Jussi Parikka

...is a Licentiate of Philosophy and research scholar at the department of Cultural History, University of Turku, Finland. He has published a monograph and articles e.g. in CTheory, Fibreculture and M/C-journal on digital culture. Parikka is now finishing a monograph on the cultural history of computer viruses (Digital Contagions, forthcoming from Peter Lang) and co-editing collections on media-archaeology (with Erkki Huhtamo) and on the anomalous objects of digital culture (with Tony Sampson). Homepage.

Jaakko Suominen

Jaakko Suominen received his PhD in cultural history and is a professor of Digital Culture at University of Turku, Finland. With a focus on cultural history of media and information technologies, he has studied computers and popular media, Internet, social media, digital games and theoretical and methodological aspects of the study of digital culture. Lately he has studied also game cultures in Finland in the early 20th Century

Contact information:
jaasuo at utu.fi

Victorian Snakes? Towards A Cultural History of Mobile Games and the Experience of Movement

by Jussi Parikka, Jaakko Suominen

An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song, the speech of a political leader, the address of an eminent man of science, or the sermon of an eloquent clergyman, delivered in some other place, however distant. In the same manner any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from one to another place. - Nikola Tesla, 1908


Mobile games and entertainment have been at the centre of the latest digital hype, even though consumers have been somewhat uncertain as to whether they are as enthusiastic as the industry wants them to be (MGAIN, 2003c, p.4). The gaming industry as well as the mobile phone business has been pushing mobile games as the next bestseller in digital culture with a rhetorical combination of technological evolution and revolution. The Nokia N-Gage mobile media phone (2003), which actually has recently turned out to be a less successful market product, was still a few years ago a perfect expression of this enthusiasm and belief in the newness or particularity of mobile gaming: "N-Gage is a totally new way to game. Built for hard-core and active gamers, the Nokia N-Gage game deck allows for mobile, online, multiplayer game play" (N-Gage 2003). The novelty was presumably produced as an added value gained via connecting the device to other recent forms of digital gaming, for example online multiplayer environments, whereas other handheld devices such as the older Nintendo Gameboy models, more or less lacked multiplayer network connectivity.[1]

A similar example of the rhetoric of the new can be drawn from an excited comment made by Satoru Iwata, Nintendo president, presenting Nintendo's Dual Screen System gaming platform: "We have developed Nintendo DS based upon a completely different concept from existing game devices in order to provide players with a unique entertainment experience for the 21st century" (Reed, 2004). Again we encounter the same enthusiastic, forward-looking rhetoric that is so characteristic of the post-industrial digital media culture, this time attached not only to larger displays but also to touch screen technology and unique user interface in hand held games. In both cases mobile games are claimed to provide a completely different experience from any previous experiences. This creates the impression that, in the new media discourse, the past functions solely as something worse or less sophisticated, something that has to be left behind and practically forgotten. In a similar vein, the French media scholar Armand Mattelart argues that this discourse of new information technology is part of the paradigm which legitimizes "change" and the "new" while ignoring everything but technical-driven features. According to Mattelart, such technical and deterministic talk creates an amnesiac modernism, which neglects historical issues. The discourse of new media overhauls past and history (Mattelart, 2001. See also Gitelman & Pingree, 2003.)

Nevertheless, the history of mobile gaming and electronic gaming in general has not been entirely overlooked. In addition to cultural recycling and the remediation of game themes on different platforms, there are dozens of presentations of gaming history, which underscore hobbyist enthusiasm and retrospective nostalgia for older hardware and software. [2] The standard storyline in the history of digital games can be summarised as follows: computer researchers in the US needed to test (and wanted to play with) their machines in order to find new uses and interfaces, and so they created games to test them. The 1950s and 1960s were the pioneering era of computing, involving large investments in research and design. Existing batch processing computers were challenged by ideas of interactive computing creating an active feedback loop between the user and the machine. One expression of this atmosphere of enthusiasm was the space battle game Spacewar (1961; 1962), often touted as the first modern computer game ever (Levy, 1984; Herz, 1997; Aarseth, 2001; Burnham, 2001; Kent, 2001; DeMaria & Wilson, 2002.)

Since the early years, the written histories as well as chronologies and timelines on the Internet offer narratives of progress in hardware from the arcade to video games, up until the computer game boom of the 1980s, the consoles of the 1990s and the mobile game enthusiasm of the 21st century. This technological viewpoint is complemented by another narrative mapping of software history from Spacewar to Adventure (1977) and onto Tetris (1985) and Myst (1993) presenting genre classifications and analyses of games. Histories of digital games have obviously taken into account the socio-political contexts of games, discussing moral panics and gender divisions and other important cultural topics, which make the outline above oversimplified (Haddon, 1993; Newman, 2003; Saarikoski, 2004).

This article challenges such conventional histories of digital games. By introducing concepts and ideas from media archaeology and cultural history, we wish to broaden the historical perspectives of digital games from the internal history of computing to the general cultural history of modernity and modern media technologies.[3] This means a shift of focus from more or less internal game histories to perspectives on media history and archaeology in general.

