As we look over the last decade, the obvious shifts that can be gleaned are the erosions of once distinct categories such as ‘hardcore’ versus ‘casual’ gamer in what Jesper Juul deemed the ‘casual revolution’ of games. But this is less of a revolution and more of an evolution. Mobile games have witnessed an inversion whereby once deemed ‘casual’ they then took on a ‘serious’ status through the rise of urban mobile gaming. With the ubiquity of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and location-based services (LBS) along with the transformation of the mobile phone into the multi-mode mobile media, the capacity for mobile LBS games to teach us new types of experience of place and sketch new cartographies for place have burgeoned. By traversing the online and offline simultaneously through haptic screens, the possibilities for mobile gaming to teach us new ways of experiencing place upon various levels – i.e. not just as a physical geography but technologically, emotionally, psychologically – is endless. These practices also play with many of the paradoxes of mobility (roaming and yet wireless leash, here and yet there, online and yet offline) — encapsulated by the idea of still mobile. However, mobile gaming was witnessed another shift — what some now call a type of gamification. Once an activity by artists/researchers/experimental educators urban mobile gaming has now supposedly been rendered mainstream with geosocial services like foursquare (and Jie Pang in China). With this transformation, the art of being mobile takes on a darker ambience — especially around issues such privacy.
In this talk I reflect upon digital ethnographies conducted in Shanghai from 2009-2011 in which I interviewed students (ba ling hou generation) and parents about their mobile and geosocial media usage. Reflecting upon game and geosocial usage, this talk considers the ba ling hou’s use of social media game Happy Farm and geosocial media game Jie Pang to connect place, people and products into a game of commodified socialisation. In these geosocial spaces, they are often unperturbed about privacy issues; instead they view it as part of the performance of intimate publics.