Research & Thoughts on Handheld (& Mobile) Gaming

I recently contributed to a journal submission with a few colleagues (now in review) and I was tasked with fleshing out a section on game studies (with a specific goal mind you). Writing a bit on mobile gaming (and more specifically handheld devices such as the Nintendo DS), I was taken aback about how little I could find. Of course, after we submitted the manuscript, Samuel Tobin‘s book Portable Play in the Everyday was available as a free download at Palgrave (Pivot titles). I must say, I am very much enjoying it. It is nice to see research on mobile gaming (and not just ‘apps’ on phones etc) that looks at the who what why how and where people play mobile games. I especially like the idea that mobile gaming is pervasive in our everyday lives, played in the liminal moments of life instead of being the prime activity front and center. An activity that often fills the gaps between happenings. Reading through some of the examples of the book, I find myself nodding in agreement as I think about my partner borrowing my daughter’s DS when he drives me to do groceries. He hates shopping of any sort, so he sits in the car and waits for me while he plods away playing the DS. The game is (often) irrelevant – the goal is not to finish a level or mission, but to fill the gap while waiting for time to pass until it

This is in complete contrast to the ways we normally think about gaming. A console confines the player to a certain time and space. When turning the console on, it is with the goal to log in and play a game (of course this can be argued the more and more our consoles are being redesigned as multi-functional multimedia devices). Of course, it could be argued that playing a console game can also be a means to pass the time between two events – but more often than not, the act of playing a game on a console (or pc ..) is the activity in and of itself.

Another interesting point that Tobin makes is that many DS players don’t consider their DS play as ‘gaming’ in the same sense as one would think of console or pc gaming, making it more of a challenge to research who is playing mobile games, why, when and how much. I am not done the book yet (I have a few books on the go – making my attention span a bit wobbly). But I look forward to reading more about handheld gaming.

Also, if ‘social, casual and mobile’ games is your thing, there is a “Call for Chapters: Social, Casual, Mobile: Changing Games (Edited book collection)” but hurry, deadline for abstracts (500 wrds) is Dec 6th, 2013!

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