Category Archives: updates

Joining the Peabody Awards as Chief Advisor for Interactive

I am honored to be appointed in a new role: Chief Advisor for Interactive with the Peabody Awards.

Beginning in 2022, Peabody is expanding its award categories to recognize storytelling achievements across interactive, immersive and new media categories, including Gaming, Interactive Journalism, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Social Video, and Interactive Documentary. For an early look, see the Legacy Award winners announced last month.

I am simultaneously joining Peabody’s Interactive Board of Jurors (scroll to bottom).

For me, this is a chance to help close the recognition gap between fields like documentary and journalism and emerging forms with games, AR/VR, and more. I have deep respect for the deliberative process that Peabody Awards brings to their judging, and have really loved the conversations so far with leading creatives and experts. In many ways, this is a bold experiment for Peabody Awards, and I can’t wait to see where we can take it.

Bringing my Playful Cities class to the new KID Museum (storytelling boxes and more)

An example of the fun we’re having…

My class on “Playful Cities” and interactive storytelling traveled this week to a new museum to pitch their projects as potential exhibitions.

Specifically, the students brought their demonstrations to the enormous “KID Museum” that is opening next month in Bethesda on makerspace themes.

Our students created three different “storytelling boxes” and demos with branching stories and educational games, including with RFID and arcade buttons.

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“Playful Making with Urban Furniture” (a talk with the Dept. of Ed)

I will be giving a talk for policy makers in education, economic development, and civic games on January 10, 2020. Hosted by the US Department of Education, this convening is part of the larger ED Games Expo at Building Momentum in Alexandria, VA.

RSVP here (Eventbrite).

This talk brings together some of our research in the Playful City Lab on cities using games with urban furniture (like interactive benches, re-purposed payphones, and interactive fountains), and redirecting the momentum of large commercial games like Pokemon GO (e.g., our research on San Jose) to advance local culture and economic development.

Presenting at Connected Learning Summit (UC Irvine, CA)

Our showcase talk will be on: “Neighborhood Circulation of Civic Stories: A Trans-Local Platform(co-authors: Benjamin Stokes, Olivia Williams, and Hazel Arroyo). This is a design talk, scheduled for 2 pm on Oct. 4, 2019, as part a panel on “Locative Media and Community Engagement.”

The Connected Learning Summit alternates between MIT and UC Irvine, and represents a merger between three community events with this shared vision and values: the Digital Media and Learning Conference, the Games+Learning+Society Conference, and Sandbox Summit.

Visual for our talk:

Abstract for our talk:

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Video: Embedding Games for Physical Space (G4C talk)

Earlier this year I gave a talk at Games for Change on “Embedding for maker games.” The idea was to reveal the creativity that comes from looking beyond our obsession with apps and tiny mobile screens. Instead, we should be dreaming with the right infrastructure for play, from bus stops to public screens… and we can democratize design by aligning game creation with the maker movement.

Original description (June 18, 2019):
In cities and neighborhoods, a new kind of game design is emerging. The digital and physical are coming together, from hybrid playgrounds to embedded screens at bus stops. Games were not the original goal. But as millions of youth learn to program Raspberry Pis ($50 each), and escape rooms can be created with DIY (Do-It-Yourself) kits, the movement is growing – and without headsets. In this provocation, you’ll hear how the future of mixed reality does NOT use consumer devices – but rather is embedded in public space and physical objects, strengthening neighborhoods from Mexico City to Los Angeles.

Presenting at DiGRA in Japan

I will be giving two talks in Kyoto for DiGRA 2019 (the Digital Games Research Association):

(1) “Localism with Games: Horizontal Channels and Models” (9am, Aug. 8)

Should all cultures play the same games? Should all cities? This paper establishes a distinct conceptual basis for games in cities by aligning with localism as a social movement rather than location-based technology. For details, see my upcoming book: Locally Played: Real-world Games for Stronger Places and Communities (MIT Press, January 2020).

(2) “Cities appropriate Pokémon GO: remix models for local needs.” (2:20pm, Aug. 8)

A new role for local government is emerging to appropriate and remix games for city streets. This study investigates how several major cities in the United States created entirely new activities for players to embed the game in city-specific events, beginning in 2017. This study identifies early trade-offs in city tactics, especially in terms of sharing power to negotiate the content layer with the game company and with local residents, borrowing from models of the appropriation of technology. For details, see our public report, “Cities Remix a Playful Platform: Prominent Experiments to Embed Pokémon GO, from Open Streets to Neighborhood Libraries” (Stokes, Dols, and Hill, 2018).

