Seamful Gameplay

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Games where explicit knowledge of the coverage areas of underlying sensing technologies provide gameplay advantages.

Technologies can be used to allow the location of players to be input to the game state. While lack of coverage by these technologies are easily seen as problems for game designs, Seamful Gameplay makes use of the unreliability and dead spots as features that can be exploited by players.


Treasure makes use of GPS and WiFi to require players to move in and out of the detection areas of the two technologies are part of a treasure collecting game.

The runners (professional players) of the GPS-based game Can You See Me Now? developed tactics where they could use dead spots to temporarily disappear from the game world in order to set up ambushes.

Using the pattern

The prime use of Seamful Gameplay is to make a virtue out of dead spots arising from supporting Player-Location or Player-Player Proximity with technologies that do not work everywhere. This means that the pattern is difficult to apply on games that have Ubiquitous Gameplay.

Diegetic Aspects

Since Seamful Gameplay can abruptly remove or insert players' Focus Loci in Game Worlds, the pattern poses a problem for Diegetic Consistency.

Interface Aspects

Seamful Gameplay can be seen as an Interface Pattern since it makes the coverage spaces of technologies into areas where gameplay actions can or cannot be done.


The most typical effect of Seamful Gameplay is to allow Stealth by dropping out of coverage areas. Since the seams of the underlying technologies are typically not obvious to players, developing knowledge about these constitutes a form of Gameplay Mastery and getting this knowledge can lead to Changes in Perception of Real World Phenomena due to Gameplay.

Somewhat paradoxically, even if Seamful Gameplay cannot be added to games with Ubiquitous Gameplay it can make games have Ubiquitous Gameplay when they did not otherwise.


Can Instantiate

Changes in Perception of Real World Phenomena due to Gameplay, Gameplay Mastery, Ubiquitous Gameplay

with Player-Location Proximity or Player-Player Proximity


Can Modulate

Player-Location Proximity, Player-Location Proximity

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Diegetic Consistency, Ubiquitous Gameplay


A pattern based upon the concept of using seamful design in game design, first introduced in the paper Gaming on the Edge: Using Seams in Ubicomp Games[1].


  1. Chalmers, M., Bell, M., Brown, B., Hall, M., Sherwood, S. & Tennen, P. (2005).Gaming on the Edge: Using Seams in Ubicomp Games. Proceedings of the 2005 ACM SIGCHI International Conference on Advances in computer entertainment technology.