A profound relationship existbetween cities technology and creativity . Since the middleof the 2000s “smart city” business, policy and design visions have gained considerabletraction. It aims to improve services and liveability .  Play and city : Games engage people in participatory citymaking.

Cities ,centers of entertainment and fun are the locus for actualplayful behaviour and activities. Advent of the modern metropolis understandsthe attitudes and behaviour of  people inpublic space in playful terms.  These areused to idealise , represent and design cities with the aid of digital tools. On multiple levelsand in various forms , historical conceptions of the “playful city” haveexisted. In the majority of these views, there is a clear conception of”smartness” involved in play.

Play is equated with mere entertainment in thehistorical strands. The realms of play and everyday life became separated inearly modern times. However , these have been understood as inextricablyintertwined in the recent time. This has been largely driven by the presumedlink to creativity and smartness and the rise of digital technologies in theurban realm .

 Linking urbandesign to developments in the world of game design is a relatively recent areaof expertise. The games that are designed for serious purposes and not merelyfor entertainment is known by many labels such as games for change, seriousgames, gamification, applied games, persuasive games, etc. It helps toachieve a balance between real world complexity simulation and deliversimplication. It also brings about a balance between people’s playmotivations(intrinsic) and achievement of goals(extrinsic). It fosters citizen-driveninnovation and participation on various levels. In this analysis,we move between the most applied level of using games for actual urban designand playful experiences without any immediate utilitarian purpose. Games may be usedto involve citizens in the actual planning and design process. An example fromthe Netherlands, a project by BBVH architects in collaboration with housingcorporations, is Baas Op Zuid .

The online simulation game was also  used in the decision making by the people for  the redevelopment of two old neighbourhoods inthe Rotterdam City. Games are used tostimulate playful encounters and interactions with other people and places bystimulating serendipity and fun. In Koppelkiek, by social game maker Kars Alfrink,players in a troublesome neighbourhood in Utrecht had to execute simple missionsby taking a snapshot of oneself, for example, together with someone else andthe picture was displayed at a public meeting. This game was explicitly createdto promote playful interactions and serendipity.

 Games are used tofoster a “sense of place”, a feeling of belonging and care for the city throughemotionally powerful play experiences. These examples areabout applying games or play experiences to the urban realm to foster the”playful city”. The reverse also happens: the city itself can be made”playable” in different ways. Two levels can be distinguished: the procedurallevel of designing certain playable urban infrastructures and services, and theconditional level of opening up existing urban policies for experiments andcreative “smart governance”. Thesubtle but salient difference between the “playful city”, taken here as thecity in which play and games stimulate the smartness of citizens, and the”playable city”, taken here as the city that itself becomes smart atinfrastructural and institutional levels. Playin itself probably is not enough to solve urban problems, such as vacancy orthe lack of ownership and social cohesion.

Playing together, however, may actas a catalyst.Gamemakers, media artists and app developers too are designers of today’s citiesacross physical, social and experiential ranges. Cities face ever more complexissues. Games and play seem great ways to do so. However, this requiresplanners to relinquish control, accept uncertain and ambiguous outcomes, and toallow failure to possibly occur.

Games are ontologically ambiguous: they arecomposed of a set of constitutive rules, a material setting, and actualizedthrough the embodied activities of the players. This is comparable to whatarchitects may recognize as program, design and use, but with a twist. Gamedesigners create rules and settings, yet the game is only actualized by actualplayers. People playing are not merely end users. They are active participants.Huizinga’sobservation that culture emerges from play suggests that these various playinterventions discussed above may contribute to a new urban planning culture inparticular and participatory urban culture at large. ).

Playful citizens thenare not passive users of their city, but adopt a more active role asco-creators of their environments or “city hackers”. This way a sense ofownership can arise. Instead of leaving it up to governments, corporations and(design) professionals,  citizens in theplayful city create their own smart urban culture.    


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