A Review of Location-based Games: Do They All Support Exercise,
Social Interaction and Cartographical Training?
Samuli Laato
, Tarja Pietarinen
, Sampsa Rauti
, Mauri Paloheimo
Nobufumi Inaba
and Erkki Sutinen
Department of Future Technologies, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Department of Teacher Education, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Department of Language and Translation, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Keywords: Location-based Game, Pervasive Games, Classification, Categorization, Software Review, Serious Games,
Abstract: Studies on location-based games ubiquitously report positive learning outcomes for the players. Particularly
these games are shown to promote exercise, encourage to social interaction and increase geographical and
cartographical knowledge. To find out whether these positive effects are game-specific or characteristic to all
location-based games, we conduct a software search for available location-based games on iOS and Android
platforms and evaluate if and how exercise, cartographical training and social interaction are supported. Based
on our results we were able to identify six sub-genres of location-based games, and the positive effects
associated with each genre. The most popular category in terms of number of games was scavenger hunts and
the most popular category in terms of active installs on Android and iOS was location-based MMORPG’s.
Presence of factors associated with immersion and mixed reality were paired with the popularity and positive
outcomes of the games. Cartographical practise, social interaction and exercise were supported the most in
the location-based MMORPG sub-genre, to which, for example, Pokémon GO belongs to.
Location-based games saw an explosion in popularity
when Niantic launched Pokémon GO in July 2016.
Since then numerous companies have attempted to
recreate the phenomenon with games of their own,
with various degrees of success. Location-based
games (LBGs) by definition include gameplay which
revolves around the users, or in some rare cases
another object’s physical location (Rashid et al.,
2006). Most LBGs are also pervasive games i.e.
games where the game experience is located within
or mixed with the real world (Arango-Lopez et al.
LBGs in general have been identified as potential
platforms for future learning (Söbke et al. 2017),
because of a track record of positive learning
outcomes (eg. Chen and Tsai, 2009; LeBlanc et al.,
2017). The very nature of LBGs seems ideal for
serious games (SGs) (Abt. 1970) that promote
exercise or teach local geography. For example, the
currently most popular LBG Pokémon GO (See
Figure 1) has been identified to motivate exercise
(Alha et al. 2019; Althoff et al., 2016), improve
topographical knowledge and increase place
attachment (Oleksy and Wunk, 2017) and increase
social interaction (Sobel et al., 2017; Fettrow and
Ross, 2017, Finco et al., 2018). However, Pokémon
GO is mainly a game for entertainment, not an SG.
Figure 1: The main interface of Pokémon GO.
Laato, S., Pietarinen, T., Rauti, S., Paloheimo, M., Inaba, N. and Sutinen, E.
A Review of Location-based Games: Do They All Support Exercise, Social Interaction and Cartographical Training?.
DOI: 10.5220/0007801206160627
In Proceedings of the 11th Inter national Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2019), pages 616-627
ISBN: 978-989-758-367-4
2019 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
Studies have reported similar positive outcomes
for other LBGs as well (eg. Stanley et al. 2010;
Chittaro and Sioni, 2012; Neustaedter and Judge,
2012) which lead us to form the hypothesis that these
outcomes are characteristic to any LBG instead of
being specific to the games analysed in above
mentioned studies.
In this paper, we first introduce the background of
the study by introducing the technical structure of
LBG’s and going through how they can be utilized in
education, with an emphasis on promoting exercise
and physical activity, practising geographical,
cartographical and topographical skills and
increasing social interaction. The background section
ends with a look at immersion and its impact on
players’ engagement and motivation and a brief look
at the risks of LBGs. We formulate our primary
research question as follows: “Are the three main
positive outcomes of playing LBGs characteristic to
LBGs in general, or should they be attributed to the
few games that have been studied?and in addition
examine how immersive each game is, based on
indicators identified in previous studies. In the next
section we describe our research design for searching
the set of LBGs and for conducting an analysis based
on the data. We sort the games into sub-genres and
identify positive outcomes associated with each
genre. We follow our results section with a discussion
on interesting findings and finally conclude the paper
with ideas for future work.