Game Design and the Constitution (at the National Archives)

I will be moderating a conversation at the National Archives on “Game Design and the Constitution” this Thursday, September 6th, at 7pm.

The event will feature game designer Luke Peterschmidt and historian Denver Brunsman, as we explore how the science of game design might be applied to analyze the Constitution and our political system. Welcoming remarks will come from The Honorable David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States.

A live stream is available for those beyond DC.

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New report: Cities remix a playful platform

report cover thumbnail: cities remix a playful platformAfter a year of work, I am thrilled to release our report on cities and games. The focus is on five major cities, and how we can build a sense of place by remixing large Augmented Reality platforms like Pokémon GO.  One finding: cities often need to remix the game to align it, including with paper and embedded treasure hunts, and within EXISTING campaigns — like open streets and library walking tours.

Details and pictures are at playfulcity.net/go/pokemon-report/ or see more on the major cities covered.

Any advice on continuing the public conversation, including with city innovators? For example, we wrote “5 provocations” to help read the report: https://playfulcity.net/go/pokemon-go/future-of-cities-5-provocations/

Our full press release with the Knight Foundation and Niantic follows…

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Two papers for European conferences

Here are two papers we are presenting this month:

(1) June 22nd in Madeira, Portugal at the “Playable Cities” workshop in the INTETAIN conference, we will be presenting a paper on “Placemaking across Platforms: Playing to Circulate Stories in the Smart City” by Benjamin Stokes, Karl Baumann, and François Bar.

ABSTRACT: Urban placemaking can deepen the sense of place, including with novel technologies. Placemaking seeks to revitalize public spaces, attract investment, and rally stakeholders. How can play help to position residents as storytellers and circulators of key images tied to local history? This study shows how play can leverage smart city technologies, including urban furniture and rebuilt payphones. Game mechanics were selected to gather crowds at local monuments, generate pictures of the group tied to local mythology, and automatically circulate images online. In contrast to “app” based approaches, the design facilitated cross-platform “spread” for local storytelling. The study shows how placemaking can benefit from physical objects and hybrid interfaces to facilitate the circulation of local placemaking narratives.

(2) June 30th in Troyes, France at the biennial Communities and Technologies (C&T) conference, our paper is: “Infrastructures of the Imagination: Community Design for Speculative Urban Technologies” by Karl Baumann, Benjamin Stokes, François Bar and Ben Caldwell.

ABSTRACT: Recent speculative and critical design practices may critique the dominant socio-cultural assumptions of technologies, but often lack diversity and participatory input outside the privileged realm of academic and professional designers. This paper investigates the process and potential of designing speculative futures with local communities, in order to collectively imagine technology that serves a common good and reinforces local identity. This study reflects on the “Sankofa City” project, a three-month community-university collaboration based in a historically black neighborhood in South Los Angeles. The project utilized design fiction scenario videos and collages to present provocative design concepts to local stakeholder meetings and the general public. This paper analyzes the methodology and outcomes of co-designing emerging technologies (such as augmented reality and self-driving cars) in order to establish “infrastructures of the imagination” for long-term strategies and alternative cultural models of innovation.

Two papers at ICA

Here is where you can catch me at ICA this year.  (ICA is the big communication conference, this year in San Diego, CA in late May.)

  • Placemaking with games — Monday, May 29th at 5pm.  Our paper is: “Creative placemaking for neighborhoods: Positioning a game to circulate stories” (see ResearchGate for preview), with Karl Baumann, Francois Bar, and Ben Caldwell.  In the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, 4, Sapphire 400B.
  • Positioning a physical “diversity storytelling system” within a community — Friday, May 26 from 8-9:15am. With co-researchers Samantha Dols and Kara Andrade. Official title: “Here we listen: Positioning a hybrid ‘listening station’ to circulate marginalized voices across physical and digital channels in a neighborhood.” In Hilton San Diego Bayfront, 2, Indigo Ballroom C.

Hope to see you there!