A Cultural Shift: Technology, Communication and the In-Game Experience

November 20, 2013

Just a few months ago, a set of photographs went viral and I couldn’t help but take notice. The images showed St. Peter’s Square in 2005, at the announcement of Pope Benedict, and again in 2013, at the announcement of Pope Francis.

The images speak for themselves and are a powerful example of the radical proliferation of mobile technology and its effect on virtually every aspect of human behavior. In just 8 years, the way we experience events together, no matter the form or scale – has changed dramatically.  Traditional spectators have evolved to a culture of active participants wanting to document and connect to a broader social experience via technology.  And it has happened so quickly and so seamlessly, we forget what it was like to experience a venue, an event, a game or a concert without technological interconnectivity.

Consider this: eight years ago, in 2005, this is where we stood with mobile technology:

  • 1.243 billion fixed-telephone subscriptions in the world
  • 2.205 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions in the world
  • 0 individuals had mobile-broadband (internet access)

Versus those same statistics for 2013:

  • 1.17 billion fixed-telephone subscriptions in the world
  • 6.84 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions in the world
  • 2.1 billion individuals have mobile-broadband (internet access)

In those eight years, this incredible cultural shift has not only changed the experience for fans, but also for athletes, coaches and staff. For example, in the past, racing pit crews used to be comprised of mechanics responsible for refueling, tire changes and repairs.  They are now responsible for highly complex analytical interpretation of streaming data that originates from the team’s vehicle in motion, which then informs their race adjustments accordingly.  In college football, advanced equipment systems and smart textiles currently under development will collect data from real time tracking of heart rate, body temperature, speed, distance, energy exerted and other information that will help coaching staffs tailor high performance training for stronger student-athletes.  With innovations like Google Glass and augmented reality applications, we can envision a time in the very near future where fans will experience a live event completely differently with the overlay of real time data upon athletes and the playing surface environments.

Considering the benefit this technology has had on performance and the potential on the horizon, we view technology as a new challenge and opportunity for us as designers. It’s important we consider how technology can be a true and invaluable asset to the stadium of the future. Together, our charge as designers is to create an in-game experience that is fluid – adapting to emerging technology to create a memorable experience that extends beyond the walls of the stadiums and acts as a vehicle for fans to engage in a broader social conversation that connects the outside world to the experience inside the venue.

The boundaries between physical and virtual space are blurring.  And because we know fans are increasingly connected to mobile devices during a game, documenting through video, photos and social media, we need to create environments that support this behavioral change, elevate the overall experience and encourages the information sharing that is now second nature. It’s an important opportunity to help shape how fans communicate and engage with the game through technology – and it’s an opportunity that can’t be missed.


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