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The Gameful City, a preview of my chapter for The Gameful World

This year, MIT Press will publish The Gameful World, a book edited by Steffen P. Walz and Sebastian Deterding to which I’ve contributed a chapter. The book will cover approaches in gameful and playful design, how it can be applied to a range of fields and its common issues. For example, Ian Bogost will expand on his infamous essay Gamification is Bullshit and Eric Zimmerman has contributed the much discussed Manifesto for a Ludic Century.

Those who dislike jargon might be thrown off by the term “gameful”. I admit at first I wasn’t too convinced we needed yet another new term either. Without going in too much detail—those who enjoy chewing on definitions might want to dig into the paper From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification”—gamefulness serves as an alternative to gamification, the idea of using game design elements in non-game contexts. Compared to gamification, gamefulness proponents often emphasize the importance of retaining people’s agency and focus on supporting intrinsic motivation.

My chapter is an essay on the relationship between game design and the built environment and how the former can be used enliven the latter in various ways. It has turned out to be a nice summary of my thinking on the topic over the course of the past few years (if you can call over 13000 words a summary). Below is the abstract for the chapter. I look forward to when the book will be available and you can read the chapter in full, and tell me what you think. For now, this will have to do.

“In this chapter, designer Kars Alfrink argues gameful design can contribute to the liveability of cities. His approach is grounded in his professional practice of making games for public urban spaces. Kars argues gameful design can provide citizens with tools with which they can counterbalance the top-down planning actions of governments and corporations. Such organisations have a preference for highly legible structures, which tend towards fragility in the face of uncertainty. A recent example would be the interest in ‘smart city’ solutions to problems faced by the new megacities. In this chapter Kars describes the workings of many forms of gameful resistance from citizens. These include urban sports, neo-situationist street games, playful platforms for civic organisation, subversive art interventions and participatory planning tools. Together, these enable citizens to act as a generative force which injects the city with some much-needed illegibility, giving rise to a gameful city.”

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