Towards Playful and Playable Cities

Part of the Gaming Media and Social Effects book series (GMSE)


Smart cities have inspired the introduction of various viewpoints, usually concerning the introduction of digital technology by governance bodies and its use by service providers and other economic stakeholders to allow a more efficient use of resources, transportation infrastructure, and an increase in citizen safety. However, there are also other aspects of smart cities that address, for example, our daily life activities, activities that are undertaken without having any type of efficiency in mind and interactions in which we want to engage just for social, entertainment, and fun reasons. To allow for applications that go beyond the efficient handling of our environments to those that also allow affective, social, entertaining, playful, and humorous interactions, we need to employ digital smartness. Digital smartness can be implemented in sensors and actuators in domestic situations, public spaces, and urban environments. This goal is what we want to achieve for playable cities, where residents have the opportunity to hack the city and use the smart city’s data and digital technology for their own purposes and applications. Where possible, the infrastructure of a smart city can be adapted to the playful applications residents have in mind, or smart city residents can take the opportunity to hack the environment and embed their own technology in an existing global network or to introduce their own local community network. In this introduction to the Playable Cities book, various viewpoints will be discussed and short introductions to the chapters will be given.


Playable cities Smart cities Gameful cities Hackable cities Pervasive games Sensors Actuators 



I’m grateful to Ben Barker (Pan Studio, Fig. 1 Hello Lamp Post), Matt Rosier (Chomko & Rosier, Fig. 2 Shadowing) and Anna Grajper (LAX: Laboratory of Architectural Experiments, Fig. 3 Urbanimals) for giving me permission to use pictures from their projects.


