The talk’s title refers to alchemists’ quest to turn lead into gold, which sometimes feels similar to what we’re trying to do with pervasive games in public urban places.1 To summarize: I start by talking about the fact that games are essentially useless, and that this means applied game design should look for useful results in second order effects. I argue that the contribution of urban games lies primarily in the increased diversity of use of our streets, which is a good thing in itself. I talk about the care designers need to take with the games they deploy, since not everyone is looking to play and we should respect that. Playing games is a voluntary thing by definition. Towards the end I go into different strategies for using games to increase systemic awareness using several games as examples. I wrap up with a look at reward systems we commonly find in games like Foursquare, which now serves as templates for a lot of work in this area. I feel that this leads people away from what game design is about in the first place: creating interesting activities.
For a presentation I gave last week on the origin of patterns I found a quite condensed version of Christopher Alexander’s latest book “The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe”. The abridged version “Elements of Style” was featured by Wired in December 2003.
You can find my version in English and German at Slideshare.net:
(Let me know if anyone has high resolution images. Mine are a bit jagged.)