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TED Talk: The Public Space as a game board. Aida Red. 2016.

Playmaking is the development of games and strategies for decision making and creation of opportunities in the city, using the techniques, dynamics and mechanics of the game.


Since we were born, our capacity for relationship and interaction is marked by the use of games and, for whatever reasons, in our adult stage we began to banish these relational practices from our day to day.

It is undeniable the power of transformation that video games have today and its growth curve is staggering.

As a curious fact, the famous mobile game Candy Crush has a monthly average of 409 million active users (data for 2016) or the final of League of Legends exceeded 36 million viewers.

The question that many professionals are considering around the world right now is:
What if we began to use the potential of games as the motor of change of our society?

My older brother is a videogame programmer, my mother is a social worker, my father is a psychologist and I am an architect.

It is clear that this cocktail between the technological, the urban and the social at lunch time in my house, is not accidental when talking about Playmaking or understanding part of the DNA of PAN!C.

From this studio, several years ago, we had begun to develop (almost by intuition) different urban strategies in cities like Madrid, La Laguna or Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, without calling them “games” or understanding them like this.

In them, we differentiated between a “playground” (as simple installation) and a complete strategy on a city scale, where the fun when interacting with the process was a tool for the pursuit of goals and not the product itself.

Over time, we began to understand the value of this human interaction (physical and digital) with the city and the need to introduce the Right to Experiment in the territory as a pre-decision phase in the public space.

At this point and especially thanks to social networks, it was easier to start to know and connect people and projects with other similar practices at national and international level.

Why to create this term?
Analyzing the current context in which we find ourselves and the examples of games, strategies, installations, dynamics … I think it is important to separate and understand the function and potential of each one of them.

It is not the same as a playground, a game as a product in itself or a game as a process or tool.
This is understood to be 3 different things, but equally can be mixed or even develop the 3 issues at a time.

Hence the need to highlight this new way of approaching the ludification and design of games in the community and the territory as a new way from which to work and develop the collective intelligence of the users as an engine of transformation and change in communities and cities.

Therefore, sometimes the process and learning acquired when designing the game itself is almost more interesting than the fact of using it, where the final product developed is the meta-game of the game itself (and this is a great debate).

But … What is Playmaking?
Playmaking is the development of games and strategies for decision making and creation of opportunities in the city, using the techniques, dynamics and mechanics of the game.

It is composed of 4 dimensions: playful, technological, social and territorial, and is considered as the catalyst or motor of action and activation of processes of global collective intelligence in communities and territories.

It shares Placemaking values ​​and methodologies, such as: involving people in decision-making (reflection), design and construction (action) and management of spaces (responsibility).

What is being done today?
Some very interesting examples of games with impact in the territory can be PokemonGo or Geocatching.

Without going into specifics about what these games are or are not, or their operation or origin, we will focus specifically on the 4 components that define Playmaking: playful, technological, social and territorial.

The PokemonGo case.
To understand everything better, PokemonGo is a game that interacts with the city, but does not generate (in my point of view) a sufficient impact on the territory or entails a remarkable social commitment.

In this way, its creators conceive it as a product in itself, where the city is the board on which to lean, but without barely touching it (since it would require permissions or knowledge of the local bureaucracy worldwide … a madness).
It’s exactly the same if you’re playing in Shanghai or if you’re playing in Madrid.
Its success is that it is a robust and easily replicable game.

It has no social commitment and impact on the territory.

The Geocaching case.
Geocaching, however, does have an impact on the territory and is a great example of the power of collective intelligence.

Through protocols proposed by the game, the community itself gives veracity to the interest, state and good location of the treasures.
However, its social factor is not so relevant.

Other Resources
If you want to have more information about these practices and others similar, there is an interesting database carried out by Games for Cities.

Similarly, Play the City is dedicated to making games worldwide, as well as to organize between international meetings like this one.

PAN!C had the opportunity to participate in different meetings organized by them such as AmsterdamRotterdam or be awarded in the Utrecht edition.

Finally, I would like to introduce you to Aida Red, a professional I met thanks to Laura Murillo.
She is an architect and has carried out a thesis on games (which I hope to be able to read someday). He is currently developing his doctorate in London, also related to the game and is carrying out an interesting project called: Stoyries.

On top I add also the link of the TED talk made by her a few years ago: Public space as a game board.