Projects 2008 > Swarm > Journal
Looking back through the blog I realise there is a bit of a hole in the story of the project. I'll have a go at filling it in now.
Just before the Media Sandbox mid-way event on 31st March we sat down and looked back over the various experiments and trials we had undertaken over the last couple of months. One immediate conclusion was that gaming was a way to study swarming, not the other way round. Our initial goal, on beginning the project, was to try and understand swarm principles in that we might use them in designing street games. In practice, the only way we could assemble large enough groups of participants to test swarm principles was to offer an attractive game experience (something we failed to do with the SMS tests.)
Next we tried to see if we had observed any swarm effects in the games we had run. Our conclusion was that the only time we had observed an actual swarm effect was in Magnetise, an acting exercise where you choose two people and attempt to keep equidistant from them at all times. Here, an individual could control the whole group simply by shifting position slightly.
However, there were plenty of other observations that were relevant. From these established three principles of human based swarming in game contexts. Just to clarify swarming is the behaviour that emerges out of the interaction of individual agents acting autonomously and individually:
- - Game space formula – the relationship between physical space and game population is critical.
- - Tension – game play must entail a risk or a cost. Simply being required to achieve a simple objective (collect points by going to certain locations, for instance) creates linear behaviour, as well as a poor game experience. A risk or cost environment generates feedback within the system, both between players themselves and between the environment and the players.
- - Cooperation threshold – the tension in the above can lead people to consider and enter into cooperation.
Our next step was to come up with some games based upon these principles. Our first idea was a game based on having to keep close to members of your team (benefit), with the need to keep away from members of the other team (cost). This tension creates the necessity for players to cooperate in order to win. We have called the game 'The Comfort of Strangers' and we've published a rule set and video here. We are currently developing this in mscape for play on HP ipaqs.