Urban Games, Part 2

Yesterday we wrote about a two great urban games: ‘Capture the Flag’ in Toronto and ‘Idiotarod’, taking place in many American cities. We found out about another one, which is simply fantastic: Pacmanhattan.

Pacmanhattan uses the urban form of the Manhattan grid as a revival of the digital eighties hit Pacman. A player dressed as Pacman will run around the Washington square park area of Manhattan while attempting to collect all of the virtual ‘dots’ that run the length of the streets. Four players dressed as the ghosts Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde will attempt to catch Pacman before all of the dots are collected.

The big issue of urban games is the sudden appearance of unexpected actions within an urban context. The public space is reset and reinterpreted as a playground for adults. The disturbing role that those games have on ‘normal’ space use, seems to be the main purpose. In the context of the flexible city the games show the need of another perception of space. Organisers must be sick of formal city forms and legislative terms of use. The city has to become fun again, not as a playing field for civil servants making plans, but for people using it.

I think we should consider the urban games in its more profound setup as a form of contra-urbanism, challenging the functional and problem-oriented practise of city planning. The urban games make clear that urban interventions and plans don’t need to solve a problem, but can be done just to be nice. This is actually a great lesson to city planners. Let’s make it nice!

Bonus: a great Nike commercial! Enjoy…