The article consists of six parts and focuses especially on the cultural history of mobile gaming due to the attention it has received the last few years. The text aims to open the cultural black box of mobile games and mobile entertainment in general to explore the themes of modernity and modern media technologies, focusing especially on the increasing mobility and culture of travelling as well as the patterns of urban media consumption and user positions. Thus, our main emphasis will be on the nineteenth century and the new experience of movement brought about by modernity and its technologies. Following Jonathan Crary (2002), the issue of archaeology is not to focus on specific technologies, but in general on the strategies and assemblages that mark the birth of certain field for "consumption, attention and perceptual competence" (p.7).

The nineteenth century can be understood as the key era when considering the birth of a media culture and modern systems of technology (Crary, 2001.) One can find also several similarities between nineteenth-century and late twentieth-century media technologies. Tom Standage (2000) has provocatively argued that "[i]n the nineteenth century there were no televisions, aeroplanes, computers, or spacecraft; neither were there antibiotics, credit cards, microwave ovens, compact discs, or mobile phones [but t]here was, however, an Internet" (p.1). For Standage, the nineteenth century telegraph functions as such a Victorian Internet. This text aims to steer clear of such easily anachronistic comparisons between different times and technologies, although we will ask how, and in what sense, mobile games or mobile entertainment existed already in nineteenth century Western societies. Or in other words: in which sense can we claim the existence of a Victorian equivalent of Snake or of other mobile games? That is, in what sense are mobile games part of a longer duration of modern experience of mobility and media consumption?

The article's main point is to introduce academic tools for a cultural history of digital gaming but we will highlight these conceptual observations with elements from an archaeology of media culture. Our claim is that the culture of mobile entertainment and gaming experience was already in place before the first games of the mid-1990s. But before we tackle these questions, we will illuminate briefly the questions of media archaeology and cultural history particularly in the context of mobile entertainment and media technologies.

Media Archaeology and Cultural History

We contextualize our cultural historical perspective within the tradition of media-archaeology. So far media-archaeologists have focused primarily on the audiovisual history of modern media whereas e.g. network media has been more or less neglected. New media, television, digital photography and most of all cinema have all been identified not as end-points of a linear, progressing History, but as part of a longer and contingent duration of time (Punt, 1995; Huhtamo, 1995; Huhtamo, 1997; Järvinen, 2001; Manovich, 2001; Zielinski, 2002). Early modes of media perception, and especially early cinematic technologies of the nineteenth century, have been incorporated as cues to understand the patterns of aesthesis of new media well (Elsaesser, 2004). In addition, media archaeological approaches have on an epistemological level been committed to a multiplication of historical potentialities and new temporal layers.

One of the pioneers of media-archaeology, Erkki Huhtamo, defines this field of research as a multi-perspective analysis of historical discourse and "a way of studying recurring cyclical phenomena that (re)appear and disappear over and over again in media history, somehow seeming to transcend specific historical contexts" (Huhtamo, 1997, p.222). Huhtamo continues the definition by highlighting that media-archaeology discusses cultural motives or topoi that guide the development of media culture. Consequently, new media is always situated within continuous histories of media production, distribution and usage - as part of a longer duration of experience. An apt example is the way in which Huhtamo deconstructs the virtual reality (VR) fantasies of Jaron Lanier from the 1990s. Lanier's influential fantasy of VR as a telephone, rather than a television, of the future resembles, according to Huhtamo, fantasies concerning the telectroscope in the late nineteenth century.[4] The subject positions implicated by Lanier's VR can be understood as belonging to the same group of electro-optical devices as the telectroscope, which was never actualized. As we know, the broadcast model crystallized in television became the dominant form of media distribution. However, the narrowcast model of (optical) individual-to-individual communication was discursively preserved in these imaginary technologies (Huhtamo, 1997).

Another pioneer, Siegfried Zielinski (1999), has underlined partly similar issues. Media technologies are to be seen as a field of social praxis, where "the artefacts and their material individuality are not considered as isolated entities" (p.21). Instead, one follows here a Foucauldian path where technologies are cultural techniques, and hence also non-technological acts such as memory, thought, experience, affects participate in technological assemblages (Murphie & Potts, 2003).

In general, Michel Foucault is the key reference point. Following Foucault's widely cited definition, (cultural) archaeology can be defined as the unconscious level of a culture that enables the actual perceived forms of everyday life. The archaeological level enables the objects, ideas, thoughts, experiences etc. of a certain historical situation. (Foucault, 1994). Thus, the archaeological level of culture refers not to the totality of cultural texts of an era, but to the rules, practices, conditions and functions governing the actual instances of cultural events (Revel, 2002, p.8).[5]

In digital game studies Huhtamo (2005a) has applied this archaeological method in mapping the prehistory of games as far as the nineteenth century culture of machines and protointeractive devices such as the mutoscope and the fenakistoscope. In addition, Aki Järvinen (2001) has also discussed the theme of the archaeological roots of games and, what is of particular interest to us here, the archaeological roots of user positions. Järvinen acknowledges that the practices of game playing are to be found further in history than the first programmed computer games or the release of the first game console. For Järvinen, the gaming situation is foremost an aesthetic situation of certain percepts, affects and emotions that the game produces for the player. Consequently, this places the player into a certain position of use that is always partly determined by historical traits of longer duration. The new media adopts positions and uses from older media in a sense where media "development" can be more accurately conceptualized as remediation (Bolter & Grusin, 2000).