As LBGs are a relatively new genre in games, the
terminology used in this field of research is not yet
consistent. Among the earliest work on LBGs and
their classification is a study by Nicklas et al. (2001)
who divide location-based games into three
categories: 1) Mobile games that do not rely on
accurate location data; 2) Location aware-games,
which can be played anywhere and require an
accurate GPS signal; and 3) Spatially-aware games,
which are usually played on small areas and rely on
identifying real world location for triggering game
events. This kind of thinking is outdated in the sense
that mobile games are no longer discussed as LBGs
and spatially-aware games are quite rare in
comparison to location-aware games. Sometimes the
term geolocation game or game with geolocation is
used in describing LBGs (Silva et al., 2017). Since the
vast amount of academic papers and even
dissertations (e.g. Wake, 2013) has applied the term
location-based game as a synonym for what Nicklas
et al. (2001) call location aware games, we adopt
LBG in our study as a term describing all games,
which, in one way or another, utilize the players’
location as part of the main gameplay.
Even though the term LBG is being adopted in
this study, a body of research on LBGs is done under
the term pervasive games (Arango-Lopez et al. 2017)
with 25,400 results on Google Scholar with the
keyword “Pervasive Games” in publications since
2015, in comparison to 33,000 results with “location-
based games”. LBGs are indeed in most cases
pervasive games meaning that the gameplay takes
place in the real world (Montola et al., 2009). In
addition to LBGs and pervasive games, other terms
used in research to describe some kind of a LBG
include AR-game, and mixed-reality games.
(Viinikkala et al., 2016). AR- and mixed-reality
games are often spatially-aware games as seen in
Figure 2. LBGs can include elements of AR and
mixed reality as they have been identified as means
of increasing immersion (Shea at al., 2017). The
integration of location-based gaming and AR
technology could emerge as ubiquitous, collaborative
and situated learning, and bridge the gap between
formal and informal learning (Wu et al., 2013).
Figure 2: An academically developed mixed-reality game
Wordsmith, which is also a spatially-aware game. The
game augments 3D characters to historical locations inside
the Turku Cathedral.
2.1 Technical Structure of LBGs
The most popular LBGs Pokemon GO, Ingress,
Draconius GO, Jurassic World: Alive, The Walking
Dead: Our World and Landlord Tycoon-Real Estate
Investing Idle are all based on a client-server
architecture. This allows, for example, multiplayer
capabilities, social features and a place to save player
A Review of Location-based Games: Do They All Support Exercise, Social Interaction and Cartographical Training?
data in the games (Capece et al., 2016). In addition,
running the game state on the server has the benefit
of decreasing the likelihood of players succeeding in
tampering of game files and other forms of technical
cheating (Smed and Hakonen, 2017).
The most common types of LBG gameplay
revolve around points of interests (PoIs) placed on the
game map, which the player needs to travel to and
interact with (Tregel et al., 2017). These points can be
created in several ways, some of which are better than
others. A random or even scatter of the points around
the globe have the following disadvantages:
1) Database capacity will be reserved for points
that are in the middle of the ocean, in places
where nobody will ever go to.
2) PoIs are not linked with the real world in any
way, thus decreasing the immersiveness of
the game.
3) PoIs might be located on private property, or
in dangerous inaccessible areas.
Using an algorithm that utilizes publicly available
data to, for example, filter out points on military
districts and oceans can already make an
improvement. In order to connect in game PoIs to the
real world, human resources can be utilized (Majorek
and Duvall, 2016) or the data can to a degree also be
created automatically (Tregel et al., 2017).
