People ‘run’ through cities day by day, surrounded by faceless buildings and the streets full of cars. It seems like everything is made out of anonymous objects and that the city belongs just to the shops and big companies. Cities are very often a serious and colorless place, especially big cities and metropolises. Maybe that’s why there are so many routines within a city-life. Well, why not looking for something extraordinary, that awakens the imagination of the people to reclaim the streets and cities?
One way of enabling people to discover other potentials of their city is by playing the city. Thus, regular bus stops, parks or simple roads can be transferred into something special. Urban Gaming motivates people to explore public places from different perspectives. People can get involved with each other and new and unexpected relationships can prosper.
Urban Gaming is still a young, international trend. In big cities like New York, Tokyo, London, Vienna, Berlin Urban Gaming is more common. For example, you can play the classic mobile game “Snake” in “real life” transferred to an illuminated water fountain in London. In Toronto, you can play “Capture the Flag” where the flag is hidden somewhere in the city. In New York City people played “PacManhattan” disguised as Pac-Man and ghosts using the streets as playing field. These games are all about developing imaginative and entertaining games, based on the use of inner-city spaces as a playground.
Another option is the use of technology in a new and innovative way – so you will find a lot of possibilities for smartphones, Internet, GPS, digital cameras etc, being used in Urban Gaming. Technology often is integrated into the gameplay and can also be just a resource to archive new social and cultural experiences while playing on the other hand.
Urban Games festivals allow you to explore a variety of play categories. In Germany, theater experiences are often a playful component to such festivals. Exhibitions, lectures, workshops and conferences explore ‘play’ beyond the act of playing itself. Urban Gaming brings game designers, groups and individuals together – all around the world. Everyone is invited to play along or to observe the gameplay if the activity can be recognized as such. Experts and interested people can design games or simply join in to play.
Games for cities gain more and more importance to understand and to reshape the complexity of urban lifestyle and urban culture. Playful festivals are a great opportunity to bring national and international people together to improve their ideas of urban games every year. The word “festival” is often associated with music festivals but playful festivals with games and play in urban environments are beginning to change this.
Urban Games are a great way to use the urban environment in a more creative and flexible way, in order to be inspired by the city we live in and to inspire our community and our neighbors.