Ambient role playing games: towards a grammar of endlessness

Mark Eyles, Roger Eglin

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If the seminal 1976 ambient music album Music for Airports (Eno, 1978) became a 21st century ambient role playing game, what would it play like? What technologies would be required? What would we need to know for this to happen? Who would be the target audience? This paper sets out to define ambient role playing games. A computer role playing game definition is suggested; the evolution of ambient technologies is outlined and a prototyped ambient game is described. The heart of ambient gaming is embodied in Brian Eno’s description of ambient music as being ‘ignorable as it is interesting’ (Eno, 1978). This is compared and contrasted with pervasive gaming (Waern, 2006), alternate reality gaming (Borland, 2005) and augmented reality gaming (such as ARQuake (Thomas, 2002)). There are many computer role playing games and a description of this genre is developed. The roots and history of role playing games from Gilgamesh, Kriegspiel (Michael, 2005) and Lord of the Rings to Dungeons and Dragons (Hallford, 2001) and more recently World of Warcraft (Blizzard, 2006) give a route to one possible genre definition and a list of role playing game play mechanisms. Case studies are then used to relate the gameplay mechanisms to computer role playing games and differentiate the role playing game genre. This definition and these properties are then combined with ideas of ambience to give a prescription for an ambient role playing game. The technology required for true ambient gaming is described by looking at the history of ubiquitous computing (Weiser, 1996) and showing how this is leading to an ambient intelligence technology that features transparent, intelligent interfaces (Aarts, Harwig, Schuurmans, & Denning, 2001). Finally the development and deployment of an ambient role playing game prototype is described and future audiences and applications of this technology are suggested, with particular reference to possible requirements of ambient gaming women.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007
EventWomen in Games - Newport, South Wales
Duration: 19 Apr 200721 Apr 2007


ConferenceWomen in Games
CityNewport, South Wales


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  • Ambient Gameplay

    Eyles, M., Eglin, R., Dansey, N., Pinchbeck, D. & Howell, P.


    Project: Research

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