2.2 LBGs for Education
Parallel with the rapid invasion of technological tools
into education, learning is transformed increasingly
into fun-seeking activities utilizing educational
games (SGs) that foster the learning experience
through excitement and stimulation. From early on
LBGs have been seen as potential tools for education
as they extend the learning experience out into the
physical world and provide new advantages such as
accessing learning materials in the particular context,
collecting field data in-situ, personifying the learning
experience and deriving learning value from a
personal mobile phone (Benford 2005). Location-
based technology has been applied for educational
purposes for example by narratives such as a location-
based history game in medieval Amsterdam
(Akkerman et al., 2009), an interactive LBG for
teaching the English language (Chen and Tsai, 2009),
a game for learning about cultural heritage (Mortara
et al., 2014), and for games designed for museums
(Laine et al., 2009; Melero, Hernández-Leo and
Manatunga, 2015). Early findings from studies with
location-based SGs and AR simulations show
positive outcomes in player engagement,
participation and physical activity, but also
challenges (Dunleavy et al., 2009; Melero et al.,
2015). Overall there are a wide range of examples of
location-based and AR-technologies being used as
part of formal education such as students creating
their own AR games (Klopfer and Sheldon, 2010).
LBGs will also blur the border between formal
(context-free) and natural (informal; contextual)
More recent studies on LBGs for education have
continued to focus on individual games. Instead of
academically developed SGs, the focus has shifted
towards commercially developed games and their
impact (Hamari et al., 2018; Alha et al., 2019). Söbke
et al. (2017) analyse the LBG Ingress and
demonstrate that the three most thriving reasons
players engage in that game and by extension to
LBGs in general are 1) being outdoors, 2) detecting
new spots in the local environment and 3) having a
common activity with friends. All of these reasons are
viewed as positive outcomes in addition to being
motivating factors for playing. Another study
provided additional evidence on how playing Ingress
increases on average the wellbeing of its players.
(Kosa and Uysal, 2018) Based on their findings
Söbke et al. (2017) propose a framework for
designing pervasive games, called Pervasive Game
Design Framework (PDGF). The framework
combines pedagogical objectives with assessment
and difficulty. Difficulty or challenge is also
identified as an important factor in increasing
learning outcomes for serious games (Hamari et al.,
2016) According to the model by Söbke et al. (2017),
possible pedagogical objectives need to be included
in the game flow without disrupting the core of the
game that motivates players. Integrating learning
objectives into the gameplay has also been studied
extensively in the field of SGs and has been found to
be paramount in building a successful lasting
motivation for the players. (Arnab et al., 2015;
Bedwell et al., 2012; Lameras et al., 2017)
2.3 Exercise and Physical Activity
In games that are based on moving around, exercise
is a natural and integral component. LBGs which
motivate players to travel to geographical points of
interests have been identified to result in rapid
increases of physical activity in the short-term,
however lasting effects depend on the games’
capability of retaining the interest of its audience
(Licoppe, 2017; Althoff et al., 2016; LeBlanc et al.,
2017). When comparing LBGs to health apps, the
user demographics are different. Thus, LBGs are
capable of reaching those demographics totally
CSEDU 2019 - 11th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
uninterested in health applications and able to
motivate them into increased physical activity
(Althoff et al., 2016). Some LBGs are designed for
the sole reason of exercise (Southerton, 2013), while
especially the spatially-aware games fixed to certain
small locations do not put any emphasis on exercise
(Viinikkala et al., 2016).
2.4 Geographical, Cartographical and
Topographical Practise
Location-based games are shown to automatically
support cartographical and navigational practise if
they contain a navigational interface based on real
world maps (Lammes and Wilmott, 2018). Examples
of these kinds of games are The Walking Dead: Our
world displayed on Figure 3 and Draconius GO
where the main gameplay revolves around navigating
to nearby PoIs using the navigational interface
provided by the game. The magnitude of the
cartographical training depends on how long the
game is being played, but also on the PoIs. If PoIs in
the game world are not linked to locations of the real
world, people are less likely to travel into locations
with a significance. However, the existing databases
of PoIs cover only certain areas, primarily cities, so
algorithmically created PoIs supplement playing in
rural areas better (Tregel et al., 2017). Randomly
created PoI’s also have the advantage of maintaining
some novelty in the game and, at best, encourage
players to travel to new and interesting places.
