GDIM 49: Special Topics in Games and Society - Pervasive Games & Mixed Reality Design

Spring 2023
Professor Theresa Jean Tanenbaum

Tuesday & Thursday @ 5-6:20pm
Anteater Learning Pavilion (ALP) 1600

Course Overview

This course will explore the theory, history, and design of pervasive and location-based games, with a specific emphasis on mixed and alternate reality. Students will learn how to design playful experiences that take place out in the world, how to design for spectators and non-players, how to expand the magic circle spatially, socially, and temporally, and how to keep their players safe when engaging in public play. The main deliverable for this class will be a large, location-based, mixed reality game, that students will design, test, and document.

Course Structure

This class will combine game playing, game design, and location-based technology to introduce you to the challenges and opportunities that currently exist within the mobile and ubiquitous games design space. By the end of this class, you should be able to:

  • Understand and be able to apply key mobile game design concepts (such as time, synchronicity, location, public/private play, space and place, movement and mobility) and be able to identify key differences between the design of pervasive vs non-pervasive games.
  • Develop a familiarity with the core technologies that support the development of pervasive games including their advantages and limitations, the major challenges facing developers of pervasive games, and the possible futures for these technologies.
  • In a small group (4-6 people) you will design, test, and deploy a pervasive game that takes advantage of the specific unique affordances of the UCI campus.
  • Document and describe your locative or spatial game in order to communicate and preserve the experience for people who are unable to play it for themselves.


What this class is NOT:  Some of you might be arriving here in search of a class on AR or VR. You will find no headsets, digital overlays, or other such technologies in this class. Similarly, this class is not about learning how to develop games or apps for mobile phones or tablets. If you are looking for implementation or development skills, you are not in the right place.