Mechanisms for Maintaining Proprieties in Location-Based Mobile Games




mobile phone, mobile internet, public proprieties, involvement, presence, location-based mobile games, E. Goffman


Mobile internet provides conditions for the split presence of participants interacting in augmented reality. This is especially true for participants of location-based mobile games who move through the streets of the city and are among other passers-by. Split presence means that presence in the physical environment and presence in the virtual environment can have varying degrees of coherence.It is important in the game process to constantly correlate who is near and what happens on the screen of the mobile device that actualizes the problem of compliance of accepted rules of propriety. To conceptualize what is considered «proprieties» in situations involving gadgets, we turn to theoretical resources of Erving Goffman. According to E. Goffman, proprieties mean maintaining the presence among other participants of a situation, and it includes two elements: location and involvement in what is happening.The maintenance of proprieties is revealed in the desire of all participants to find a balance between these two elements. However, in location-based mobile games the possibility of (in)consistency between these two elements rises, and this triggers several protective mechanisms of attention distribution among participants of interaction: 1) constant monitoring of the surrounding, 2) appropriate (non) ignoring of passers-by, 3) total exclusion of cheaters who substitute their location in the game.These three mechanisms ensure the «smoothness» of the game and the resulting public interactions, the boundaries of which now include rules of conduct both in offline and online environments. The methodology of the empirical research is based on ten semi-structured interviews with the players of Ingress the Game and Pokémon Go, as well as multiple angles shooting of five game episodes.As a result of analysis of the collected video material, we see that users of location-based mobile games do not fall out of interactions with passers-by. They continue monitoring the reactions of passers-by to their presence in public places trying to normalize their appearance. In an unhurried game, players spend a lot of effort not to seem completely absorbed by mobile devices. To do this, players switch attention from screens to passers-by.However, the behavior of players is substantially limited by ignoring the reactions of passers-by, which makes the players’ position closed to spontaneous interaction. In addition to the fact that players are attentive to the presence of passers-by, they are also scrupulous towards dishonest players (cheaters) who substitute their location, which allows them to play in places where they are not present. If it is detected, «live» players stop noticing the actions of cheaters excluding them from public interaction.