Games where PoIs are important real world
locations are tentatively more effective in increasing
players’ cartographical knowledge than alternatives
(Andone et al. 2017; Lammes and Wilmott, 2018).
Good examples of such games are Ingress and
Pokémon GO, which primarily utilize the same
database of PoIs (Tregel et al., 2017). The games
encourage players to travel to new places in different
ways, for example, in Ingress players are rewarded
medals for visiting unique PoIs and interacting with
them and encouraged to travel long distances in order
to create large triangles. The latter mechanic has also
been identified as important to the development of
geographical knowledge, as planning large triangles
requires looking at maps and seeking out key
locations via the map instead of the game (Söbke et
al., 2017) Pokémon GO on the other hand keeps a
map of all the gyms the player has visited, and is
found to increase place attachment via the jym system
(Oleksy and Wunk, 2017).
Figure 3: The Walking Dead: Our World.
2.5 Social Interaction
Multiplayer games by definition include social
interaction (Cole and Griffiths, 2007). In all other
kinds of games this interaction takes place online,
however LBGs change the playing ground by forcing
people to go outside and in the best cases, interact
with other players. Online multiplayer games have
been shown to include social interaction, however the
type of interaction is limited and can still make
players feel lonely (Ducheneaut et al., 2006). LBGs
on the other hand allow for face-to-face interaction
with other players and also interaction with people
who do not play the game at all. These properties have
been highly praised by studies on certain LBGs,
primarily Pokémon Go (Sobel et al., 2017; Fettrow
and Ross, 2017; Hamari et al., 2017). Some games
provide benefits for working together with other
players, while others focus more on the competitive
side. At launch in 2016 Pokémon GO was a
competitive game with minor team play elements, but
has recently moved towards positive social
interaction with recent patches including the addition
of raids, trading and friendship levels, which are all
game mechanics where the player benefits from
working together with other players (Finco et al.,
2018). Removing competitive elements might suit
LBGs seeking to establish positive social interaction,
but can also turn some players away due to the lack
of challenge. Furthermore, as studies on SGs have
A Review of Location-based Games: Do They All Support Exercise, Social Interaction and Cartographical Training?
revealed challenges in social interaction with certain
problem types (Dunleavy et al., 2009) or with the
group size (Melero et al., 2015), more studies are
called for to define the type of interaction LBGs
should focus on so that the identified positive social
outcomes could emerge (Wang et al., 2018).
2.6 Immersion and Motivation
One big topic among LBG research and development
is immersion (Hamari et al., 2016). It is connected to
many of the aspects analysed in this study, including
the positive outcomes, players’ motivation and
audience retention. Immersiveness is difficult to
objectively measure as it is wholly dependent on
players’ perception of the game, and depends on a
multitude of factors (Kosa and Uysal, 2018; Wang et
al., 2017). In pervasive and mixed reality games
immersion is largely affected by how well the game
is able to blend with reality (Montola et al., 2009;
Viinikkala et al., 2016). Factors affecting immersion
in LBGs include accurate GPS tracking, use of real
world maps, AR features, a realistic story (Baker et
al., 2017), real world -based points of interests, social
features and taking into account the real world events,
for example weather.
Games must be motivating in order for players to
sustain interest long enough for the positive outcomes
to occur (Deterding, 2012). Digital games in general
are known to include addictive elements like instant
feedback (Rigby and Ryan, 2011). Still, motivation
and engagement are essential not only for
encouraging players to play the game, but also to
enhance the positive outcomes while playing.
(Muntean, 2011). How motivating a game is depends
mostly on the game design and implementation,
which includes everything from gameplay to content,
music and graphics, but also outside factors like
social relations revolving around the game. All these
elements have an impact on how motivating players
perceive the game. A possible way to estimate the
level of perceived motivation is to observe the
popularity of the game over time. Games that sustain
players’ interest over a long period of time are agreed
to be fun and engaging.