Järvinen (2001) connects digital gaming to the aesthetic histories of the moving image (film, television, video) as well as the aesthetics of the environment (landscapes, architecture, space), identifying the importance between "the relationship of the perceiving and experiencing subject and the environment s/he is observing" (p. 74). The cultural historical ontology sees (media) culture constructed as interacting layers, allowing the past to "overflow" to the present.

From Sony Walkman to Java

Generally the term "mobile game" refers to digital games played on mobile phone devices - even though games are increasingly played also on small portable game devices such as the Nintendo Gameboy, Sony PS Portable or on PDA's. Mobile games are also part of a broader field of electronic games and mobile entertainment. The recent European Commission financed MGAIN-project (2002-2004) on mobile entertainment arrived at the following definition of the field: "mobile entertainment (ME) includes any leisure activity undertaken via a personal technology which is, or has the potential to be, networked and facilitates transfer of data (including voice, sound and images) over geographic distance either on the move or at a variety of discrete locations" (MGAIN, 2003a., p.10). This definition curiously reminds us of Nikola Tesla's words, quoted in the epigraph, which underline similar issues a hundred years earlier.

If the mobile phone is the key cultural artifact in our modern world, as is argued (MGAIN, 2003c, p. 4), it is necessary to map its cultural history. How has it become a key artifact? What cultural processes have given birth to this phenomenon? What kind of remediations and recurrences can one map in the history of mobile media, which, as Huhtamo (2005b) has argued, is so far neglected in histories of media. Whereas Huhtamo offers a general overview of the early mobile apparatuses as part of the modern leisure lifestyle, discussing hidden cameras of the early twentieth-century, auto-mobile devices and wearable media such as wristwatches, our aim is to focus on the issue of mobility as one key vector of modern experience of subjectivity and the articulation of this experience as part of the media assemblage of modern technical consumer media.

The birth of mobile gaming is rarely situated much further in history than the 1990s or the 1980s. Probably the most thorough account of the history of mobile games to date has been written by Espen Aarseth, who acknowledges that it is not obligatory to begin with Nokia's Snake from 1997. He sets the starting point for his account two decades earlier. According to Aarseth, the breakthrough in personal mobile entertainment came with the Sony Walkman in 1979.[6] In 1980 Nintendo launched its Game & Watch series, followed by the Gameboy in 1989. Year 1996 witnessed the rise of the Tamagotchi-virtual pets. The end of the 1990s also introduced mobile phones as the new important platform, first for SMS-games, later for Java-games. An important, even if not very widely successful gaming experiment was the 1999 Botfighters-game which used urban space and mobile cell positioning as part of its gaming experience, thus breaking the boundaries between the digital game and the outside environment. (MGAIN, 2003b; Sotamaa 2002)

In addition to this traditional history Aarseth also refers to earlier centuries:

in industrial times […] the personal entertainment item evolves along with the new production methods. The printed book, arguably the first mass-produced object (the first type of object that required and benefited from large-scale investment) was a successful medium of mobile entertainment almost from the start, when the octavo and duodecimo ‘pocketbook' formats of the sixteenth century started to appear. Printing and mass production also made possible a mass culture of portable entertainment, focused on all sorts of games - board games, dice games, card games etc. (MGAIN, 2003b, p.13)

Supplementing such preliminary analyses, we argue that the nineteenth century experience of movement is one of the key preconditions behind modern day mobile entertainment. The themes of modern travel experience and the birth of modern urban space are necessary elements in understanding the user experiences behind such contemporary mobile games as Snake (1997), Playman Summer Games (2004), Racing Fever Deluxe (s.a.), or for instance pervasive games such as Botfighters (2001) and Uncle Roy All Around You (2003).

The Industrialization of Travel

There are various perspectives from which to examine the process of late nineteenth century technological changes. Among scholars, the transition has been called the second industrial revolution, conceptualized as the birth of large technological systems based above all else on oil and electricity as the central sources and forms of energy. [7] In addition, communication and transportation systems were seen as key technologies. Railway and telegraph networks, in particular, have been compared to the computing and telecommunications technologies of the end of millennium. The key contemporary theme of local and global mobility of people, goods and information are issues of not merely last decades of integration, but the longue durée of modernization. The nineteenth century technologies are not analogous to our own but function merely as examples of continuity and affiliation in the process of modernization. Thus, the railway journey can be understood as a modern experience in the sense presented by Wolfgang Schivelbusch (1977).

Schivelbusch argues that the railway destroyed travellers' traditional contacts with their environment and created a panoramic experience of time and space. Mobility became a central issue (and concern) of modernization, and movement in itself (not merely as an instrumental issue) became a novel non-place, which consumed a huge time-share of everyday life. The collective cultural shock caused by the railway systems was eased by several means, such as decorating train carriages in ways carried over from earlier forms of transportation or by reducing the trembling of the train.

Human transportation became both more industrial and yet more private. Angelo Ganivet, a Spanish diplomat situated in Helsinki in 1895 criticized the change as did many other intellectuals of the time. In Finnish Letters (translated into Finnish in 1964), Ganivet stated that "the man who travels 50 hours by train does not travel but is delivered. He does not do anything except tolerates" (p.93) [8]

A new mobile media was introduced to ease this adaptation. In Britain, especially for the higher social classes, reading books was a way to cope with the experience of being industrially transported packages, sitting monotonously in train carriages. The argument of literature as a tool for tolerating inconvenience - or in other words as entertainment - was often used in railway book marketing for higher-class travellers. The third and fourth-class carriages were less closed-off, and according to Schivelbusch, social communication was preserved in them due to their openness. People with a lower income only began to travel longer distances with the advent of trains, whereas the upper classes had long made similar journeys in their horse-pulled carriages. The lower class could not, then, compare different ways of human transportation and therefore did not experience the train's awkwardness in the same way as élite passengers (Schivelbusch, 1977).

