Familiar Places New Spaces

The ubiquity of mobile devices has allowed digital technology to enter the physical, urban space through a process known as augmented, or mediated reality. This has opened new possibilities for exploring both physical and digital spaces, and has been particularly influential in the world of gaming, with online players using city streets as their game board (De Souza e Silva, A & Sutko D. M. 2009 p1).

Mobile apps allow users to experience a place through multiple cartographies with the geographical space overlaid with technological, emotional and social layers allowing users to experience space in new ways (Hjorth, L. 2011 p357).

When this technology is used for location-based games it offers ways of exploring an urban environment that has drawn parallels with Baudelaire’s flâneur and the dérive of Situationist Internationalism of previous centuries, and with practitioners of parkour today (De Souza e Silva, A & Sutko D. M. 2009 p7). Blast Theory’s Uncle Roy All Around You (2003) is an early example of a game that is played out on the city’s streets by combining a physical and digital presence.


The digital and physical aspects of Uncle Roy All Around You

Urban mobile gaming also allows players to challenge accepted conventions; the South Korean DotPlay project involved workshops and community collaboration to use hacktivist and subversive techniques – reminiscent of that of the dérive – to produce a ‘politically correct and culturally free service’. (Hjorth, L. 2011 p365).

The location-based app CitySneak (BoomBox Games, 2005) challenged players to navigate an urban space while avoiding CCTV cameras. Players were given the location of cameras to be avoided and alerted on their mobile if they strayed into view – the aim was to follow ‘path of least surveillance’ (Brincken, J. Von & Konietzny , H. Ed. 2012).

As well as the playful element, CitySneak asked players to question issues of surveillance by making them aware of something that is usually hidden (De Souza e Silva, A & Sutko D. M. 2009 p209). Both DotPlay and City Sneak show how gaming can be used to provide a critique of power relationships and social control, raising the possibility of a new power-dynamic described by Deleuze (1992) as ‘The Societies of Control’ and a move away from the centralised panoptican to an all-pervading network of control.


Blast Theory. (2003). Uncle Roy All Around You. Available at: http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/uncle-roy-all-around-you/ [accessed 17 April 2016].

Brincken, J. Von & Konietzny , H. Ed. (2012) Emotional Gaming, p253. Epodium

De Souza e Silva, A & Sutko D. M. (2009). Digital Cityscapes: Merging Digital and Urban Playscapes, pp1,7 and 209. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

Deleuze, G. (1992) Societies of Control. Available at: https://cidadeinseguranca.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/deleuze_control.pdf [accessed 17 April 2016].

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