2.7 Risks of LBGs
Studies have highlighted several security and privacy
concerns associated with games that have access to
the players location, or revolve around the player
moving around in the real world. (Serino et al., 2016)
As LBGs blend the game with reality, in the case of
the most immersive games the boundaries of the
game and everyday life can become blurred
(Karpashevich et al., 2016). Players may alternate
their moving patterns based on in-game situation and,
for example, take longer to get home from work than
they normally would (Karpashevich et al., 2016).
Parents of the younger players of LBGs enjoy the
increased exercise and time their children spent
outside playing LBGs, but are worried about how the
game might encourage their children to wander in
unsafe territory or forget to pay attention to their
surroundings while playing (Sobel et al., 2017).
In addition to direct security concerns, LBGs rise
privacy issues. With the most popular LBGs featuring
a server connection where player location data is
stored, companies automatically have access to, for
example, the players’ location data (Hulsey and
Reeves, 2014). In addition some LBGs publicly
display players’ movement and interaction patterns,
which can be scraped and used to determine things
like where the player lives, works and spends their
freetime. The worst case scenario is that malicious
parties use the available location data for criminal
purposes, for example, to rob a player while they are
away from home playing a LBG or to corner and mug
a player in a convenient place. (Hulsey and Reeves,
2014; Karpashevich et al., 2016).
For finding a representative sample of LBGs, a
general search was opted for in place of a systematic
search (Kitchenham et al. 2009), due to the lack of
objectively searchable databases of games. Instead
we utilized previous research papers which list LBGs
(Alavesa et al., 2016) and games found on research
papers via the following research databases: IEEE
Xplore Digital Library, ACM Digital Library and
Scitepress digital library. From 15 academically cited
location-based games for education in 2012 six
spatially continuous games that fell to our criteria,
which we in this paper refer to as location-based
games, were Feeding Yoshi, CitiTag, CityExplorer,
Jindeo, hitchers and MobileHunters. When searching
for these games on Google Play Store in February
2019, we could not find any. As the games are old,
mobile platforms have since developed by huge leaps
and therefore we assume the old games are no longer
maintained and cannot therefore be added into our
current analysis. (Avouris and Yiannoutsou, 2012).
LBGs were also searched for directly from the
online stores App Store and Google Play Store using
the terms location-based games, list of location-
based games, pervasive games, list of pervasive
CSEDU 2019 - 11th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
games and the best location-based games. We used
the search engines duckduckgo and Google using the
following search terms and their variants: location-
based games, AR games, mixed-reality games,
pervasive games and GPS games. From these results
we obtained a few final additional LBGs by tracking
down games mentioned in Online Encyclopaedia of
Location-based games (2019) and other privately or
collaboratively created lists of LBGs.
3.1 Exclusion Criteria
We focused on games for the iOS and Android
platforms, as these two dominate the mobile market
at the moment, and provide the most widely spread
and popular platform for developing LBGs. In
addition to narrowing the platform down to iOS and
Android, we decided not to include games which are
discontinued or no longer supported. This decision
was done in order to be able to obtain all the relevant
information from the application, and also to provide
direct access to the games. The third exclusion criteria
was that the games were published within our
linguistic abilities. Therefore the available languages
covered were: English, Finnish, Japanese, Hungarian
and Swedish. Finally we decided to exclude games
which during our analysis proved not to be actual
games but rather platforms for creating games.
However, if the same app was used as a platform and
as a game, it was included. Before categorization,
duplicate games were removed and available games
requiring unavailable server side support were
excluded. Finally applications that supported an
activity but were not games as we understand them,
for example, Geocaching applications and their
variants, (Schlatter and Hurd, 2005) were excluded.
3.2 Data Collection
We looked at previous studies on taxonomies and
frameworks for LBGs (Söbke et al., 2017; Avouris
and Yiannoutsou 2012; Anastasiadou and Lameras,
2016; Alavesa et al., 2016) and combined elements in
order to determine what data to collect from the
games. In addition, based on the previous studies on
specific LBGs, we obtained factors in the game
design which were shown to support positive
outcomes and collected data to see if these factors
were present. Our data collection scheme was
therefore formed to be as follows:
1. Basic information:
-Name of the app
-Year it was published
2. Immersive elements
-Includes AR features?
