Urban Gaming

Ever seen people dancing down the street? Or having pillow fights? Or eye contact experiments? How about lightsaber battles?

You might know a few of the organizing bodies – Newmindspace, The Decentralized Danceparty, the Liberators International, and Silent Disco Squad. All of these organizations produce urban social events that bring people together through fun, participation, and play.

I feel this space is important as it is about breaking everyday patterns through playful connection.

Some call this space the ‘urban playground movement’, others it’s flashmob 2.0. I’m not here to label it but understand why it exists and, why it’s important, and where it’s going.

To understand why it exists is to sense into the motivations behind the initiators, which I believe to be 1) comment on the absurdity of modern living 2) theater venue 3) exhibitionsism 4) fun 5) human connection 6) free entertainment 7) participation-paradigm

The urban playground movement is important as our modern era is strife with toxic behavior patterns such as excessive consumerism, poor work:life balance, excessive goal-seeking, and urban alienation and disconnection.

Games connect us. Through play, fun, and goals, games invite our creativity, focus, and effort – even teamwork emerges.

Yet so much of gaming is screen-based. Remember being on the playground as a child and playing with your friends? Tag, Capture the Flag, Sports, Duck Duck Goose. I’m curious about how smartphones and eventually augmented and virtual reality could contribute to this space.

My question is: How willing are people in cities around the world to connect to each other in playful ways?

Location-based MMORPG Ingress was a massive success with over 7 million players getting off their couches and hopping into the game world – often joining their local community and having face-to-face interactions.

As we accelerate into the future with computers in our pockets, I’m curious as to how this sense of connectedness through games could be amplified. I want to design games that invite people to connect with each other and play – from analog urban interventions such as capture the flag or a scavenger hunt to technology enabled danceparties, and even augmented reality games of treasure hunt, tag, zombie walk etc.

I think location-based AR games will emerge to play a vital role in urban culture. This era of disconnection through technology is coming to an end and AR will help us get there.


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