I’ve been thinking a bit more about how The Game could operate. Not the “what”, exactly, but more about the underlying behaviour. I’m no expert on gaming, so I don’t know how much of this is the bleedin’ obvious - but it strikes me that there are a number of facets that need to be right in order for the whole process to work:
There needs to be some level of competition between players, or between groups of players. Perhaps not in an overly overt “I can run faster / jump higher / kill more than you”, but it must at least be able to provide an incentive to improve and see how you’re performing against others. And there needs to be some competition with yourself, as well.
At the same time as competition, there needs to be cooperation. I’m not sure whether this should be formal - you’re a member of a team; or informal - you help people as you go along. Maybe a mix of both - I like the idea of casual assistance, but there’s also something attractive about being part of a larger group with common aims. It seems that the trick here would be to avoid high transaction costs for a team, so that it doesn’t become an onerous task to coordinate.
I hate games that just continue the same thing ad infinitum, just getting harder and harder. So there needs to be completable elements in there - not just “you’ve done this level, move onto the next”, but something more mission-oriented.
At the same time as being completable, that needs to fit into a context of continuity - so that there’s some reason for me to keep coming back time after time without needing to start from scratch.
lightness of interaction
I envisage a lot of gameplay taking place in short chunks of downtime - waiting for a bus, idling away five minutes with a coffee, that sort of thing. So it’s not got to be too involved - I don’t want to miss my bus because I was engrossed.
If there’s a location-based component that relies on interactions with other people, it’s got to have enough hysteresis to allow for scenarios where you’re the only player at that spot. As far as I can tell, I’m pretty much the only person on my bus with an iPhone, so if the game relies on another iPhone user being at my bus stop, it’s not going to fly. I need to be able to alter my game horizon to take account of this.