Digital game design as a geographical research method

Jack Lowe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Abstract: Digital games have begun to garner significant attention in geography over the past decade, as media with increasing cultural, economic and political influence globally, as well as distinct representational, affective, material and social attributes. Already provoking methodological innovations in the use of video ethnographies (Ash, 2010), covert and (auto)ethnographic play (Dornelles, 2019), alongside more conventional qualitative methods, where geographical scholarship on digital games has been lacking is in direct engagement with practices of game design and development. The carefully-constructed architecture of game rules and functions, which provides a framework for player activity, relies upon a highly iterative process of development. This typically involves multiple cycles of conceptualisation, design, testing, editing and production. My presentation will explore what can be learnt from creative, practice-based approaches to studying this process by discussing the making of Canterbury in 3 Words, a location-based game created as part of my PhD research. By playfully adapting user interactions with geolocation service What3Words, this project investigates the possibilities and challenges of location-based game design for reconfiguring top-down, instrumental applications of locative media and reimagining them as platforms for participatory and collective storytelling about place. Here, I will consider how apprehending such research questions creatively – as a long-term design brief – can lead to more expansive understandings of the intricate relationships between digital technologies, embodied experiences and cultural meaning-making enacted through making and playing digital games. In so doing, I will also address concerns about expertise, ethics and data collection that this novel form of practice-based research entails.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInnovative Digital Geographies session at RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2021
Publication statusUnpublished - 31 Aug 2021
EventRGS-IBG Annual International Conference -
Duration: 31 Aug 20213 Sept 2021


ConferenceRGS-IBG Annual International Conference

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