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Ambient play and background gaming: reflecting on quotidian creative practices

Richardson, I. (2020) Ambient play and background gaming: reflecting on quotidian creative practices. In: Hjorth, L., de Souza e Silva, A. and Lanson, K., (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Mobile Media Art. Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis Group, pp. 226-235.

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Mobile media interfaces have seen the rise and proliferation of new modes of digital and creative play, as mobile apps, services and games become increasingly embedded in the interstices of our day-to-day lives. This chapter considers the notion of "ambient play" as a way to critically interpret the complex and diverse practices emerging from our use of mobile phones as portable game devices. In particular, it focuses on the way people frequently engage in playful mobile media practices betwixt other activities—while waiting at the bus stop or for a friend to arrive at a designated meeting-place, or at home while watching television or taking a short break from homework or domestic tasks. This has seen the popularity of a new genre of videogame play almost exclusive to mobile platforms: the background game. Background games require the player to set up a series of tasks which are then completed over a duration of actual hours while the player goes about their day. It is this flexibility and ease of incorporation, especially when adapted to mobile social media games and creative applications, that so thoroughly instills mobile media play into the routines and habits of our daily lives. In this chapter the author explores such embedded modes of mobile play and discusses some of the consequences for our embodied, communicative and creative experience in today’s media-saturated environment. As the chapter suggests, these modalities of play can be considered “ambient” as they become seamlessly integral to users’ quotidian existence. Conceptually, ambient play takes a versatile and open approach to the experiential significance of games and playfulness, and aptly conveys the way mobile media are part of a manifold lusory and creative sensibility in contemporary culture.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis Group
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