Places for playing games

Getting people moving and playing in public was one of the objectives when game designers set out to reclaim some of the streets of Glasgow as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Program.

Glasgow has been undergoing a significant regeneration in preparation for and as a by-product of hosting the recent Commonwealth Games. As one of the key objectives in any city hosting a Commonwealth or Olympic games is finding ways to get the local community moving and active with physical activity leading to more healthy lifestyles over time… not just sitting and watching the athletes do it.

But the group developing Scotch Hoppers as part of the cultural program discovered there are some barriers you need to overcome to get people comfortable enough to play on the streets. In particular you need the games to be familiar, make it clear it’s not just for the kids, be flexible in how the game can be played and make things safe.

As Game Designer Holly Gramazio explains “Play is a unique and compelling way to relate to your environment, a way of being at home and at peace.”

Around the world there is a growing trend of gaming developed in an urban environment, including international street games festivals. Groups like the Invisible Playground in Germany, partner with cultural organisations and incorporate music, digital gaming, street theatre to “create site specific games using cities as platforms for play”.

In Australia there are plenty of examples of ‘pop-ups’ – perhaps these are our version of getting people active in their places.

The Fresh Air festival at Fed Square in Melbourne involves a pop up playground bringing together international game designers for outdoor games and new sports.

Source: Dandenong Pop Up Park from the Department of Justice

In a Penrith trial, the objective is to create a better urban environment to attract investment, whereas Dandnenong’s pop up park has more socially based aims. Government funded and run by Mission Australia, the park provides a range of flexible access to sporting, gardening and recreational facilities that people in the area may not have built into their environment at the outset.

Good urban design will encourage people to utilise their places for all kinds of purposes – looking at how people use the streets for play perhaps gives us some pretty good ideas of the ideal approach to urban design.

 Banner image from the


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