Hubbub has gone into hibernation.

Shaping the city with urban games at Visible Cities #03

Last week I had the plea­sure of being able to speak at Vis­i­ble Cities, which is a series of events on emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and the city. The third edi­tion looked at urban gam­ing and brought togeth­er archi­tects, design­ers and tech­nol­o­gists to explore how these games can be used to shape cities. Michiel de Lange kicked the evening off with a nice overview of the var­i­ous cat­e­gories of urban gam­ing and James Burke fin­ished the evening with a pre­sen­ta­tion of VURB’s project in TrouwAms­ter­dam called Urban­ode. In between, I had the chance to share some of the work we’ve been doing here at Hubbub.

I pro­posed sev­er­al ways games can be used to make a change in cities and tied each of them to a past project. I also dis­cussed a few things we learned with each of them.

Mega Mon­ster Bat­tle Are­na™ — a mashup of music the­atre and gam­ing — cre­at­ed a con­text for com­mu­ni­ty involve­ment in a cul­tur­al pro­duc­tion. We had a broad range of peo­ple from the local com­mu­ni­ty involved in all aspects of the pro­duc­tion, but also (most impor­tant­ly) in the per­for­mance itself.

  • The way to com­bine a sto­ry and a game suc­cess­ful­ly is to find a struc­ture that can accom­mo­date both. We did this by draw­ing inspi­ra­tion from mar­tial arts movies such as Enter the Drag­on, which mix sto­ry bits with fight­ing set pieces.
  • It can be help­ful to con­flate the fic­tive space with the phys­i­cal place of a per­for­mance, as we did by set­ting the sto­ry in an are­na. This gives you the excuse to involve the audi­ence with­out break­ing frame.

Change Your World — a team-based street game for youth — was a safe envi­ron­ment in which play­ers can devel­op real-world skills. This was just a fun game to play on face val­ue, but had embed­ded in the rules ways to encour­age participation.

  • We had a lot of ben­e­fit from the flags we employed. Being phys­i­cal arti­facts, they had a lot of affor­dances that were read­i­ly avail­able to us. This you don’t get in soft­ware, where you need to build every prop­er­ty of an object yourself.
  • We did not instruct play­ers on how to play the game (that would have been bor­ing). In stead, we gave them a goal and tools and set some bound­aries and let them dis­cov­er the best way to play.

Kop­pelkiek — a social pho­to col­lect­ing game — cre­at­ed a meet­ing place for diverse indi­vid­u­als in a trou­bled neigh­bor­hood. The game pro­vid­ed an excuse and a frame­work for strangers to have brief inter­ac­tions with each other.

  • It’s not easy to reach a neigh­bor­hood as a whole. The way we gained access was through key fig­ures in the area’s social scene. They became ambas­sadors for our game.
  • The trou­ble with a pure­ly per­va­sive game is that it isn’t any­where in par­tic­u­lar and does not con­sist of read­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able events. We decid­ed to mix in fixed places and events to man­age the game’s dra­mat­ic arc.

So that’s what I talked about most­ly. It was nice to be the prag­mat­ic one at an event, for a change. The dis­cus­sions we had through­out the evening — about the impend­ing game­poca­lypse, for instance — were stim­u­lat­ing as well. Thanks again to Juha for the invi­ta­tion. And if you’re into urban com­put­ing and haven’t been there yet, make sure you head to the next event.

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One Comment

  1. Posted April 16, 2010 at 14:14 | Permalink

    Our plea­sure, and thanks for your recap!