Defining, Refining and Evaluating Values in the Design, Development, and Play of Pervasive Games

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The term “values” in game studies is often misunderstood, though discussions often revolve around values like “empathy” and “fun” or explore a game’s “politics” or “ethics”. However, there remains consensus that games are inherently influenced by their creators' values. This research explores how values manifest within and influence pervasive games — a genre that extends play spatially, temporally, or socially.
The research utilises an interpretivist paradigm, a practice research methodology, and is presented in a continental style which encompasses various methodologies and methods. This approach yields diverse outputs that explore pervasive game design, development, deployment, and play. These outputs involve defining values, translating them into design principles, exploring their application in game creation, and examining deployment and stakeholder outcomes. By moving through each stage of the game lifecycle and reflecting on their own values, the thesis presents a semi-autobiographical pervasive game called What We Take With Us, centred around “wellbeing”, that charts the researcher’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The game spans multiple formats: an alternate reality game, a physical room-based game, and a series of game-based workshops.
The game’s focus on wellbeing and its personal nature influenced numerous empirical findings, highlighting the importance of mental health in game development, the challenges of solo development, and the complexities of personal game design. Similarly, deployment challenges like community building, struggles with imposter syndrome, and pervasive games’ increasing technology- supported focus highlight valuable insights for autobiographical and pervasive game deployment post-pandemic. Despite these challenges, the game yielded positive stakeholder results that underscored the emergent and transformative nature of pervasive games, the significance of communities and physical spaces within the genre, and the possibility for such games to assist in players’ reconceptualization of concepts like “play” and “game”.
As a result, this thesis significantly contributes to values-conscious game design, especially for pervasive and personal games. It provides both comprehensive frameworks and detailed analyses on the impact of values across game design, development, deployment, and stakeholder experiences, enhancing both theoretical and practical knowledge in the field.
Date of Award21 Mar 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorPeter Howell (Supervisor), Neil Dansey (Supervisor) & Matthew Higgins (Supervisor)

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