Playable cities

I found the lecture, given by Jon Dovey on playable cities and how humans interact through play, very interesting. The idea of the playable city is that we use the environment around us to create ‘play grounds’ where development and fun exists. Humans develop themselves and objects around them by playing and pushing the boundaries of ‘the game’ by asking why? Furthermore, our ability to explore, experiment, have a curiosity for development and imagination for the unknown creates the culture we live within. As humans, we never stop playing and that’s what makes us to the superior specie.

A couple of examples of play in the city could be, race someone to the nearest tree, skateboarding, draw with chalk on the pavement, avoid stepping on the cracks, holding up an invisible robe in the traffic (see embedded clip) to the extreme of train-surfing (second clip) or cliff jumping.

It’s easy and doesn’t involve anymore than two people is a game which trick people to think they are holding a robe even though they obviously isn’t any. This also ties in with the idea of being immersed in the cinematic experience where special effects might seem so real that you might be tricked into believing what is on the screen even when your common sense tells you differently.

Train surfing in Stockholm, Sweden, is where people jump on top of the trains while they are in motion and ‘surf’ them at a very high-speed. An extreme example of play in the city.

I think people play to get the excitement of ‘what’s going to happen next?’ or the adrenalin kick but also to complete or succeed in the game. It is easy to get involved and immersed into a fantasy or visual world where you don’t have the same limits as in the ‘real’ world and we therefore let go in another way than if we were out in public.

The fascination of playing has in some cases been turned from fun and developing into consumption orientated play with computer games or advertising in a newspaper where you need to but the paper each week to collect different codes or vouchers to fulfil the game. This is a natural marked strategy as that will excite us and make us consume a product.


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