In this study, my teammate and I, discuss the engagement in location-based Augmented Reality gaming, studied through the case of Pokémon GO.
Location-based games empower and expand the spatial dimension of AR games, allowing people to experience the physical environment, as well as the digital one by tying the two together through knowledge of the player’s current location.
We followed a precise methodology including ethnographic observation and field interview, in order to understand what is that makes these kinds of games so appealing.

We proceded deeper, exploring the cheating aspect in Pokémon GO. Cheating is common in videogames but it expands to a new level in location-based games.


The Challenge

Location-based games have been around for few years, but they became popular only in 2016, with the explosion a the Pokèmon Go phaenomenon. 
It was extremely interesting working with players. Due to the huge amount of data, we had to work carefully, to avoid mistakes or to lose precious information.
Researching on cheating in location-based games was challenging because the subject is pretty sensitive and people don't want to be recognized as "cheater".

The Process

Due to the complexity of the subject, we wrote down a precise plan. We decided which techniques were to prefer, to obtain information from the players, and which method was to prefer to organize the data, filter and finally process them.

Observe the people, collect their experience

The dataset comes from different sources.
Pokémon GO is a game that is played outside, on the streets, on the parks. Therefore we follow the players, blending and bonding with them, to collect information.
At the same time, we explored the virtual side of the game. We spent more than one month, reading forums and reddit pages, exploring facebook groups about Pokèmon Go. This allowed us to investigate the hidden side of the location-based games. The players are often exchanging information online and planning walks and raids.
The digital ethnography we performed was essential to understand the players' cheating behaviors.


Organize the data

We collected approximately 3256 comments from the internet, more than 30 field interviews and 20 semi-structured interviews and 1 focus group. Moreover, we had our notes, taken during more than 2 weeks of field observations.
This huge amount of data required order.
We cleaned out the comments form duplicates and not fully related subjects. We transcribed all the interviews and clean our notes.

All the data from the comments, the field interviews,  and our observations were printed and organized in clusters.
We identified them, associating similar information, discussing and iterating each small piece of data.
Due to the amount of the collected material, we treated the interviews and the focus group digitally.
We organize the information in clusters, the same way we did for the other data.
We combined the new clusters with the old ones, to create our data code.



We passed all our data though the code list several times to ensure the quality of the results.
It was common to talk together during the coding session, confronting our way to code the data into category and clusters.


The Result

The output of the study was two papers, that contributed to the academic research.

The location-based games are intriguing and funny to play. The main reason for their appeal derives from the mixture between the physical layer and the virtual one. People are fascinated by being able to play a videogame in the real environment. Furthermore, they love to play with other people in person and not through a chat, create groups and play together.

For what concerns the cheating aspect, we found that mostly when people play outside of the rules, they do so with what they regard as “acceptable cheating”. They offer justifications such as not being able to go out to physical locations to play, not having many gaming elements in their local area, needing more of a challenge or fun from the game, wanting to create their own gaming experience, wanting to explore and extend game limits, finding the game too difficult, or simply cheating because they think everyone else is.


Pretty interesting, isn't it?

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I am always up for a chat, possibly while drinking a warm and delicious cup of tea
(that's right, I am an Italian guy who does not drink coffee).

©2019 Daniele Internicola.