Schivelbusch argues that reading in trains did not become popular because the increased speed of travelling made outdoor scenery disappear. Instead, reading was popularized because the railway destroyed the traditional connection between the co-travellers. However, the popular habit of reading caused sensual and psychical fatigue, as nineteenth century scientists and doctors warned (Schivelbusch, 1977, p.66). Hence, reading had to be technically and culturally adapted for mobile environments. This meant adjustments in the books' "user interface" as well as in price and popular genres. Book marketing in railway stations and trains began in the late nineteenth century and increased in Finland in the early twentieth century, a few decades later than in Britain and France. The railway books were printed with narrower columns in order to minimize the effects of the trains' unstable movements. Horror stories and thrillers were the most popular genres, and the railway was also partially connected with the birth of science fiction and of the detective story (Rinne, 2001).

However, "higher class" literature was also published for railway consumption. In the 1850s, particularly in Britain and France, railway bookstores sold mainly typical bourgeois and high culture literature - classics, novels and travellers' guidebooks, not cheap or popular lay audience literature. In the latter part of the nineteenth century the amount of books sold decreased while sales of newspapers increased - perhaps due to the travel fatigue phenomenon mentioned before. Lighter (both in content and as artifacts) newspapers were more suitable for mobile reading situations (Schivelbusch, 1977, p.62-66). Newspapers and similar media objects designed to be used in trains represent the first stages of mobile entertainment. If the novel media networks of transportation, especially the train, changed the experience of place, movement and privacy, then the newly created non-places of mobile modernity were also interestingly filled with another layer of media from the start. Mobile media is then media on media, media in action. Of course, there are various differences in the mobile media systems themselves and the way they function as games, and our point illustrates merely one level of continuity regarding the experience of movement in the modernity of mobility. In other words, we do not want to disregard the analyses of digital interactive games as specific forms of entertainment, but enrich the understanding of the cultural history of such media to encompass also other intermedial elements. Our main aim, then, is not a specific analysis of games but to highlight general frameworks for a media archaeological way of looking at games as part of media history.

Mechanical Consumer Entertainment

One can obviously find an analogue between the user situations of mobile media of the nineteenth century and the late twentieth century. One of the most basic uses for mobile media technology has been fulfilling the uncomfortable or dull moments for individuals using public transportation. The context of use causes certain requirements of size, weight, durability as well as user interface of mobile media of today.

Timo Kopomaa (2000) has advanced similar arguments in relation to contemporary mobile phone culture as were proposed in relation to nineteenth century mobile media. According to Kopomaa, the mobile phone offers a new kind of experience of space, which creates a new place, a third place, between the private and the public. This urban lifestyle means that one is able to "meet" a friend at a public place via mobile phone, cutting off others from around one's space. Sadie Plant (2001) has referred to this practice as "establishing a closed circuit from which all external interference is deliberately and visibly excluded" (p.52). Thus, people can immerse themselves in the mobile phone when - for example - chatting with a friend, texting or, increasingly, using mobile entertainment services, games, music and videos. For example, most situations involving mobile games are like this: killing time and cutting yourself off from others in the public sphere, be it in a train, a tram, a bus or any other urban setting. Quoting Lasse Seppänen (2001): "This is the core of mobile gamer behavior: mobile gaming remedies moments of boredom when there's no access to better gaming devices. The result is a completely different pattern of playing - whereas traditional gaming consists of a few long sessions, mobile gaming is all about multiple short sessions" [9].
Of course, one should note the vast differences in various kinds of mobile media applications and devices. Single player games, multiplayer games and alternate reality games such as Botfighters activate different kinds of vectors of movement and rest, sociability and individuality. To illustrate this, we have drawn a diagram (see figure 1) where the interconnections of various kinds of mobile media are placed. On the one hand we have systems that use motion and connectivity as part of the game playing - such examples include pervasive games or alternate reality games such as Botfighters. However mobility in itself is not always a requirement as with several multiplayer games and such classics as Snake and for example non-digital card games and portable chess.

Figure 1

[Figure 1. Games, sociability and mobility]

Such a diagram can be used as a "tool-to-think-with" in mapping the history and even the potential future forms of mobile entertainment [10].

Yet, this kind of mapping begs the question: what is new in this division of space and creation of a place of one's own? Instead of seeing this solely as a trend of digital mobile culture, we argue that this is more a phenomenon that took off with the creation of modern urban space and the new paradigms of media consumption. As discussed previously, the pattern of mobile entertainment usage as the creation of a private sphere was already part of the railway culture of the nineteenth century - even if people consumed such media contents as newspapers and books instead of digital entertainment. In addition, such artifact-like mobile gaming systems as card decks and portable chess sets were part of the mediascape of nineteenth century modernization and the new patterns of increasing movement of Victorian upper class. Also the small mobile flipbooks, originating from the 1860s by the name of kineographs, which animate picture series can be added to the history of mobile entertainment [11]. One could also view such objects as mobile cameras, wristwatches, women's fans and hand-screens from the perspective of archaeology mobile media, as Erkki Huhtamo (2005b) suggests.

However, as Huhtamo (2005a) has argued, the nineteenth century also witnessed the birth of mechanic consumer entertainment. As offices were filling up with work machines, other types of machines invaded leisure time. Slot machines and coin-op's were signs of modernization. Huhtamo notes that "the mechanization" of everyday life was expressed through a psycho-technical feedback loop of people extending work machines to leisure machines such as the pre-cinematic personal viewing device, the mutoscope. Thus literature was not the only form of entertainment, but increasingly also sounds, images and movements were packaged into easily consumable media objects. As Jonathan Crary (2001) writes, Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) was the pioneer in this commodification of media which is a crucial precondition of the modern media environment:

For Edison, cinema, for example, had no significance in itself - it was simply one of a potentially endless stream of ways in which a space of consumption and circulation could be dynamized, activated. Edison saw the marketplace in terms of how images, sounds, energy, or information could be reshaped into measurable and distributable commodities and how a special field of individual objects could be arranged into increasingly separate and specialized units of consumption. The logic that supported the Kinetoscope and the phonograph - that is, the structuring of perceptual experience in terms of a solitary rather than a collective subject - is replayed today in the increasing centrality of the computer screen as the primary vehicle for the distribution and consumption of electronic entertainment commodities (p. 31-32).

As part of this history we could add the screen of a mobile device running an entertainment application. It represents similar ideas of a personal object of media consumption, as did the mutoscope and the Kinetoscope - even if the nineteenth century versions of media entertainment were not mobile. Important in this regard is the personal position of the user in front of a predetermined and "programmed" media content.

The Bi-Psyche of the Mobile Gamer

Naturally, this trend of privacy and individual use is not the whole truth, as can be seen from the advertising discourse surrounding mobile entertainment. There are several kinds of topoi, recurring discursive topics, being recycled and remediated. For instance, the Nokia N-Gage poster (see Figure 2) is an apt example of the image the mobile industry wants to create: two people playing together, connected via Bluetooth. This is not, however, in contradiction with the earlier notion of privacy. This kind of discourse of connectivity refers to a similar experience of choosing interaction via your mobile media machine. As the poster wants to point out, playing games and using mobile entertainment means creating new worlds. The boy and the girl are immersed in a space war game they are playing, just like their grandparents were immersed in the written mobile entertainment of the nineteenth century. The topic of being transported away via media technologies was already part of the discourse of the nineteenth century. The stereoscope functioned as the equivalent of the modern mobile entertainment device in its ability to capture the user and transport him or her to another universe: "The immersiveness of the experience was always one of the evocative aspects of stereography. In its basic construction the stereoscope continued the tradition of all kinds of ‘peep-show' devices, which were popular entertainment in the nineteenth century at country fairs and even in children's rooms. The person who ‘immersed' his/her eyes into the ‘hood' of the stereoscope was in a sense alone with the scene s/he was observing. The situation resembles the experience of wearing a virtual reality head-mounted display, as had been pointed out" (Huhtamo, 1995) Huhtamo refers to virtual reality devices, but equally as justified as an example would be the mobile device with a screen that is basically meant to be a personal hole for "peeping into."

Nokia N-Gage advertisement from 2003.

[Figure 2. Nokia N-Gage advertisement from 2003. © Nokia N-Gage]

Even if the Nokia N-Gage poster is one among many other advertisements and mobile game representations, we see that it crystallizes several key themes within the mobile entertainment discourse. In other words, we use it as a tool to discuss larger themes implicit in this discourse. Another key point is the creation of a new audiovisual world, an enhanced reality that the poster is trying to depict. As other writers have argued, the game Botfighters by "It's Alive" has been the most interesting attempt at captivating all the senses of the player within a mobile game. As Olli Sotamaa (2002) has argued, Botfighters challenged the traditional definitions of game and play by using the urban space as its gaming platform. This idea is frequently referred to as pervasive gaming.

The aim of the game is to locate and destroy other players using one's mobile device. The players are robots, or "bots" for short, hinting that the game is situated somewhere in the future. The player earns extra points for every target destroyed, which he/she can use for updating the bot. The game also has a website interface that offers additional information.

Sotamaa argues that Botfighters illustrates the possibilities of fully mobile games that, in contrast to "non-mobile mobile games" such as Snake or Zoy's Rescue Mission (Sumea, s.a), use the physical surroundings of the urban space. The players have to divide their attention between the game's digital information and the information supplied by the actual physical settings. Because the real world is part of the game, the player is also forced to move, to be actually mobile in search for hot spots and other players (Sotamaa, 2002). Following Sadie Plant (2001), we can argue that this is also a more general trend of mobile culture:

Many mobile users have become adept at operating as though in two worlds in these psychological senses, and in more physical ways as well; in a way the mobile has created a new mode in which the human mind can operate, a kind of bi-psyche. In Tokyo, people are expert navigators of busy city streets, railway platforms, and subways while keeping an eye on their keitai. In Beijing, the new skill is more likely to involve riding a bicycle while making and taking mobile calls. (p.50).

