Playing the Urban @DeBalie Amsterdam, March 31 2007

Below some notes I made today at the Symposium Playing the Urban.


Symposium Playing the Urban @Balie 31 maart 2007



13-14h Mobile Learning Game Kit

Speaker: Jan Simons (Associate Professor New Media Studies, University of Amsterdam)

14-15h PlastiCity: A Game for Urban Planning

Speakers: Mathias Fuchs (Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader in Creative Technology, University of Salford) and Steve Manthorp (Special Project Manager, Bradford)

15h30-16u30 Logo Parc (Jan van Eyck Academy)

Speakers: Logo Parc (Daniël van der Velden, Katja Gretzinger, Matthijs van Leeuwen, Matteo Poli, Gon Zifroni)


This symposium was organized by fellow TKCers from Maastricht & Amsterdam “Transformations in Perception and Participation: Digital Games”.



> = my remarks, thoughts, etc.


[Skipped presentation1]

PlastiCity is a game based on the Unreal Tournament engine (which is a first person shooter) and aims to be an aid in reconstructing/replan the awfully ugly city center of Bradford, UK. It is still in conceptual phase (read: no money yet). The aim is to put the game in public places like libraries, schools, etc.


Interesting quote: “the game is not designed to function as a designer tool for architects, but as a way of bringing planners, architects, local government officials and citizens together and be silly about redesigning the city.”

> Games may serve to bring people together in complex multi-party projects: games as a new kind of public sphere?


Another quote: “Every game has at some point a stage of chaos”.

> The rules are stretched, things are tried out, often deconstructed or even destroyed. Like identities that are being tried out and parts of it destroyed again.


Game should have ‘real life’ characters in it: not the usual beautiful yuppies you see in most architecture presentations. It should be more realistic. Also with rubbish and so on.

> Games as more realistic than other media in presenting or representing the world? What is realistic about programmed garbage?


One member of the audience experiences a kind of motion sickness while watching the demonstration of the game. She asks: what is the value of this game-speed to represent life-speed? The speakers explain the speed of the demo is set to slow: normal gamers would use at least 3x normal walking speed to move around… (which they briefly demonstrate). 

I brought up: this phenomenon is just like what the first train travelers experienced at 20 or 30 miles/hour: disorienting the senses. Every new technology brings its own experience of space & place & mobility. The train (and car) created a speeding up of travel, which made possible suburbs and the separation of home and work. The city was adapted to this new sense of the city. 

I asked: what then may be the influence of using games as tools for creating new cities for the way cities are actually build and experienced?

Answer: first person perspective of game may be an influence on perceiving the city; as well as the feeling of being in power, in control over your environment.


Another audience Q: what is actually game-like about this? There is no winning this game? There are few rules? Why play?

A: the attraction is the sense of empowerment & creativity players experience in playing the game, both in destroying and rebuilding the city.

> Could it be differentiated according to involvement? Game produces Erlebnissen, while (prolonged) play may produce Erfahrung.?


Game offers the idea of “unbuilding” the city, creating green environments again out of built space (land is cheap in Bradford, so not unrealistic).

> I like that idea of “unbuilding”, can it be applied to identity? “Unbuilding identity” as a way of undoing previous steps, deleting memories of these events in photos, video, text messages, phone numbers, etc. It is maybe a way of “unactualizing” identity, again extracting potentiality out of previous closures and actualizations.


> Such games are also used strategically and politically as part of ideas about the “creative city”. Games have become entangled in a larger discourse, they are being ‘socially produced’ as young, modern, trendy, serious yet playful, appealing to people previously difficult to reach (young). If you want to be ‘now’ you have to do something with games.


Presentation 3 – LogoParc – was about the Amsterdam Zuidas and the way a kind of superficial ‘global architecture’ is created which is not related to the local (at least, that’s what I understood of the 2 very abstract talks). Designers at Jan van Eyk, Rietveld created a visual game-like critique on this environment. All facades of building and public space signage was removed, which created a sense of barren desolate landscape. Added were a number of large above-ground ‘sewers’ connecting the Zuidas to other global places’ like Singapore, HongKong, Tokyo, New York, Paris, etc.

> I was a little annoyed by this whole talk: very highbrow theoretical critique on so-called placelessness of Zuidas, yet these offices and public spaces are filled with real people that drive their bikes back home at the end of a working day, people who make it a place, even if architecture has done little to embed it in local Amsterdam. 



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