-Is based on a real map?
-How PoIs are determined?
3. Positive outcomes related
-Has a speed limit for moving?
-Includes multiplayer?
Due to the large scope of this study, we used
simple indicators for determining the results: a speed
limit for moving was seen as an indicator the game
wants to encourage the player to walk instead of
driving, and the incorporation of a real world map or
real world-based PoIs to the game was seen as an
indicator of increasing the players geographical and
topographical knowledge. If the game contained
multiplayer features, we recorded that it encourages
players to social interaction.
3.3 Creating Sub-genres of LBGs
Previous attempts on creating LBG characterizations
have failed to create LBG-specific taxonomies, but
instead, have produced general taxonomies that can
be applied to any type of a game (Alavesa et al.,
2016). Even though these taxonomies were found to
provide tangible results, they failed at grasping the
aspects which make LBGs unique among games. In
our method for constructing the genres we utilized a
grounded theory approach (Charmaz and Belgrave,
2007). We grouped games which shared similar
gameplay features together. Our aim was to use
collected data as an indicator to which category a
game belonged, but we used prevalent gameplay
features as the main (overriding) indicator for
determining the genre. Existing genres were utilized
where feasible (Nicklas et al., 2001). Games, which
were left alone in our grouping phase, we moved into
a category called miscellaneous, as a single game was
not large enough a sample to define a genre.
The final list consisted 184 LBGs. We excluded 128
games due to their unavailability (discontinued or
servers have been shut down), bugginess or the fact
that the game was not location-based. This left us
with 56 games. Currently the most popular LBG
among these 56 LBGs is Pokémon GO with over
100,000,000 installs on Android devices only through
Google Play Store. The second most popular LBG
Ingress Prime sits at 5,000,000+ installs through Play
A Review of Location-based Games: Do They All Support Exercise, Social Interaction and Cartographical Training?
Store followed by Jurassic World: Alive (Figure 4),
Landlord Tycoon-Real Estate Investor and The
Walking Dead: Our World. Figure 5 shows the most
popular LBGs compared to each other in popularity
based on the amount of reviews on Google Play Store.
Figure 4: Jurassic World: Alive is currently the third
popular LBG. This is the main interface of the game.
The descriptive statistics of the data are presented
in Table 1. The most surprising finding was that only
two games, both developed by Niantic, based PoIs on
real world locations. Other games either randomly
placed PoIs on the map, utilized data to automatically
create the PoIs or did not utilize PoIs in their game
design. 80.4% utilized real world maps, thus linking
the game into the real world through cartography.
Only 16.1% of the games had a speed limit for
moving, which in our study was seen as an indicator
that the game designers want players to move by
exercising instead of driving a car. Multiplayer
features were present in 64.3% of the games in a form
or another, although there was large variance in what
ways multiplayer was emphasized. Even if a game
only included some basic leader boards or even minor
interaction with other players, it was classified as a
multiplayer game. Finally, AR-features utilizing the
mobile phone camera were detected in exactly ¼ of
the analysed games.
Figure 5: The amount of reviews on LBGs in Google Play
Store (February 2019).
Table 1: The results of collected data.
Is the game based on a
real map?
Speed limit for moving?
PoI’s match real world
Contains AR features?
4.1 Sub-genres of LBGs
We discovered the following sub-genres of LBGs:
1) Scavenger hunt/treasure hunt
-Players do various tasks in the real world
and report them to others
2) Location-based MMORPG’s.
-Based on a real map
-Main gameplay consists of travelling to
PoIs and interacting with them.
3) Spatially-aware games
-Designed for a specific environment. Can
be inside buildings.
-Utilize solutions and technologies that take
into account that specific surrounding.
4) Geolocation games
-Named after Landlord Tycoon.
-Utilizes the users’ location in gameplay, but
does not accurately track user movement or
display a local map.