This description of urban life could have been dated a century earlier, for example, in the texts of Walter Benjamin. In "Über einige Motive bei Baudelaire" (1939), Benjamin describes the experience of urbanity and modernity as a shock: The passerby in a crowd, the worker in a factory and the consumer before a cinema screen all go through this feeling of shock, of distraction. (Benjamin, 1969. Cf. Schivelbusch, 1977, p.132-151. See also Richardson, 2005.) Or, as Anne Friedberg (1993) has argued, the modern subject is to be understood as a mobilized virtual gaze. For Friedberg, the nineteenth century flâneur inhabited crowded urban space with his movement and his gaze, while the proto-cinematic devices transformed this practice of gazing into a commodified object to be bought. Thus, in a way, the practices of urban experience and entertainment experience were born from the same cultural milieu.

The bi-psyche of the mobile (entertainment) user is also based on the perceptual patterns evolved already during the nineteenth century. In his Suspensions of Perception, Jonathan Crary (2001) writes that the modern experience has not been solely focused on "distraction" but it in creating "attention" as well (p.11-30). Crary claims that attention became the new important aspect in this paradigm of psychophysical subjectivity. The model of an attentive human observer was at the centre of the birth of the modern working, consuming and active subject that was deemed crucially important for the new media culture (Cf. Parikka, 2006). While it was recognized that mobility, novelty and distraction were the constituent elements of a perceptual experience of modernity, the need to create an attentive subject was accentuated. Through psycho-technical theories, practices and discourses the aim was to create a subject that could resist the emerging information overload of modern life and remain a productive student, worker and consumer of commodities and media. Thus, the user concentrating on Playman Summer Games (2004) while surrounded by urban noise or playing Sumea's Extreme Air Snowboarding (2003) while navigating through busy urban streets is an exemplary attentive subject, a true bi-psyche. But, contrary to Plant's claim, this player was already born during the nineteenth century. This continuity can be attached to the theme of the new isolation of the media consumer, analyzed by, among others, Benjamin and Mihail Bakhtin as the new "private chamber" of the subject, where the peep-show, the reading of a novel and the panorama all contributed to "the relative separation of a viewer from a milieu of distraction and the detachment of an image from a larger background", as Crary (2002, p. 8-9) argues in his archaeology of the perceptional capabilities of the modern subject.

Provocatively, we would argue that Botfighters can be read as a remediation of the media culture of the nineteenth century. By remediation Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin (2000) have referred to the process of how the media adopts themes and traits from previous media systems. Apt examples are WWW-pages which (re)circulate stylistic and aesthetic themes from the layout of newspapers. Remediation and genealogy work as twin concepts in that both seek "historical affiliations or resonances and not origins" (Bolter & Grusin, 2000, 21fn.1). A medium is to be understood here in a broad sense as referring to practices, discourses and technologies that shape the user's notions of time and space. In this way, it is reasonable to argue that the urban city was a central medium of the modernized nineteenth century; one that is now being remediated in the digital media, for example in mobile game applications.

Botfighters remediates the city as a media system. Bolter and Grusin argue that theme parks and malls remind us that also the city is a highly mediated space of commercial objects but that pervasive mobile games also succeed in the same venture. As Sotamaa (2002) points out, the city is the basic platform for the gaming experience of Botfighters while it does not have any major function in the concept of the game: "[w]hen social space is mixed with game space players also become more aware of the routines, fears and fondnesses they direct on familiar urban environments. Then again these emotions attached to certain places can affect the game play, because in some cities the territorial organization can produce no-go areas for certain groups of people depending on for example ‘race', class or gender" (p. 42) The mobile interface of the game thus directs the perception of the player towards the city. While personal memories and histories connect to the game, also the rhythm of urban life, the shock of the modern metropolis, provides distractions and themes for the game. The player of Botfighters is remediated as a modification of the figure of the flâneur of the nineteenth century, navigating through the urban setting, moving his attention from one hot spot to another. If the modern experience is primarily based on movement - real and virtual - then pervasive mobile games take advantage and remediate these prototypes of modern subjectivity and the bi-psychic nature of the perceiver. (Cf. Richardson, 2005.) Of course, what is interesting is how such figures of flâneurs and mobile media use can be connected to issues of capitalism as the process of mobilization, circulation and movement (Crary, 1990).

Conclusions: Excavating Histories of Games and Mobility

We have argued that mobile entertainment can be understood in the context of modern mobile media experience and the environment of public sphere where the media events take place. In a way, the idea of virtual communities connecting via online services is part of the same phenomenon - the public nature of media consumption and the recycling of the topos of the social media user. Consequently, it is fruitful to excavate the archaeological affiliations of modern mobile games culture from the beginnings of both modern life and media consumption, the nineteenth century. Hence, the perspective proceeds not from games to social life (an implicit media determinism found in most media histories of games) but from the conceptualization of modernity as a certain kind of environment for experience, which makes also mobile games and entertainment reasonable as a cultural technique of activating the senses.

