How illegal is it?

Thank you to everyone who joined in with yesterday’s open sessions at Making the City Playable, it was brilliant to hear all your thoughts on playable cities and very exciting to see all the new questions and ambitions our speakers had sparked.

We asked all your facilitators to give us a few a key points which came up discussion. We’ll be putting up a full write up later, but for now here’s a quick catch up on what the other groups were discussing:

  • ‘Product devalues play’: a smart brand will realise the subtle approach of sponsorship.
  • Is it good that cities are noted as having a playful element? Is it possible to kill the London or city-centric model? Is it inclusive enough?
  • Is hidden tech inherently ‘magic’? Do we want this and, even if so, is this a good thing?
  • Permission: how do you provide permission and safe spaces that encourage people to play? The strength of a DIY approach is apparent in cities like Bristol because it doesn’t always rely on corporate or institutional permission, but can these transgressive acts happen everywhere, and do they really include excluded communities?
  • People who won’t play: how do you encourage people who are scared of play (through tradition, age, status, class, mental health, mobility etc.), or who don’t want to play? The benefit of play is to get people to momentarily step out of the slipstream that they are born into, to promote change. what are the class implications here? Can everyone feel included?
  • Scale: is there an optimum size for the playable city? Are some too small, and some too large? Is it better to think instead about playable communities within spaces?
  • How do you persuade people to play? What permission do they need? How do you encourage people to step into the ‘space’?
  • How does the Playable City aggregate into something that has legacy? Is it a form of social control or empowerment?
  • Having the opportunity to invent and improvise as part of a playable experience is key.
  • A Playable City allows us to ‘be the city’ not just ‘of the city’…
  • Find new ways to recognise and rediscover our city
  • ‘Think about the boundaries in order to change them…’
  • A lot of the group were troubled by the language being used, particularly the notion of ‘re-use’ of a city’s infrastructure, rather than simply ‘use’.
  • Ownership is a delicate issue, and the inhabitants of a space should be allowed to effectively take control (in some form). The language used when talking about these scenarios should be about access rather than claiming.
  • The differences between game and play. Football is structured and therefore a game, however ‘keep-y up- forever remains informal and playful, and is a universally recognised and co-operative form of football
  • Playing has to be an active choice. If asked ‘do you want to play a game?’ I think NO. The motivation needs to be internal, create the conditions within which people can choose to play when the moment is right
  • Is using play to get certain results problematic? Should it be pointless, frivolous, self motivated, self realised, unfettered…. not manipulated? But this rules out 90% of how people play in the world. It becomes exclusive. You need structures and rules and someone overseeing it.
  • We should also consider play and privilege, play and class. Leisure time (let alone financial resources) is not equally distributed.
  • Playing with Fire – When we play, we take risks (physical / emotional / social) and it’s empowering. What is the role of risk in digital play and how can we play with fire in the digital world?
  • Play to feel Safe / Feel Safe to Play – We need to feel safe in a space in order to play, but play can also make a place feel safe.
  • Break the rules, change the rules – Nomics are games with constantly changing rules. Is it easier to change the rules in physical games? How does this work with digital games?
  • Branding playable city would only bring economic benefits. Joy comes from it being grassroots. Messy. Unpredictable. Adaptability. But production of an opensource framework would enable grassroots – as it gives freedom for people to use their own city in a certain way.
  • Behaviour change or play for plays sake? Playable has to be fun – first priority. Not about social behaviour or change. But why measure value? Identify benefits? Can we just play then reap the benefits? But there is a need to shout about the benefits – funding etc.
  • What is the difference between playable city and smart city? Both appropriate an infrastructure and tech, but it’s how these are appropriated – by formalised society or by a counter culture
  • Is playable city inherently un-British?

And a few of our favourite quotes:

“I need to learn how to play better … I’m crap at playing”

“When I told people at work (a transport engineering company) that I was coming here their reaction was…. what? Something as frivolous as play?! You are going to talk about play for two working days? You are in transport, get a grip”

Usman Haque: “I don’t see much difference between digital and physical play – there’s always a context really. I’m more interested in finding out to what extent the parameters of a game can be changed? For me it’s less about defining what gets played, and more about how you find out which parameters can change.”

Katie Day: “It’s an ambition for the place you want to live in the future. Same infrastructure whether playable or smart. What world do I want to live in? Frictionless and solitary, or want the infrastructure to work in a completely different way for me, it misdirects me”