Ludic Markers for Player-Player Observation in Location-Based Mobile Games

Background: It can be difficult to capture the subtleties of social behavior during gameplay by using existing commercial location-based mobile games as a research probe since they are not designed to reveal subtleties in player behavior.Aim: We sought to explore whether players spontaneously search for unknown fellow players and to identify ludic markers in player-player observation when playing a digital location-based mobile game that allows location spoofing in addition to automated locationing.Method: We used a constructive research approach and created a game specifically designed to allow location spoofing through self-reporting of player locations. We conducted three field trials with eight participants in total. They took part in separate field trials in groups of three, three, and two players. The participants were previously unknown to each other and commenced play at different locations inside the game area.Results and Conclusions: Qualitative analysis of the gathered video and interview material shows that the players spontaneously searched for unknown fellow players, which confirms earlier research on the topic. Further, behavioral and direct visual markers in the physical environment were reported to be the most significant cues in determining who is a player and who is not.