ARIS Games and HistoryPin

Hello everyone I hope you’re all doing well. This post will cover my tinkering with the apps ARIS games and HistoryPin which were met with varying amounts of success. We’ve covered HistoryPin before in this class so I’ll try to talk a little bit more about ARIS Games although due to some difficulties it will be a bit more conceptual than most practicums.

I’ll start with HistoryPin as I had a lot more success with that and we’ve already discussed it before in class. HistoryPin is a program where users can place a pin on the map at a certain location to mark and share the story of some event, location, or person in history. For example on AU’s campus you can find pins for the the different buildings that make up campus, marking the dates that they were constructed as well as pins that mark certain occasions such as the times that Presidents Kennedy and Clinton spoke at the school, with details about what they discussed in their respective appearances.

HIstoryPin is very easy to use and navigate. You can search by area and find pins of different historical topics in that area or you can navigate through the various collections compiled on site. These collections are based on locations, so in theory a collection of pins on AU’s campus, or based on themes so you could explore a collection titled the First World War Centenary which compiles pins that discuss the First World War and the ways people are remembering it. Within one collection you may also find other collections related to that topic. So for example in the First World War Centenary collection, there is another collection being compiled about how people with Learning Disabilities contributed to the war effort. So exploring one topic could lead you to discovering a new but related topic.

HistoryPin is very easy to use and very easy to go down the rabbit hole in. You can just start by searching for one topic or one location and each pin or collection that you click on will provide you with related content for you to explore as well. And all of this can be done on your computer, in your home, so you can explore historical locations and stories from around the world from the comfort of your homes.

Let’s move on to ARIS Games. The concept of this app is really interesting. The app uses GPS programs so that you can create interactive games in your surrounding area. For anyone who was or perhaps still is caught up in that craze, think of a mobile game like Pokemon Go. ARIS Games provides a similar concept only the games could be about virtually anything. But the whole point is that you walk around different locations, interact with pins or objects that the creator of the game placed on the map. The games can be remarkably varied. In my time with the app I saw games designed to accompany exhibits in museums, games that provided a nature tour on walking trails, and a game designed to teach you about recycling starring a sentient grilled cheese sandwich with super powers. So there’s a lot of variety there.

Creating a game is not the most user friendly. The easiest form of game to make seems to be on where you just place plaques on the map that you can put media and descriptions on that when people approach that pin or tap on it on their app, the media will play or they will be able to read the information that you wrote in which I would imagine would work quite well for a game meant to be played while inside a museum’s exhibit. But more can be done with the app by people who are better with this type of program than I am. You can generate characters and lines of dialogue so that the user can have conversations with characters inside your game. You can also create objects and place them on the map so that players can pick them up in the game and carry them to different places, giving them a set of objectives they need to go through that could guide their tour of the area.

The potential with this program is really interesting. I could definitely see providing digital media on museum or art gallery tours to be a really good use of this program. Or potentially one could create an interactive, day-in-the-life-of game for a historic site where users could choose different paths to explore historic sites and interact with objects, locations, or characters in the game to get immersed in a historical experience.

I did run into a few problems with ARIS Games though. The first comes with the current state of the world. This app really relies on you going to different locations to use this app such as museums or campuses, or around town and given the pandemic I really didn’t have a lot of opportunity to walk around and explore with these games. The second problem I ran into is more about the program itself. The usefulness of this program relies on the quality of the game and by extension the skill set of whoever made it. If a game is poorly made then there is really not a lot of use to the app. And a lot of the games I saw seemed to be student projects of some sort which is certainly not a bad thing but did mean they seemed to be only developed to the point they could demonstrate it in a classroom. On top of that, the app itself crashed for me a lot. So even when I was able to find something I could safely try out, the app usually just crashed. So while the concept and the potential behind this program is great, I would say that app itself needs to be made more stable and there needs to be more committed creators on it.

7 Replies to “ARIS Games and HistoryPin”

  1. Thanks for your post Connor! The two programs you looked at are a neat juxtaposition of virtual vs. embodied space – they’re essentially doing the same thing, but one is designed for the audience to be in the physical space the map is representing while the other is not. It was also interesting to hear how particularly ARIS games encourage users to become participants rather than receivers of information by encouraging them to complete challenges, etc. This could be particularly useful for digital historians to encourage self-directed reflection from their audiences during and after they complete the game.

  2. Nice overview of the two platforms and their similarities and differences. Agreed that ARIS is a super fascinating platform but it’s also intimidating to get involved with. It’s amazing that they have built out this whole infrastructure for creating in depth place based augmented reality games. It’s interesting to me in that, while it’s been around for a decade or more it still remains a thing that feels exploratory and experimental. That said, I think it remains a really powerful too for folks to use to explore the idea of developing these kinds of complex mobile interactive experiences. A lot of the use of this platform has been more about enabling research into new kinds of mobile and place based experiences as opposed to being a robust platform that you would really want to deploy and run a service in.

  3. Thank you for the post, Connor! I like your point about ARIS and Pokemon Go. The whole PokeStop system in Pokemon Go always struck me as a great tool for digital history. You bring up a good point about the state of the world though, and how to interact with location based games while staying at home. Hopefully people will get creative, and we’ll get fascinating new game systems and platforms to use afterwards. It would be interesting to see more Google Maps street view style looks at cities and historical sites.

  4. Hey Connor, great post! I appreciated the recap that you did for Historypin it’s such a cool website, and I am happy to see it make a comeback in the class. I wish you had posted a picture of that sentient grilled cheese sandwich with superpowers because it sounds like the coolest thing ever. Besides the grilled cheese the ARIS app seems to have a lot of potentials and I’m sad to hear that it’s not very user friendly. Like you said it seems like a great way for museums to get people engaged within there exhibitions and a good way to get people out on walking tours so they can engage with historical sites and buildings. I wonder if there will be any updates to the app soon so it can be more accessible.

  5. So for someone like me who has absolutely no programming or pretty much any technological skills, is a project like ARIS reasonably possible? Even if an app like it was fully developed and had better programs, would someone like me, or anyone with less tech knowledge be able to use it to its fullest extent?

  6. Thanks for the great post, Connor. As somebody who is very interested in the gamification of history, this is a really interesting post, particularly the part about ARIS. Trevor’s post about it being a tool for research is an aspect of gamification that I never really thought about and poses the question: How do we create digital research spaces that encourage people to interact? Almost like a foursquare for archives?

  7. Thanks for the post, Connor! I feel like I was testing them out myself. The comparison to Pokemon Go was particularly helpful to me. The issues you brought up with ARIS seem to connect back to a theme we’ve discussed a lot – incomplete or unattended digital objects. I’d be curious to know (not that I am planning to or have the capacity to use it to build something) who owns the game and the intellectual property behind. Thanks again!

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