Collective Play

A one-day colloquium exploring
the technological, aesthetic and social-political
issues associated with
massively-multiplayer, immersive gaming

Back on Jan 1, 2001 SFMOMA opened the installation 010101: Art in Technological Times.  Following up on this theme, Intel Research Berkeley played home to 020202: A Social Technologies Dialogue as organized by faculty and staff from the College of Engineering, Department of Art Practice, and the Berkeley Art Museum, under the leadership of UC Berkeley Art Practice Professor Greg Niemeyer. This year, again Intel Research Berkeley is proud to host 030303: Collective Play, co-chaired by Greg Niemeyer (Art, Technology & Culture Studio) and Jane McGonigal (Department of Performance Studies) both of UC Berkeley.  Let the play begin…

Notes:    Justin Hall's Notes from the event

Greg Niemeyer (Professor UC Berkeley Art Practice)
Jane McGonigal (UC Berkeley Department of Performance Studies)

Monday 3 March 2003
10 am - 5 pm


Intel Research Berkeley Laboratory
Hosted by:
Department of Art Practice
Department of Film Studies/New Media
The Art, Technology, and Culture Studio
University of California, Berkeley
Intel Research Berkeley
In cooperation with:
University of California Digital Arts Research Network

030303: Collective Play explores the emergent genre of networked entertainment, especially the subgenre known most commonly as "immersive gaming." Also nicknamed "alternate reality gaming" and "unfiction" by its players, immersive games weave elaborate, interactive narratives and pose complex problems and puzzles, employing a wide range of everyday network technology --- Web sites, e-mail, cell phones, instant messaging, fax machines, mobile texting, and PDAs --- to penetrate deeply into the real lives and physical spaces of its audiences. Immersive games often defy the structure and operations of traditional games, neither articulating clear player objectives, nor explicitly stating the rules of the games, and purposely obscuring the boundaries between "the game" and "real life." Immersive games take advantage of the current proliferation of "extreme networks" to create continuous and fully inhabitable virtual realities without the aid of headsets or data gloves, generating new possibilities for interaction and play in every aspect of the players' otherwise ordinary, daily environments. Immersive games are also often strategically designed to require massive collaboration on the part of their players; as a result, immersive gaming is often experienced through self-generated, large-scale online groups, ranging from a few hundred to nearly 10,000 members each. Other related genres of networked entertainment, including mobile gaming and massively multi-user online roleplaying games and simulations, are also blurring the distinction between "just playing" and "real" community interaction and problem-solving

The Next Level
While the immersive genre was initially conceived as entertainment, its ability to engage and mobilize large audiences has since attracted new agendas to the medium. While one online hub for immersive gamers known as "Collective Detective" calls its players "the smartest, most adaptable puzzle solving, code cracking, heuristic thinking system on the planet," such attempts to coordinate individual players into collective intelligences have attracted the attention of organizations such as the U.S. Military, the Center for Disease Control and the Bureau for Land Management, all of which are currently developing games to harness the power of online players to tackle problems as diverse as bioterrorism, surveillance and wildfire modeling. These developments, which we find simultaneously exciting and unsettling, suggest a trend toward increasing blurring of the boundaries between games and reality, work and play. They also hint at the tremendous possibilities of online gaming to spark civic, legal, cultural and technical debates about how our communities are organized, governed and mobilized beyond the potential of physical bodies in physical space.

Since these questions touch on such a wide range of provocative technical and ethical issues, we feel it is important to establish a dialogue that brings together the artists, engineers and developers of online games and extreme networks with humanities researchers and off-line community leaders, policy makers and administrators to assess the current and potential role of online gaming in society.





9:00 AM

Breakfast and Check-In


9:30 AM

Opening Session



Jane McGonigal

Department of Performance Studies, University of California at Berkeley, USA


Greg Niemeyer

Departments of Art Practice and Film Studies, University of California at Berkeley, USA


Dana Plautz

Intel Research, Corporate Technology Group, Oregon, USA

10:00 AM

Report from the Cutting Edge



Josh Babetski and Holly Samee

Collectivedetective.org, Austin, TX, USA

10:30 AM

Quickfire Session I



Howard Rheingold

Author, Smart Mobs and The Virtual Community


Ken Goldberg

Departments of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (IEOR) and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), University of California at Berkeley, USA


Anthony Levandowski and Matthieu Metz

IEOR, UC Berkeley, USA


Ian Fraser and Finnegan Kelly

The Go Game, SF, USA


Eric Paulos

Intel Research Lab at Berkeley, USA


Jussi Holopainen

Nokia Research Center, Finland


Tim Lenoir

History & Philosophy of Science, Stanford University, USA

12:00 PM

Breakout Session I

The Boundaries of Game Play

12:30 PM

Breakout Group
Presentations I


  1:00 PM

Mediterranean Lunch


  2:00 PM

Quickfire Session II



Frans Mayra

Hypermedia Laboratory, University of Tampere, Finland


Marc Davis

SIMS, University of California at Berkeley, USA


Geoffrey C. Bowker and Matthew Kabatoff

Department of Communications, University of California at San Diego, USA; Visual Arts, University of California at San Diego


Susan Leigh Star and Zara Mirmalek

Department of Communications, University of California at San Diego, USA


Staffan Bjork

Interactive Institute & Play Studio, Department of Informatics, Göteborg University, Sweden


Yehuda Kalay

Department of Architecture, University of California at Berkeley, USA


Sri Sridharan and Syed Shariq

TrustNet & Global Knowledge-Design Collaboratory, Stanford University, Palo Alto, USA


John Sherry

Intel Corporation, People and Practices Group, Intel Labs, Oregon, USA

4:00 PM

Breakout Session II

Collaborations & Applications

4:30 PM

Breakout Group Presentations II


5:00 PM

Game Over

Play Again? Y/N


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