A new game, designed to “explore the limits of pervasive gaming,” takes place in real airports and prompts players to plant drugs on other travelers in a bid to get the contraband through security.
Blowtooth is the work of the UK-based Lincoln Social Computer Research Center and relax, the drugs are virtual, though the airport security forces a user is trying to dupe are real. The game operates like this: once in an airport—and before passing through security—a user fires up the Blowtooth application on their smart phone. The application will scan the nearby vicinity for Bluetooth devices, allowing the player to “conceptually dump or retrieve contraband,” on other people’s devices.
The goal is to then retrieve the “contraband” on the other side of security, with points being awarded for how many “couriers” "drugs" can be retrieved from and how fast the roundup was. The “couriers” or “mules” remain blissfully unaware of their involvement in the game.
Why were airports selected as the basis for their game? “… airports have been described as constituting the most authoritarian facility designed for the use of free civilians, an authoritative structure rivaled only by army bases and maximumsecurity prisons.”
The creators argue that most pervasive games are simply used to enhance the “bland or boring” real-world environment of game players. This game attempts just the opposite, taking a place that already generates “tension and anxiety,” and adding a gameplay mechanic to it.
The developers conducted a study of six people who played Blowtooth and found that it “provoked participants to think more critically about both the nature of airports, and the idea of playing games in high security environments.”
These results caused the developers to write:
This is an exciting finding, as it suggests that the process of carefully creating pervasive game tasks that take advantage of the unique and challenging elements of “taboo” environments in which they are played creates the possibility to construct engaging, thought-provoking critical games about those environments.
Blowtooth, unfortunately, only works on mobile phones that support Java and Bluetooth, such as Nokia Series 60 devices. An Android version is said to be in the works, but iPhone users are out of luck as Apple does not allow applications to access the iPhone’s Bluetooth capabilities.