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Artun Gürkan

  • Faculty of Architecture
  • Urban Studies
  • MA
  • Place! Steal! Design! The Use of Game in the Urban Design Practices
  • Tutor: Maroš Krivý and Keiti Kljavin / Advisor: Mattia Thibault

As a relatively young field, gamification became a matter of hype rapidly, not only for industries but also for academics. Games and play started to be infused in most aspects of life while designers and researchers started to unfold games’ potential regarding their engagement and motivational aspects. Furthermore, games are described as an important tool for participatory design methods in addition to promote senses of ownership, community, and belonging, which all may contribute to improving urban life (Tan 2014; Sanchez 2015; Ampatzidou et al. 2018; Thibault 2019b). The study aims to understand play and games’ usage from several perspectives and examine them within the participatory urban design context. In order to understand the relation of games to participatory approaches, the study looks at the usage of games in different fields and forms while reviewing the relevant published literature.

For many years, play and games seem like a waste of time for everyday life (Lefebvre 1991). Play/games had been commonly associated with childhood while it seemed as unproductive and pastime activity (Raessens 2012). However, today we see a different picture in view of the highly influential writings of Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois in addition to the historical shift of values and tools provided by technological developments (Huizinga 1980; Caillois 2001; Deterding 2015). Many scholars have seen play as not just an unimportant pastime anymore but as a fundamental part of life (Zimmerman and Tekinbaş 2006). Hence, for the beginning of this study, it is important to understand “what is game, play, gamification, and serious games.” The study looks at many definitions of games and tries to unfold the underlying reason for using games in other fields. Games are a unique medium that people spend their valuable time with concentrated attention without expecting any serious outcome (Bogost 2015). Therefore, how games have been used for catalysing interest, creativity, or tools for governance in non-game contexts would illustrate different usage and effects of games. At the end of the first chapter, the study explains how different applications of play activities in non-game contexts may impact users differently.

Today, the potential of games and play activities are integrated and applied by architects and urban planners. Games and gamified applications are often described as being a unique medium to create user engagement regarding designing and planning the urban realm while improving public participation (Ampatzidou et al. 2018). In addition, games and play are considered as an essential motivator and fun tool not only for the different methods used in design practice but also to promote senses of ownership, community, and belonging, which all may contribute to improving urban life (Thibault 2019c; Tan 2019; Stevens 2007; Ampatzidou et al. 2018). Hence, the second chapter starts with explaining how play and participatory approaches separately started to infuse architecture in the 1960s. Even though they started to infuse separately, they had a similar agenda: involvement of the users in the designed space and empowering them towards the decision making. During this time, play and games were mainly visible in the writings of Henri Lefebvre, Situationist International, and utopian projects of Constant Nieuwenhuys, Yona Friedman (Lefebvre 1991; Situationist International 1959; Wigley 1998). However, while play and games still try to find their way in spatial practices, participatory methods become an established tool in architecture and planning practices(Sanoff 2000). Even though participatory methods were a highly praised idea for architecture and planning at the beginning, the more it started to infuse in practice, the more it became criticized regarding their power dynamics, conflict management, language, expertise, and engagement. As a result of these criticisms, with the new technological developments, participatory approaches witness a wide transformation (Sanoff 2000). Designers and researchers have actively developed new concepts regarding participation such as co-creation, co-design, open-source urbanism, DIY,  gamicipation, collaborative design (E. B.-N. Sanders and Jan Stappers 2017; Harder, Burford, and Hoover 2013). Within this transformation, games and play are also applied to participatory approaches. Therefore, to position the end project on the vast landscape of participatory design approaches, the study uses formulations of Liz Sanders’s design research map and Harder Et al. participation framework (L. Sanders 2008; Harder, Burford, and Hoover 2013).  For this part of the study, the aim is to show how games can align with participatory approaches’ needs.

In order to explore the potential benefits of games for participatory urban design, the third chapter of this thesis focuses on the prototype game project that is created in parallel with writing the study itself. The game aims to create a playful and engaging activity for the users where they can unlock difficult conversations and collaborate with the assumptions, desires, and ideas of inhabitants regarding their surroundings. The game mechanics conducted based on the research to make the participation process lighter, playful and open-ended.  For this study, the game will be a test field to understand better the game’s potential and mechanics regarding the participation process and how it can contest to be a medium of small-scale urban design projects for inhabitants. The outcome of the game will not be the finalized design decision, but it aims to be work as a basis for the design concept of decided open space. The game aims to be a medium of expression for the users regarding their neighborhood. For this study, the game will be the test arena to understand better the discussions regarding effects and critiques of game and participation.