  1. Alfrink, K.: The Gameful city. In: Walz, S.P., Deterding, S. (eds.) The Gameful World, pp. 527–560. MIT Press, London, UK (2014)Google Scholar
  2. Bateson, P., Martin, P.: Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Batty, M.: Intelligent cities: using information networks to gain competitive advantage. Environ. Plan. 17(3), 247–256 (1990). doi: 10.1068/b170247 MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bier, H.: Digitally-driven design and architecture. In: Harks, T., Vehlken, S. (eds.) Neighborhood Technologies, pp. 97–106. Zürich, Diaphanes (2015)Google Scholar
  5. Cheok, A.D., Fong, S.W., Goh, K.H., Yang, X., Liu, W., Farzbiz, F.: Human pacman: a sensing-based mobile entertainment system with ubiquitous computing and tangible interaction. In: 2nd workshop on Network and system support for games (NetGames ‘03), pp. 106–117. ACM, New York (2003)Google Scholar
  6. Deakin, M.: Smart cities: the state-of-the-art and governance challenge. Triple Helix 1(7), 1–16 (2014). doi: 10.1186/s40604-014-0007-9
  7. Deakin, M., Alwaer, H.: From intelligent to smart cities. Intell. Build. Int. 3(3), 140–152 (2011). doi: 10.1080/17508975.2011.586671 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dix, A.: Designing for Appropriation. In: Proceedings of the 21st British HCI Group Annual Conference on People and Computers: HCI… but not as we know it-Volume 2, pp. 27–30. British Computer Society, London (2007)Google Scholar
  9. Duggan, E.: Squaring the (Magic) Circle: A Brief Definition and History of Pervasive Games. Chapter 6, this bookGoogle Scholar
  10. Edirisinghe, C., Nijholt, A., Cheok, A.D.: From Playable to Playful: The Humorous city. In: Proceedings 8th International Conference on Intelligent Technologies for Interactive Entertainment (INTETAIN 2016), Utrecht, Netherlands, Lecture Notes of the Institute for Computer Sciences, Social Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering (LNICST). Springer, Berlin (2016)Google Scholar
  11. Escribano, F.: Smart Cities, Citizen Participation & Gamification. A Starcraftian model. Online at: (2015)
  12. Ferreira, V., Anacleto, J., Bueno, A.: Designing ICT for Thirdplaceness. Chapter 10, this bookGoogle Scholar
  13. Florida, R.: The Rise of the Creative Class. Basic, New York (2002)Google Scholar
  14. Gore, A.: No more information haves and have-nots. Billboard, vol. 106, issue 43, pp. 6 (1994)Google Scholar
  15. Grønbæk, K., Kortbek, K.J., Møller, C., Nielsen, J., Stenfeldt, L.: Designing Playful Interactive Installations for Urban Environments—The SwingScape Experience. In: Nijholt A, Romão T, Reidsma D. (eds.) Proceedings 9th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment (ACE 2012), Kathmandu, Nepal, Lecture Notes in Computer Science 7624, pp. 230–245. Springer, Heidelberg (2012)Google Scholar
  16. Hollands, R.: Will the real smart city stand up? City 12(3), 302–320 (2008)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Huizinga, J.: Homo Ludens. A Study of the Play-element in Culture. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, London, UK, 1949 (First published in 1944). Also: Homo Ludens. Proeve Eener Bepaling Van Het Spel-Element Der Cultuur. H.D. Tjeenk Willink & Zoon N.V., Haarlem (1938)Google Scholar
  18. Kasapakis, V., Gavalas, D., Bubaris, N.: Pervasive Games Research: A Design Aspects Based State of the Art Report. In: Proceedings of the 17th PanHellenic Conference on Informatics, pp. 152–157. ACM, New York, NY, USA (2013)Google Scholar
  19. Kennedy, J.B.: When woman is boss, an interview with Nikola Tesla. Colliers (1926)Google Scholar
  20. Komninos, N.: Intelligent Cities: Innovation, Knowledge Systems and Digital Spaces. Spon Press, London (2002)Google Scholar
  21. Landry, C.: The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovation. Earthscan, London (2000)Google Scholar
  22. Minuto, A., Nijholt, A.: Smart Material Interfaces as a Methodology for Interaction: A Survey of SMIs’ State of the Art and Development. In: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Smart Material Interfaces: Another Step to a Material Future (SMI’13), pp. 1–6. ACM, New York, NY, USA (2013)Google Scholar
  23. Montola, M., Stenros, J., Waern, A.: Pervasive Games: Theory and Design. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., San Francisco, CA, USA (2009)Google Scholar
  24. NCB (National Computer Board): A Vision of an Intelligent Island: IT 2000 Report, Singapore (1992)Google Scholar
  25. Nevelsteen, K.J.L.: A Survey of Characteristic Engine Features for Technology-Sustained Pervasive Games. SpringerBriefs in Computer Science, Springer, Chaim, Switzerland (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nieuwenhuys, C. (Constant): New Babylon. Manuscript. Written by Constant, for the exhibition catalogue published by the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (1974). Online at
  27. Nijholt, A.: Designing Humor for Playable Cities. In: Ahram T, Karwowski W (eds.) In: Ji YG, Choi S (eds.) Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2015), Section Advances in Affective and Pleasurable Design. Las Vegas, USA, Procedia Manufacturing, Volume/issue 3C, pp. 2178–2185. Elsevier (ScienceDirect) (2015)Google Scholar
  28. Nijholt, A.: Mischief humor: From Games to Playable Cities. In: Proceedings 12th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE 2015), ACM Digital Library, Iskandar, Malaysia (2016a)Google Scholar
  29. Nijholt, A.: Mischief Humor in Smart and Playable Cities. Chapter 11, this volume (2016b)Google Scholar
  30. Oldenburg, R.: Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories about the “Great Good Places” at the Heart of Our Communities. Marlowe & Company, New York (2001)Google Scholar
  31. Pearce, C.: Narrative environments. From Disneyland to world of warcraft. In: Von Borries, F., Walz, S.P., Böttger, M. (eds.) Space Time Play. Computer Games, Architecture and Urbanism: The Next Level. Basel, Birkhäuser (2007)Google Scholar
  32. Thomas, B., Close, B., Donoghue, J., Squires, J., De Bondi, P., Morris, M., Piekarski, W.: ARQuake: an outdoor/indoor augmented reality first person application. In: 4th International Symposium on Wearable Computers, pp. 139–146. IEEE Press, New York (2000)Google Scholar
  33. Townsend, A.M.: Smart Cities. W.W. Norton & Company, New York/London (2014)Google Scholar
  34. Valéry, P.: The Conquest of Ubiquity. First published as “La conquête de l’ubiquité.” in De La Musique avant toute chose. Editions du Tambourinaire (1928). English version in Aesthetics. Translated by Ralph Manheim. Pantheon Books, Bollingen Series, New York (1964)Google Scholar
  35. Weiser, M.: The computer for the twenty-first century. Sci. Am. 265(3), 94–10 (1991)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Imagineering InstituteMedini IskandarIskandar PuteriMalaysia
  2. 2.Faculty EEMCS, Human Media InteractionUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations