate map', or a stack of photographs depicting a sequential series of landmarks. A researcher accompanied the participants on their voyages to the end points, but did not provide assistance in way-finding. The participant's routes and time-of-travel were recorded as part of the Live-Link system.
The hand-drawn map was preferred for a sense of adventure and fun, and the photo series was more challenging and sometimes frustrating. Participants expressed having a hunch that they are off track, but typically continue to get more lost before resolving to turn back around. A cadence of clues or hints is established by the first few landmarks. Messing with that cadence led to feeling lost. Players vary in their strategy for getting back on track. Getting a little lost was fun, getting a lot lost was not so fun. The more explicit clues and less friction, the easier the task became, but that didn't necessarily make it more fun. Participants often used Color as a comparison between clues and real world landmarks.
Safety should be a top consideration given player’s tendency to stop paying attention to their surroundings. Decrease mental load required of participant for each task. Allow participant to visualize both the start and end point of their journey. Provide opportunities for multiple pathways - participants like having creative freedom to solve. Including context about the surrounding areas will help players with spatial orientation.
Ideas generated for future VVS studies included testing additional notification and guidance methods like audio or haptic feedback; widening age ranges outside of 19-29 year olds; providing digital versions of the navigational methods; and expanding the study by creating successively increasing levels of challenge.
Study conducted for HCDE 517 Usability Studies, Winter 2019. Thanks to my team mates and VVS for their collaboration.
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