The twentieth century was marked by a trend of privatization and emphasis on the home - this was a key topos all the way from the mid-nineteenth century and the birth of modern technical media. As Patrice Flichy (2002) has argued, the late nineteenth century saw the advent of home-entertainment (see also Huhtamo, 1995). The piano brought public music to domestic ears. The piano was followed by the phonograph, which enabled the user to concentrate solely on listening. Radio and television followed along the same paths, privatizing entertainment. Radios and televisions acted as the theatres of the living room, made possible by the transmitting system of broadcasting (Flichy, 2002). With the hegemony of the television, radio had to find new uses for itself, resulting in the first instances of the mobile boom with the portable radio in the 1950s. The portable, serving as both a miniature music entertainment box and a daily newspaper, was perhaps the first modern version of the mobile entertainment devices of today. The cult object Sony Walkman emphasized the enthusiasm in mobile music in the 1980s (Weber, 2002; 2004). Also, television promoters sought new uses for the television-set as early as the 1960s. Lynn Spigel (2001) has written on the American privatized mobility and the second wave of television installations suited for the space race and the Kennedy-era ideal of "New Fronterism", which, according to Spigel, "stressed active citizenship, physical fitness, adventurousness, and 'movements' of all kinds" (p.62). The television fantasies of the 1960s were based on the imaginary of leaving home, armchair-travelling (Huhtamo, 1995), while the 1940s and the 1950s emphasized staying there, safe in one's own suburb home (Spigel, 2001).

Today, it seems, current mobile and digital fantasies allow both tendencies - leaving and staying at home - with their remote work as well as pleasure and entertainment applications. "Where Do You Want to Go Today?" asked the Microsoft slogan from 1995, implying that technologies were no longer the stable machines that demanded the user come to them, but that media was attached to the body, circuiting it as part of its mobile network of telecommunications. The topos of the cyborg, developed from the practices of people attached to typewriters and headsets of dictating machines and at telephone exchanges (Huhtamo, 2005b), has turned into a phantasm of mobile office intermingled with a mobile home sofa where mediatized work and leisure is something that you carry with you, on you, in you. In addition, the mobile media receiver offers novel opportunities to commercialize every moment irrespective of place and time. As Harvey May and Greg Hearn (2005) note in their article on the mobile phone as integral part of the everyday life, "commodification penetrates new geographical spaces with existing products or innovations that enable the consumption process to be applied in new social, cultural or psychological spaces" (p.199). This also would partly explain the enthusiasm the gaming and mobile industry have expressed towards capturing every minuscule moment as a potential event of consumption.

This can still be read in conjunction with Nikola Tesla's enthusiasm from 1908 when he eagerly proposed that wireless receivers would enable the enjoyment of mobile media wherever. Tesla's ideal character for such wireless devices, the "business man in New York", will

[…] be able to call up, from his desk, and talk to any telephone subscriber on the globe, without any change whatever in the existing equipment. An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song, the speech of a political leader, the address of an eminent man of science, or the sermon of an eloquent clergyman, delivered in some other place, however distant. In the same manner any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from one to another place. Millions of such instruments can be operated from but one plant of this kind. More important than all of this, however, will be the transmission of power, without wires, which will be shown on a scale large enough to carry conviction. These few indications will be sufficient to show that the wireless art offers greater possibilities than any invention or discovery heretofore made, and if the conditions are favorable, we can expect with certitude that in the next few years wonders will be wrought by its application.

Even though Tesla enjoyed fame as a non-conventional inventor, similar ideas were presented already in 1874 in La Nature: with the pocket telegraph, one could communicate and receive messages in crowds, omnibuses and in trains. (p.350). One hundred years after Tesla, the accentuation has moved from businessmen to youth on scooters, lingering on the urban streets in European cities, or in Asian metropoles. The early wireless enthusiasm of the early twentieth century found resonance, again, with the mobile entertainment enthusiasm of gaming and mobile industries of the early twenty-first century.

Our main aim in this paper was to point out the need for a better historical understanding in game studies. Instead of focusing on the internal histories of computer games, including mobile entertainment, there is a growing need for an archaeological turn where games and mobility are incorporated as part of novel media histories. This contextual turn of historical narrative seems parallel to developments in some neighbouring fields of historical studies such as the history of computing (see, for example Edwards, 1996; 2002) [12]. Fernand Braudel provides another important viewpoint with his idea of multiple durations of culture. The everyday life and the duration of the event are not the only historical layers, but we live simultaneously connected to different temporalities. Experiences are also part of the duration of the conjoncture and la longue durée, the long duration [13]. In other words, our daily perceptions, experiences, thoughts, memories and affects are partially always traversed by times long gone. The duration of the social exceeds the limits of contemporary culture. Several concepts of historical time co-exist within every actuality, or, in Braudel's words: every actuality collects together movements of different rhythms; today consists of yesterday, the day before yesterday and so forth (Braudel, 1997. See also Lai, 2000)

To restate our point: the contemporary culture of mobile entertainment is a fraction of the mobile experience of modernity that spurs from the nineteenth century. In other words, the culture of mobile use is part of the nineteenth century culture of modernization involving transportation, urbanization, the birth of mass culture and the nascent media sphere of commodity games and entertainment. Game playing is part of a longer duration of media use; thus the need to find histories for the contemporary media. As Järvinen (2001) has argued, the positions of game players connected to the dooms and quakes - and in our case, the snakes and botfighters - are part of the traditions of the audiovisual culture of modernity, which for its part, belongs to additional trends of technology, culture and media of the past two hundred years. An important area of analysis would be, then, to look at the cultural specificity in mobile media use and reception and for example how mobile gaming and entertainment are part of the field of increasing ease of transportation within, for instance, Europe. Mobile games connect also to the issue of creating a common Europe, highlighted of course in the fact that European Commission has supported research into mobile entertainment (for instance the MGAIN-project). These are topics that deal with the use of public spaces, availability of private spheres, vectors and habits of transport, and so forth, all which need historical and critical analyses of issues of mobility, modernization and capitalism.