5) Movement -dependent games
-Game events trigger based on user
movement, not location.
6) Miscellaneous games
-Games which do not fall into any category
All 56 games were sorted into one of these sub-
genres. The first genre and the one with most games
was scavenger hunt -games, which is historically the
first category of LBGs to emerge (Pirker et al., 2014).
Scavenger hunt games, or treasure hunt games as they
CSEDU 2019 - 11th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Figure 6: Learning outcomes associated with each genre.
are sometimes called, rely on users creating
temporary games, tasks and missions for each other
(Pirker et al., 2014 Kohen-Vacs et al., 2012). One
such task could be, for example, to travel to a certain
location and take a picture of oneself holding a stick
there. The scavenger hunt game platform provides
functionalities like GPS tracking, storing and
showing uploaded media, keeping a track of missions
and their completion and giving players in-game
rewards. The missions are often location-based, but
do not have to be. Examples of these kinds of games
are Scavify and Social Scavenger.
The second genre, location-based MMORPG,
was based on games like Pokémon GO, The Walking
Dead: Our world and Jurassic World: Alive. These
games dominated the popularity charts lead by
Pokémon GO and shared the following six
1) Collecting things while playing.
2) Immersion. At least the following methods
were utilized in order to increase immersion:
basing the game on real maps, choosing PoI
locations in a meaningful way, adding AR
features and creating storylines that mix the
game with reality.
3) A Map interface. Travelling to PoIs by
navigating on a 2D map of the real world
was identified as the central game mechanic.
4) Face to face social interaction based on
sharing the game world with other players.
5) Limiting the travel speed. Going too fast is
punished by limiting or completely
removing PoIs. This encourages walking
and also serves as a countermeasure for high
velocity GPS spoofing.
6) Freemium business model. (Wilson, 2006)
Even though not part of the game per se, all
games in this category utilized this business
The third genre, spatially-aware games was based
on the definition of Nicklas et al., (2001) and all
games tied into certain places or areas were sorted
into this category. Examples include Oddfellow’s
Secret based on Manhattan and E-BIKEFEST
Mountain Quest created for the E-BIKEFEST event
on the Tirolean Mountains. The fourth category,
movement-based games based their gameplay on the
user movement. Rather than having PoIs on the map
to travel to, movement-based games either utilized
player movement as a gameplay element or based
occurring events on user movement. Examples of
these kinds of games include The Walk, Strut and
Zombies, Run! The fifth category, geolocation games
only showcased a single game: Landlord Real Estate
Tycoon which we will return to later.
4.2 Learning Outcomes Associated
With Each Genre
Based on our review we assigned a 3-point Likert
scale variable (low, medium, high) for each of the
identified genres on how well a certain positive
outcome was present in the games of that sub-genre
in general. We looked at representative games for
each sub-genre and based on identified factors,
evaluated the positive outcome. This data is presented
in Figure 6. Because games are extremely complex,
the accuracy of the results only depicts what is typical
for the particular sub-genre, not the actual magnitude
of its impact. Our data does not account for the
popularity of the games, meaning the more popular
games will generally be more impactful than
alternatives, as the effects will inevitably be
multiplied by the time spent playing.
We managed to identify sub-genres for LBGs based
on existing games, which are linked not only to the
gameplay but also to the positive outcomes the games
have. This result is more promising than what
previous studies have come up with (Alavesa et al.,
2016; Söbke et al., 2017) in the sense that the
categorisation reflects actual games like Alavesa et
al., (2016) but can also be used to determine positive
outcomes and affordances for learning (Söbke et al.,
A Review of Location-based Games: Do They All Support Exercise, Social Interaction and Cartographical Training?
Interestingly, the sub-genre with most identified
positive outcomes, Location-based MMORPGs, was
found to also be the most popular among players.
