Over the last ten years, alternate reality games (ARGs) have rapidly emerged and transformed in response to the adoption of mobile and social technologies. Niantic, The Pokémon Company and Nintendo’s recent launch of Pokémon Go (2016) and accessories for the game are all signs that the future of play may be shaped by the very social networks people have helped to create (Nakamura & Takashi, 2016). In tandem with the rise of these technologies is an ever-increasing community of people with 21st century media literacy skills for deconstructing and reconstructing narratives that have the potential to equally influence the flow of mainstream media (Bonsignore, Moulder, Neustaedter, Kraus, Hansen, & Druin, 2012). This new form of content creation leverages the mass adoption of mobility for real-time access to information, resources, and tools, unique conditions that have previously been unavailable to technologists, designers, and artists who produce these ARGs. Some scholars (Isbister, Flanagan, & Hash, 2010) suggest these new forms mark a shift in the craft of interaction design as they are based on experiences that are open-ended and lack determined outcomes. Instead, they support intrinsic qualities, such as the feeling of working collaboratively and the ability to solve complex problems (McGonigal, 2012).

The proposed PhD thesis Transcoding Place Through Digital Media, is a multiple case study examining three alternate reality games designed to collaboratively engage people in solving problems associated to climate change. I seek to understand how patterns in open-narrative design can support Designers in the games they make. At this stage of the research, patterns will be generally defined as the analysis of trajectories through geographic and virtual places, game mechanics and fan contributions.

This study is a continuation of my master’s thesis Transcoding Place (2010), and other research projects under the Community Creation of Digital Media for Pervasive Games (2011-2013) funded by SSHRC with principle investigators Dr. Carman Neustaedter and Dr. Ron Wakkary, Simon Fraser University.

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