1 The Sony Playstation-Portable has wireless Internet ability.

2 Alongside academics, various museums and exhibitions of computer gaming as well as non-academic websites have contributed to preserving a cultural memory of digital culture. Such examples include the Game-On exhibition [www.gameonweb.co.uk], the German Computerspiele Museum [www.computerspielemuseum.de/], the Video Games Timeline [www.infoplease.com/spot/gamestimeline1.html] and the History of Computer and Video Games [inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blcomputer_videogames.htm].

3 This point follows from a more general trend in historical studies and the theoretical positions of the "new history", which can be mainly identified with the French Annales-school. We understand modernity as a social and cultural period that started roughly in the seventeenth century with industrialization, capitalism, the new public sphere and urbanization. We place special emphasis on the experience of modernity. Thus, at the centre are the new subject and his/ her perceptions, affects, thoughts and memories. This experience means novel psychological and physical demands made by the trends in industrialization, mediatization, urbanization and capitalism. See for example Crary, 2001 and Friedberg, 1993. Consider also Jonathan Crary's (1990) words on capitalism and mobility: "Modernization is the process by which capitalism uproots and makes mobile that which is grounded, clears away or obliterates that which impedes circulation, and makes exchangeable what is singular" (p.10). On the concept of modern technology see also Misa, 2003, p.5-6, p.11-12. For an exemplary book on archaeology of computer games, see Pias 2002.

4 The telectroscope was designed as a technology that would transmit across distances the images obtained by a camera obscura-device. See, for example, "A novel and curious instrument. The Telectroscope." Scientific American. Volume XL, no 10, 8 March 1879. Retrieved October 3, 2006. [histv2.free.fr/senlecq/telectroscope3.htm].

5 Following Foucault's ideas, the German media historian Friedrich Kittler (1990) has in his own works concentrated on mapping the discourse networks which act as the historical a priori of media experiences and subjects positions. Media act as discourse networks in the sense that they are the processes which produce reality and concepts of what can be sensed, thought, memorized, etc.

6 Heike Weber (2004) notes that portable electronics such as boom boxes and Sony Walkmans were "consumed in any spaces, and even while ‘on the move.'" Weber traces local differences in consumption electronics as well as role of non- and even anti-users of these technologies.

7 Thomas P. Hughes, a famous technology historian, has analyzed American technological enthusiasm, suggesting a certain mentality became embedded in technological systems and had historically long-lasting consequences: "The values of order, system, and control that they [inventors, industrial scientists, engineers, and systems builders for Hughes] embedded in machines, devices, processes, and systems have become the values of modern technological culture" (Hughes, 1989, p.4). Hence, the issue does not focus merely on technologies but on cultural techniques and the assemblages in which technologies are activated and used.

8 Interestingly, another travel novel from the end of the nineteenth century also mentions how fellow passengers amused themselves during a tiresome horse carriage trip by playing tic-tac-toe on the dusty collar of the author, Mrs. Tweedie. See Tweedie 1897/1995, p.263.

9 Sotamaa (2002) defines two aspects of mobility. Semimobile refers to situations where users and surroundings are not necessarily on the move, even if being wireless brings certain advantages to media use. Fully mobile use refers to situations where the environment plays an active part: the user is using the device while on the move.

10 On the diagram see also Suominen 2003. The potential developments could be for instance game devices which monitor runner's changing location and her/ his heart rate to create a simulation of participating in a distance running contest against virtual competitors.

11 Of course, even though the possibilities of movement and transportation have been characteristic for the bourgeoisie and other upper classes since the Victorian era, also the working class has its own fair share of mobile entertainment. Card games have obviously been popular, but chess also spread in the early nineteenth century to industrial towns in Great Britain for example (Eales, 1985). Chessboards, dominoes, board games and other entertainment products spread throughout Europe by the end of the nineteenth century, both as home entertainment and as amusement used while travelling for example on steam boats. In the Finnish context, see for instance, Tampereen Sanomat 17.09.1888, no: 110, 3 and Aamulehti 19.12.1890, no: 295, p.2.

12 Our cultural historical perspective emphasized the continuities of the mobile game experience from the nineteenth century to the end of the millennium. This perspective is closely tied with the concept of archaeology while also finding elements from the concepts of remediation and genealogy. Archaeology, meaning the excavation of the deep layers of a culture and the preconditions of experience, has to be remedied with emphasized importance on continuity and descendance. Genealogy sees history not as an evolution but through recurring elements that still retain their singular nature. This explicitly denies the importance of origins, of original themes that return over and over again. Indeed, historical themes do recur, but at the same time they spur new events and constellations (Foucault,1998). Bolter and Grusin attach their concept of remediation to genealogy, and similarly we could say that our notion of cultural history might actually be closer to genealogy than archaeology. We, as cultural historians, take elements from both concepts, while not considering it necessary to identify solely with one perspective of analysis.

13 This article touches mainly the duration of social and cultural changes.

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