Planning a city through play

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Gaming turns the ‘huh’ moments into ‘aha’ revelations. It is a fine mix of learning and enjoyment, then bump it up a few levels of seriousness, and it makes for one “serendipitous machine.”

In a keynote speakers Ekim Tan from Play the City studio and Jeroen Warmerdam from Tygron Serious Gaming uncover the power of serious gaming to make planning and design of cities and communities more inclusive and accessible.

Launching straight into it, Tan establishes gaming as a new method for collaborative city-making. Her work, Play the City integrates city gaming, digital public polls, interactive learning, co-design and social networks with traditional architecture and urbanism to work with cities, housing corporations and cultural organisations in order to generate collaborative plans.

Existing somewhere between Lego and SimCity, players are not seen as equal characters but have different strengths and abilities, very representative of modern stakeholders in development. Cities are for everyone and everyone brings a different set of attributes, desires and dislikes to the table. Play the City accommodates the many different voices and offers them all a chance to participate literally on the table. Indeed, “It opens up the conversation to larger audiences,” said Tan.

An experienced researcher and designer in international urban design projects, Tan flies us over her cities of influence from Istanbul, Amsterdam and Almere all the way to Khayelitsha, Cape Town. We examine the different examples in terms of urban structure, limits and how Play the City has helped in finding the path of inclusivity and community-supported progress.

With a demonstrated focus in emerging countries, Play the City has gathered experience in mapping various stakeholders, reflecting complex typographies and distinct social situations. All of this leads the inspired audience to ask the same question as Tan: “Can Cape Town be the first city to plan through play?”

Moving more into the virtual world of city-craft, our second speaker Warmerdam introduces his 3D, interactive spatial planning software platform, Tygron. As a serious game developer specialised in bringing real-life complex management challenges that have multiple actors with unique tasks and different interests into a multiplayer serious game,’ Warmerdam saw huge potential in digitilasing the city-planning process.

With the current rate of urbanisation, urban decision-making needs to be more informed, sustainable to happen faster. With hundreds of thousands of people moving into cities every year, urban capacities are overflowing leaving the majority of city-migrants living in a space of urban shadow.

By allowing all parties to collaborate and negotiate spatially, Tygron aims to streamline the planning process and encourage dialogue between stakeholders and changemakers. “It’s important to explore the other players’ motivations and have the chance to experiment,” said Warmerdam. “It helps to form a trust between those that craft our cities.”

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