Like games and everyday life, games and cities have been intersecting in two primary ways: modelling the city in an abstract view from above, with planning games and urban simulations, and transforming people's everyday urban experiences and behaviors with playful interventions on the ground. Neither one, this talk argues, has been particularly successful in creating lasting improvements in citizen's well being. To accomplish this, we need to take game design seriously and look sideways at the messy middle between map and territory, the processes in which one is translated into the other (or not). My keynote at ISAGA 2017 in Delft, NL, July 10, 2017.
“The most powerful way to gain insight into a system is by
moving between levels of abstraction. Many designers do
this instinctively. But it's easy to get stuck on the ground,
experiencing concrete systems with no higher-level view. It's
also easy to get stuck in the clouds, working entirely with
abstract equations or aggregate statistics.”
bret victor, 2011
“The issue is not whether it's a good
city or a bad city. It's just not a city. It
doesn't have the ingredients of a city:
messy streets, people”
“The point of cities is multiplicity of
choice. ... Intricate minglings of different
uses in cities are not a form of chaos. On
the contrary, they represent a complex
and highly developed form of order.”
jane jacobs, 1961
constructed situation, “a moment of life
concretely and deliberately constructed
by the collective organization of a unitary
ambiance and a game of events”
psychogeography, “the study of the
precise laws and specific effects of the
geographical environment, consciously
organized or not, on the emotions and
behavior of individuals”
situationist international, 1957-61
“Homo Ludens will demand, firstly, that he responds to his need
for playing, for adventure, for mobility... Homo Ludens himself will
seek to transform, to recreate, those surroundings, that world,
according to his new needs. ...
We would arrive at a new kind of urbanization ... New Babylon
where, under one roof, with the aid of moveable elements, a shared
residence is built; a temporary, constantly remodeled living area; a
camp for nomads on a planetary scale.”
constant nieuwenhuys, 1974
“Its form and structure, resembling a large shipyard in
which enclosures such as theatres, cinemas, restaurants,
workshops, rally areas, can be assembled, moved, re-
arranged and scrapped continuously ... Choose what you
want to do – or watch someone else doing it… Try starting
a riot or beginning a painting – or just lie back and stare at
cedric price, 1964
“#1: Forgiving Principle: We must be allowed to change our
minds. The complexity of organizational environments
coupled with the unpredictable course of future directions
requires a forgiving behavior in facility design.
#2: Grace with Change: A facility needs to change with ease.
#3: On-line Planning and Expression: The individual can
participate in goal setting and thus behave like a manager
at any level. Users are often the best judges of what works.”
robert probst, 1964
“The dark side of this is that not all
organizations are intelligent and progressive.
Lots are run by crass people who can take the
same kind of equipment and create hellholes.
They make little bitty cubicles and stuff people in
them. Barren, rat-hole places.”
robert probst, 1998
Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics
obligatory mda slide
“The life blood of game design is testing.
Why are we playing games? Because it‘s fun.
You cannot calculate this. You cannot plan
this out in an abstract manner. You have to
How might we …
prototype and playtest our
institutions and environs?