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Reconciling immersion and presence: Locative game mechanics and narrative techniques for cultural heritage

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Locative gaming dates back to the early 2000s, and with the success of Ingress (2012) and PokeĀ“mon GO (2016), locative games have now entered the mainstream in a very serious way. However, while the genre holds considerable promise for cultural heritage, it has yet to make a real impact for this purpose. A particular challenge is to reconcile the two apparently conflicting concerns of ensuring immersion into the experience without compromising the audience’s sense of presence in the physical space. For example, Ingress and PokeĀ“mon GO offer excellent immersion in the gameplay but at the cost of near-total loss of the player’s sense of presence in the physical environment, even to the extent that accidents occur. For cultural heritage, presence is not only about safety but also about the audience experiencing the site and not only the digital content. In this article, we argue that for locative games to be successful for cultural heritage, they must bridge the design tension between offering immersion and presence. We use two of our own titles to shed light on the design concerns and show how careful use of locative game mechanics and narrative techniques can help reconcile these two design pressures and create a new type of engagement with cultural heritage.
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Keywords: cultural heritage; game design; interactive digital storytelling; locative games; narrative design; serious games

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Trinity College Dublin

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • Virtual Creativity (VCR) is an academic peer-reviewed journal focusing on creativity in online virtual worlds and other related platforms where the virtual is examined as a central theme in contemporary media art practices and applied contexts. Pieces exploring the subject of digital creativity are sought from the broad perspective of Art, Science and Technology, in what is a widespread field of discourse. One focus of the journal is an examination of creative activity in the metaverse - from art, design and architecture, to research and education, to play and entertainment. Additionally, Virtual Creativity seeks to engage with ways in which the virtual reflects upon the implications of the physical.
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