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Retro Mobile Gaming Database

An open-access repository of mobile games developed 1975-2008

This database allows users to search games by multiple search criteria including title, year developed, type of game, and more. This robust search system will help researchers not only to find games but also to create new correlations among historical types of mobile games.

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Persona Development

Identified game researchers, undergraduate / graduate students, and general public interested in games and mobile communication as the primary audience for this database.

Competitive Analysis 

There are media archaeology labs in other universities, which have collections and databases of digital media artifacts. For example, the Media Archaeology Lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has a collection of computer hardware, software and peripherals, such as the Apple I, Atari, Commodore 64, and floppy disk drives. The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities also hosts a collection of vintage computers, including the first Macintosh and the Commodore 12D computers. Likewise, there is an International Gaming Database that allows for searching a variety of video games.



  • Collections are not specific to the study of mobile games

  • Collections do not hold a searchable database component to facilitate the study and understanding of these games.

  • Open-access nature makes these collections valuable resources for public research 

  • Ability to search by platform, developer, and other categories in the International Gaming Database is a helpful feature for users

Cross-functional Teamwork

In participating in the design of this database, I (alongside the rest of the design team) worked in collaboration with an NC State University computer science team, who developed the database and, later, a team of computer science students who maintained the database. I also consulted with copyright specialists and inter-institutional partners. Finally, I supervised two undergraduate students in performing usability tests. 

UX Testing

Heuristic evaluation was used to identify usability issues with early iterations of the database. Following this, the project team conducted initial rounds of unmoderated usability tests. The findings were used to inform revisions to the database. 

Findings (abbreviated)

  • Problems with aspect ratio on images 

  • Bug with users being logged-out after adding entries to database

  • Difficulty navigating large search results 

  • Difficulty finding "exit" after reading a search result 

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We additionally performed user tests to learn how users were interacting with the database. Key findings in this regard informed the information structure. 

Information Structure

The categories for the database entries were initially modeled on an article titled “Playful urban space” (de Souza e Silva & Hjorth, 2009). In this article, the authors offered a preliminary classification of mobile games into three distinct but overlapping categories—urban games, location-based mobile games, and hybrid reality game. We developed initial search criteria for our database by examining similar databases identified in the competitive analysis. 


User testing findings

  • Identified additional classificatory categories for database entries to include handheld games, mobile device games, and pervasive games. 

  • Found that users were adding entries to the database for both games (like Snake and Tetris) and the devices these games were played on (like Nokia 3110). To mitigate this, we added "hardware" as the criteria, so that users would differentiate between the game and hardware it is played upon

  • Inconsistencies with user entries (e.g., types of hardware listed, length of entries) 

Style Guide & User Guide

To respond to the user test finding related to inconsistent entries, I developed a style guide that teaches users how to write entries for the database. In addition, I authored a simplified user guide for adding entries and searching the database. 

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  • de Souza e Silva, A. & Glover-Rijkse, R. (2021). Developing the Retro Mobile Gaming Database: Exploring interdependencies among early mobile games. Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) conference. Online. 

  • de Souza e Silva, A. & Glover-Rijkse, R. (2021). Tracing the history of mobile games. NC State News. Retrieved from:

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