Game Research Special Interest Group: Playful Cities

Towards playful urban futuring

Motivation and Impact

Under the label of “playful city” an emerging interdisciplinary field is currently addressing playful citizen creativity and engagement in future city policies. Various UU researchers currently work on these issues and wish to consolidate their efforts. On May 1 2019, a delegation from different UU departments met to discuss shared interests and collaborations. We unanimously agreed that collaboration thrives around tangible activities and outcomes. Our proposal makes this concrete by focussing on the theme of “playful urban futuring”.

As our planet is rapidly urbanizing, “smart city” visions gain considerable traction. In the wake of “creative city” policies, smart city agendas aim to improve services and livability through ICTs and supporting infrastructures. A key challenge in those visions and policies is how to involve people living in these cities in meaningful ways in co-shaping the future of their city. To address this, the notion of a “playful city” has been proposed as a research and design agenda aiming to deploy play and games to harness citizen creativity in city-making (similar terms include “playable city”, “gameful city”, “ludic city”). The SIG The Playful City promotes a people-centric view of the smart city in which citizens themselves learn, negotiate and create innovations through play and games. As Maarten Hajer (Urban Futures Studio) argues, shaping our urban future is a challenge of the imagination rather than a technological challenge. To be serious about our planetary urban future, we need imaginative gameful tools and playful interventions for “playful urban futuring”. How can games and play be used to foster a smarter civic engagement towards a resilient urban future? How can we design gameful tools and playful interventions to accomplish this, and how can we stage these in such a way that they effectively invite participation?


  • Co-organizing the Media Architecture Biennale in November 2020, themed “Futures Implied”. 
    In Fall 2020, the large international event MAB20 ( is organized in Amsterdam and Utrecht. As MAB20 co-organizer, this SIG contributes by exploring how play and games may serve as methods for futuring: imagining and experiencing possible alternative trajectories. 
  • Joint publication on Playful Urban Futuring
    The SIG aims to compile an Open Access publication, to appear after the MAB20 event (est. 2021/2022). This deliverable could also involve a public dissemination activity, e.g. a lab for stakeholders.

Team members

  • Michiel de Lange [urban interfaces] research group, dep. of Media & Culture Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
  • Joske Houtkamp Department of Information and Computing Sciences, Faculty of Science.
  • Astrid Mangnus Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Faculty of Geosciences.
  • Peter Pelzer Dep. Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Fac. Geosciences; Urban Futures Studio.
  • Sigrid Merx [urban interfaces] research group, dep. Media & Culture Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
  • Nanna Verhoeff [urban interfaces] research group, dep. Media & Culture Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
  • Remco Veltkamp, Department of Information and Computing Sciences, Faculty of Science



The following projects at the Center for Game Research are related to this special interest group.