Running Othello (2012-)

Type: distributed pervasive exergame based on the Othello boardgame

Purpose: encourage children to do exercise by challenging other players around the world for a match of fast-paced strategy game with physical missions

Place: anywhere (Ajou University)

Technologies: Client: Android, NFC, onboard sensors; server: J2EE servlet, MySQL

Period: 2012-

Contributors: Teemu H. Laine, Carolina Islas Sedano, Hochul Yang, Kwangsu Kook, Dao Thanh Chung, Xiaolei Du and Zhao Yang


Running Othello is Android-based distributed pervasive exergame that is based on popular boardgame Othello. Distributedness of the game has four dimensions:

  • the game requires distributed focus from the players who must maintain cognitive thinking and strategic reasoning under time pressure and physical exertion.
  • game play is distributed – players who are in different geographical locations can play against each other.
  • technology is distributed over network connection to enable distributed game play
  • development process of Running Othello was distributed between students in South Korea and Finland.

In Running Othello we can specify any physical dimensions and grid size for the game board so that it can be deployed in any location. For example, instead of a 8×8 board on a table we could have a 10×10 board covering a large area in a park or school yard. Near-Field Communication (NFC) tags are used as game board cells but an alternative technology such as barcodes is also viable. To make a move, the player reads a tag with a phone and the phone shows real time view of the board. The following figure depicts the game board on mobile device before and after first move of white player.


To make the players run and think quickly, we removed the turn-based feature of Othello to allow the fastest player to triumph. This has two consequences. Firstly, it is possible that a sporty and clever player makes two or more consecutive moves. For this reason, we use additional pawns in the initial setup to prevent a skilled player finishing the game too quickly. Secondly, two players can read the same tag one after another. This is possible because when the player makes valid move, they may get a mission to complete. The first player who successfully finishes the mission will conquer the cell. After making a move, the physical NFC tag does not change, so the player must use visual coordination skill to match the up-to-date virtual game board on the screen to the physical game board on the ground. For this reason NFC tags have the same numbers as pawns on the virtual board.

Running Othello has different types of missions including physical missions, awareness missions and reaction missions. In physical missions the player must for example swing arm N times, turn around N times, jump N times or shake hand until a threshold is met. Smartphone’s sensors (e.g. accelerometer, magnetic field sensor) are used for activity detection. Awareness missions are quizzes that aim at raising awareness on any topic. Quiz is a set of multiple choice questions with varying number of choices and a hint. Reaction missions are quick tasks which test speed and reaction time of the player, for example by asking them to arrange a set of numbered tiles as quickly as possible.

The following figure illustrates the game architecture where distributed design was a key requirement. The server is capable of running multiple matches on channels and two clients connecting to a single match can be located around the world. The players have also profiles for keeping match statistics. Functionality of distributed design was tested at the SciFest 2013 science festival held annually in Finland. Visitors of the festival were able to play against players in South Korea.


The following video demonstrates game setup and play. It was shot before SciFest 2013 by the developers.

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