After I defend my dissertation proposal, I have all kinds of grand plans, including revising and (re)submitting more papers to journals, conducting a slew of interviews for the dissertation and other projects, and getting reacquainted with sunlight. One project I think I can safely keep running in the background of my mind for awhile, however, is my observational study of handheld gaming in public spaces. Basically, every time I see someone playing a handheld gaming system or a game on a cell phone, I make a note of the scene.
In the year or so that it first occurred to me to do this study, I must admit that I have seen very few people in public on gaming-specific handhelds, and it’s tough to tell what people are doing on a cell phone (texting or Breakout?). I know one good place to look for people is a the airport, and I’m surprised to say that the examples I noted are more social than I expected. I saw one woman on a PSP leaning on (who I assume was) her boyfriend, who had his arm around her. I also met someone at South by Southwest who said he pulled out his DS on the plane and ended up playing with the stranger next to him (whom he called his “nerd buddy”). It’s easy enough to see people on handhelds at Comic Con and PAX, of course, but these are a bit outside what I’m looking for.
Eventually, I’ll do some interviews to find out where people use their handhelds and play cell games, I’ll check out the Nintendo-sponsored WiFi hot spots at McDonald’s, and I’ll take my own Nintendo DS outside and see if I happen to run into anybody who wants to play with a stranger. Apparently, it does happen (even if most of the comments in that thread are from people exclaiming that card-carrying nerds must be banished for venturing under the sun’s fiery gaze). Any thoughts on where else one might find handheld gamers in the wild?