Scavenger hunt games, albeit numerous, have
radically smaller player bases and offer short-term
amusement and health benefits. Spatially-aware
games were found to contain on average more
immersive elements than the other games, but were
limited to a small area and hence their player bases
remain small, as does the amount of time spent
playing. The movement-based games which trigger
events based on user movement, like Zombies Run!
are designed for promoting healthy exercise. The
gameplay is designed to motivate the player to run in
an effective way, and these games usually do their
best not to let gameplay interfere with the positive
impact the game has, for example, by forcing the
player to look at their phone instead of running. The
geolocation game category is the odd one out, with
gameplay revolving around real world objects, but
without necessarily any map interface.
Landlord Real Estate Tycoon (Figure 7) was
found to be the fourth most popular LBG with over
5,000,000 installs on Google Play Store and 256,752
and 9600 ratings on Play Store and App Store,
respectively. The game was by far the most
aggressive in its in-game advertisement among all
analysed LBGs, featuring bonuses for sharing the
game to friends as well as reviewing the game online.
This kind of activity undoubtedly has an impact on
the games’ popularity. In comparison the fifth most
popular game The Walking Dead: Our world had only
68,625 ratings on Play Store, however 13,509 ratings
on App Store making it more popular on App Store
than Landlord Real Estate Tycoon. These kinds of
differences in popularity between platforms were not
common in our sample of games. As we noticed no
difference in the quality of the Android and iOS
versions of the two games, we came up with two
explanations for the popularity difference per
1) Google Play search algorithms give an
advantage to Landlord Real Estate Tycoon,
due to its aggressive in-game advertisement
or other factors, or
2) The average owners of iOS and Android
devices vary so much in their interest
towards games that the impacts on amount
of reviews become observable.
Immersive elements like AR and real-world
linked PoIs seemed to correlate with popularity
directly, with the exception of Monopoly influenced
Landlord Real Estate Tycoon, which in return
included gameplay which we perceived to teach
Figure 7: The main user interface of Landlord Tycoon lacks
location-based aspects.
mathematics and finance (Shanklin and Ehlen 2007).
With regards to popularity, our data relies on the
information from Google Play Store and App Store,
and we were therefore unable to find data on the
actual number of players or the hours spent playing
weekly. This fact might have resulted in minor
inaccuracies in our study.
In this study, we found 184 LBGs of which 56
matched our selection criteria. Six subgenres were
identified for LBGs based on our analysis. We
estimated the intensity with which the positive
outcomes were present in those categories based on
observed indicators. To answer our initial research
question we conclude that exercise, cartographical
training and social interaction are characteristic to the
Location-based MMORPG subcategory. Some of the
three positive outcomes were present in other
categories as well, but not all of them. Exercise was
most strongly promoted in movement-based games
and social interaction was present the most in
scavenger hunt/treasure hunt games.
Our findings on the educational potential of LBGs
are very much in line with previous studies (Söbke et
al., 2017; Anastasiadou and Lameras., 2016). As the
technology required for creating effective mixed
reality LBGs is relatively new and still constantly
developing, we expect the popularity and diversity of
solutions to grow at an expanding rate. The currently
CSEDU 2019 - 11th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
(2019) two most popular games Pokémon GO and
Ingress are the only ones that create immersive
experiences for the players by linking PoIs to real
world structures. We wish to see new games on the
market utilizing real world -based PoIs to see how big
of an impact they really have on the success and
popularity of a LBG. A system for automatically
creating a database of real world location -based PoIs
has been proposed, for example, by Tregel et al.,
The majority of previous studies on LBGs focus
on individual games and their impact on an individual
sector, for example, exercise (Althoff et al., 2016;
LeBlanc et al., 2017). However, understanding
general trends and genres do not guarantee that an
actual game fosters the predicted positive outcomes
on players, so in the future studies on individual
games and their impact will still be needed. Currently
due to the small quantity of LBGs on the market,
meta-studies on learning outcomes of individual
games might not produce reliable results, but in the
future such a meta study could supplement our
understanding of different types of LBGs and
associated positive outcomes.
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A Review of Location-based Games: Do They All Support Exercise, Social Interaction and Cartographical Training?