Cities As Big Playgrounds

  • Here on The Pop-Up City, we are big fans of urban games. We love urban games because they change our perception of routine spaces, they invite us as citizens to take over public spaces, they encourage interactions with strangers, and because most of them are just fun! Berlin’s Invisible Playground collective makes Street Games, Audio Adventures and Playful Theater that turn the city into a giant playground.

    In Ran Some, Ransom, “teams are given transparencies that they must align with the surrounding architecture to decode a message as quickly as possible”. Augmented Reality at zero cost! Ran Some, Ransom is featured at the beginning of this nice video.

    In Farmwell, up to 50 players gather around a fountain to play the popular Facebook game, Farmville for real. “Players use poker chips to trade property, seeds and labor. (…) Workers move onto the fields with pigments, scrubbers and watering cans. (…) While the place slowly transforms into a beautiful mosaic, tough economic decisions are made in the game: Will the estate owners or the seed owners generate the biggest profit? Or will the farm workers form a union?”

    Contrary to Farmville and many other social games, the mechanics of Invisible Playground urban games give players space for exploration, spontaneity and connection. They belong to what Kars Alfrink calls We could venture a comparison with the Adventure Playgrounds.

    They “focus on the people in the city instead of the stuff. Because it is ultimately the behavior of the people that shapes the city, all the way to its built form. And games are excellent shapers of behavior.” Kars Alfrink

    Invisible Playground will host the ‘You Are Go’ festival in Berlin, in June. Players and game designers should experience the finest urban games on the international scene. For the urbanites who cannot attend, I’ll quote Kars Alfrink again, come out and play, even a little, “it’s good for you and it’s good for your city”.

    Photos: Judith Klapper