Open State: Future Cities

In October the Open State: Future Cities presentation ‘Play and Landscape in the Age of the Artificial’ sought to challenge our conventional understanding of the terms ‘play’ and ‘landscape’, as interpreted through trends in videogames and emerging technology.

(Click the names to view the presentation)

David Homburg, Hassel, introduced the overarching Open State: Future Cities event with an analogy of city anatomy. Our understanding of cities is limited and diagnostic tools can help lead to an evidence base that supports conversation over how cities should develop and be reflected through the revised 30-year Plan for Adelaide.

Stephen Yarwood, City 2050, revelled at the prospect of being a ’City Hacker’, using his experience of ‘Pokémon Go’ to develop a greater understanding of place and assign more value to the physical world around us. ‘You know you’re onto something when your 7-year-old son walks up to you on a Saturday morning and says I need to go for a 5 kilometre walk today!’, referencing the achievement-reward mechanism in the game. Stephen recognised Augmented Reality (AR) as one of the key drivers behind spatial change in cities, that games such as Pokémon Go are offering placemaking opportunities.

Mark Jackson AILA, Public Realm Gaming, took a philosophical approach with his knowledge of videogames, placemaking and playspace design. ‘Should people be playing videogames less or does outdoor play need to be as engaging as digital play? I would argue they can coexist’ Mark noted that the demographics of videogames casts a wider net than playspaces and could have significant health benefits. There is greater flexibility to implement videogames compared to the expense of physical changes to the landscape, and they can be driven by compelling narratives, as with apps such as Story City – benefiting from a local knowledge of place. Mark added that whilst there is a common design language between landscape architecture and videogame design in a virtual sense, it needs to be developed further to help bridge the professions when it crosses into the public realm as geo-spatial programming.

Derek Munneke and Dan Cormick, Nextfaze, provided an overview of how location based (LB) games have come to be, their journey through the technology and where it is heading.

Referencing Minecraft, Derek noted that we seek to reconstruct the real world in virtual spaces because of our connection with place. Knowing precisely where people are located is a double-edged sword. LB technology has been leapt on by advertising. Dan added that the increase in fidelity of technology has created more opportunities for games. Festivals such as Fringe have helped exhibit the potential of LB games on a temporary basis. The core of Derek’s message was that outdoor games are most successful when a community of users who can interact with one another, as with the game Ingress, and that this helps to sustain a sense of place.

One of the challenges is what is the likelihood of uptake of new hardware beyond the mobile phone. There was a lot of stigma attached to the Google Glass, people didn’t like being watched or photographed. There is new hardware arriving with the HoloLens and Magic Leap, which delve into mixed reality. Again, it is a double-edged sword. To be discreet or indiscreet with new technology – remember what happened when people complained the electric car was too quiet.

Mark Jackson provided some questions relating to how games can be integrated to the public realm, which other members of the games industry answered (refer to the end of the Nextfaze prezi). The reoccurring message during Q&A was a lack of a platform to have these sorts of conversations between disciplines. Landscape Architects can not only help guide this but take active involvement with the design and integration of new videogame technology, aided by a vision of what to do with it, where it should be utilised, and how it can diversify and enhance our experience of the public realm.



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