What is Urban Gamification?
Everyone’s experience of a city is unique. Whether visiting a place for the first time or having lived there a lifetime, their experiences are shaped by their personal interactions with the built environment. Buildings, landscapes and streets come together to provide an opportunity for sensory stimulation, however, most of them fail to provide inspiration. While a city’s infrastructure represents livability, equal importance is not given to amenity. Gaming and games embedded in the urban fabric can help improve user engagement in urban spaces.
Gamification describes the application of game elements to other areas of activity. When applied to the urban context, it presents itself as nodes of playful interaction that create transformative ways of experiencing the city. Urban gamification uses attributes such as scoring, competitions, and rules of the game in many areas to encourage participation between people and the built environment. The games provide an equal playing field for members of the community to meet and interact, each being subject to the same conditions, regardless of their social background.
Physical features such as parks and facilities, as well as digital games can enhance the urban setting. Technology helps create engaging and dynamic interactions in the city, embedded in physical space. Pokémon GO, for example, has taken the world by storm with its interactive augmented reality and location-based features. With a smartphone app, players caught and trained Pokémon characters in real-life locations, while rediscovering their towns. Similar forms of creating playful places show how games can reconnect people with cities.
The digital gamification of the city can have multiple benefits for citizen livelihoods and infrastructure. Video games have been successful social lubricants in online arenas, and the same principles can be borrowed from urban environments. Location-based digital games can create a strong sense of place in pockets of the city, appropriating it in a virtual playground. Getting more people out on the streets also makes them safer, more vibrant and more economically charged.
By layering virtual content over real locations, as Pokémon GO has done, locations are enabled through site-specific facilities that require no time or money to physically build. hello floor lamp, a social engagement project deployed in over 25 international cities, enables people to have text-based conversations with street objects. The project aims to bring cities and their citizens closer by creating interactive streets.
Thoughtfully adding playful and engaging elements to real-world activities can bring diverse groups of people together, creating a stronger social fabric in the city. The creation of gamified places should be designed primarily around the users, rather than the functions they enable. volkswagen Fun theory is a staircase in a Stockholm metro station transformed into piano keys. The project succeeded in attracting the attention of passers-by and initiating healthy habits of using the stairs.
Location-based digital games also have the potential to offer interesting and useful data to cities. City improvement gamification can be used to capture incredibly valuable geodata for government agencies. SeeClickFix, a municipal service request app, works as the name suggests. Users can capture issues regarding repair needs, share feedback, or ask questions of their local government leaders. In Panama City, motion-sensitive gadgets were placed in street potholes to send Tweets when run over by cars. The Tweeting Pothole’s light-hearted instant messages motivate civic engagement in the city. Without any major financial investment from cities, geolocated game locations have helped cultural affairs departments track the popularity of areas.
Urban gamification opens up possibilities for more participatory and playful cities in the future. The full potential of gamified space is heightened when physical and digital strategies are used in tandem, creating layers of urban experience. These phygital spaces are said to be dynamic in nature, altering perceptions of space depending on what is loaded on one’s phone. Games in the public realm can allow citizens to preserve the city’s past, shape its future and experience its presence.