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pervasive gaming

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Pervasive gaming is a type of gaming where playing is not contained within one particular platform or device. Gameplay may take place across multiple devices or range through (pervade) the real world. Pervasive gaming can add interesting dimensionality and increase immersion in games, sometimes to the point of blurring the lines between game content and the physical world.

Generally, pervasive gaming refers to games that range through the real world. However, the term has also been used to describe games that depend on non-standard input through pervasive technology, as well as games that play across multiple platforms. In business, the pervasive approach is sometimes used in gamification for training and tasks.

Live action role-playing (LARP or LARPing) was one of the first forms of pervasive gaming. LARPing takes what might previously have been confined to Dungeons and Dragons board games and extends it into the real world, where a dungeon master writes a story, players make their characters and engage in chance and statistic-driven exploration and combat.

As games trended towards the electronic, some games emerged that blended a computer game experience with quest elements in the real world. Recent developments in pervasive gaming include integration with virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). Pokémon GO was a breakthrough example of AR pervasive gaming.

The term pervasive gaming arose as an offshoot from the notion of pervasive computing. In a 2001 article, Jennica Falk first used the term pervasive to refer to a game environment. In the same year, Jay Schneider and Gerd Kortuem used the full term, pervasive gaming, with a nod to its origin in pervasive computing in an academic paper at the University of Oregon.

This was last updated in June 2018

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