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Playing the city


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Relationships between city spaces and game spaces.

Published in: Design
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Playing the city

  1. 1. When asked to give a keynote for italian IA summit, I immediately thought about games as spaces of information.
  2. 2. Games as information spaces mukumbura@flickr Chess are a pretty good example of a game of perfect information. Players have all the information they need to play the game. Nothing is hidden.
  3. 3. dcis_steve@flickr But if we think about cards, we look at games of imperfect information. A part of the information is hidden to the players.
  4. 4. When looking at videogames, we see how game designers deal with information to convey certain emotions to the player. In Dead Space, the choice to embed all the player related information into the game world helps delivering the sense of tension and fear, because let the player focus on the action rather than on an HUD.
  5. 5. Games are spaces of possibility Games are, mostly, spaces of possibility, that the player can explore to learn new things. Grand Theft Auto IV brings to the player a huge space of possibility in the form of a city.
  6. 6. A rules mediated space But the space in GTA IV is mediated by the rules of the game, enabling the player to do some actions instead of others.
  7. 7. “ Affordance refers to what sorts of operations and manipulations can be done to a particular object. – Donald Norman Donald Norman described this way the concept of affordance.
  8. 8. And if you look at this stuff, you can immediately understand what you can do with it. These buttons have the affordance of being pressed. What about game spaces?
  9. 9. “ Rules specify limitations and affordances. – Jesper Juul Here, as Jesper Juul noted, affordances can be determined by rules
  10. 10. See? This is a remote control. It was done this way to be more friendly for people who never played a game. But the game rules can mutate its affordance, changing it in a golf club, a sword or many other things.
  11. 11. Train Brenda Brathwaite, 2009 In Brenda Brathwaite’s Train, player must stuff the little yellow figures in the wagons, and the bring them to the end of the tracks, only to find that the destination was in fact Auschwitz. All the rules an the materials of the game contribute to create the world, and instantly make sense.
  12. 12. Rules become orders.
  13. 13. And the typewriter details emerge in all their creepiness.
  14. 14. Playing the city Federico Fasce Game designer [or: relationships between city spaces and game spaces.] So, I would like to talk about how rules can change the affordances of the city, looking at pervasive games and game like mobile apps.
  15. 15. 1980 Parkour In 1980 Parkour was born
  16. 16. amfdesigner@flickr By running from a roof to another, parkour people changed the affordances of the cityscape.
  17. 17. 1985 Super Mario Bros. In the same period, in Japan, Super Mario Bros. was revealed.
  18. 18. The choice of the run button, which made Mario run faster, changes the way the game is played. The intended gameplay is a continuous flow of jumps and runs, pretty much like parkour.
  19. 19. 2008 Mirror’s Edge In 2008 a game was released. It’s called Mirror’s Edge
  20. 20. And it featured a rebel young woman running through the roofs and jumping from an object to another. Is parkour in a game space. And affordances are color-coded, to define paths.
  21. 21. “ See the flow. Rooftops become pathways and conduits, opportunities and escape routes. The flow is what keeps you running – what keeps you alive. You can see this idea looking at the first thing the player hear when starts the game. Every city elements changes its affordance through the rules.
  22. 22. The new downloadable levels are pretty interesting. The city here disappears, and only affordances are left.
  23. 23. 2009 Canabalt This game was developed in 2009.
  24. 24. It extremely simplifies the concept behind Mirror’s Edge and parkour. You jump from a building to another, running faster and faster. You press just one button to control the game.
  25. 25. 2009 Cryptozoo And in the same year parkour is back to the city, in a simplified version madeby Jane McGonigal for the American Heart Association.
  26. 26. In Cryptozoo player must imitate the movements of strange animals. These animals use the city in a creative way: Ninja rabbits duck every time they see a parked car, for example. The playere here redefine affordances of various objects you find in a typical city street.
  27. 27. Pervasive games enable infinite affordances. “ – Jane McGonigal These affordances, in a pervasive space where there are non-game elements, could easily become infinite: players can add new affordances and play the game in unpredictable ways.
  28. 28. Cruel to Be kind is a pretty good example: players don’t even know which are their objectives. So, they fight with kindness act which often involve people unaware of the game.
  29. 29. In One Behindmanship doors become much more interesting objects: the player must be the last of a group passing through one door, as long as the other players don’t call a stalemate. This obviously involves into the game unaware players.
  30. 30. Chore wars changes the affordances of home chores, by mapping a fantasy environment and experience points on the daily routine.
  31. 31. Smart objects In modern pervasive games, smart objects have a lot of importance in redefining affordances. This box only opens when it’s brought to a certain location, thanks to a GPS module
  32. 32. Urban defender Zurich University of Arts, 2009 And some of these objects can become toys.
  33. 33. This ball can register the times it bounces against a wall, and send the data, along with gps coordinates, to a server. It was made as a toy, with undefined rules, but then a simple game of territory control was made. This can change the affordance of a building or even of an entire neighborhood.
  34. 34. The fun theory Volkswagen, 2009 This example from “a fun theory” by Volkswagen transforms stairs into a music keyboard.
  35. 35. Critical City In Critical City, missions are used to change the use of city spaces in order to critically live them or to improve them.
  36. 36. Bus-Tops, 2009 Bus-tops plays with a screen mounted on the rooftop of bus stops. It is interesting because it changes not only the affordance of the stop (to give shelter to people waiting the bus)
  37. 37. but even the affordance of the top deck of London buses. The possibility to interact with the roof system further improves the experience.
  38. 38. Mobile And then mobile technologies come up. And should totally be considered.
  39. 39. So, in Layar, an augmented reality browser for smartphones, you can add layers of information to the real world. What if these layers could in fact change the affordance of the city landmarks?
  40. 40. In a very simple and basic way is what social networks like Foursquare are trying to do. When you check in a place, the place you’re in changes its affordance, albeit in a pretty basic and linear way.
  41. 41. Gowalla is pretty much the same story. Maybe it should be possible to go beyond the simple check-in mechanic.
  42. 42. Whaiwhai is an italian project that tries to change the way the people visit a town. It basically maps a story with puzzles you have to solve to a city. You follow the story through a weird guide, sending and receiving SMS to know how to proceed. The affordances of landmark dramatically change leaving intact their history.
  43. 43. That’s it. Thanks! [any question?]