Hubbub has gone into hibernation.

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.”

Sign up to be noti­fied of the book’s pub­li­ca­tion at Update: The book is out now and can be ordered through MIT Press.

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