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].

Urban Gaming – The Future of Saturday Night TV?


Urban gaming has direct parallels and connections with the genre traditions of  ‘live’ entertainment shows on mainstream television. This quote from the Blast Theory website  about their urban game ‘I’d Hide You’, could be the strap line for a new prime time Saturday night television gameshow.

‘An online game of stealth and cunning and adventure. Jump onboard with a team of illuminated runners live from the streets as they roam the city trying to film each other’. http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/projects/id-hide-you/http:/

Television broadcasters are always hungry for new forms programme making, new ways of creating content. Could this new form of live, interactive entertainment possibly be part of our Saturday television schedule in the future ?

Hjorth talks about how a  a ‘key feature of Big Games is the way in which the game space interrupts the flows of everyday urban life. Colour, spectacle, and movement come together in Big Games within the urban environment’ (Hjoth 2011: pg 361). Urban gaming as reality television takes on the guise of ‘spectacle’ particularly in the case of ‘I’d Hide You’. In the video for the game the participants were broadcast ‘live’ roaming around Manchester city centre, interacting with the public, with a real sense that ‘anything can happen’. This sense of potentially edgy or dangerous reality unfolding did happen at the end of the video when the sounds can be heard of a possible drunken altercation on the street. Even the title of ‘Big Games’ conjures up a form of gladitorial type of entertainment, as well illustrating the often large geographical space of urban gaming.


It is no surprise that this interconnection of urban gaming with ‘live television’ has been noticed by television broadcasters. It is interesting to note that the BBC were one of the funding partners for the project .This combining of the ‘physical with the virtual ‘– (De Souza, 2009: pg 4) could be a new element of our broadcast television Saturday night entertainment. A new approach to programme making  which explores and challenges ‘conventions and routines that shape the cityscape’ (Hjorth 2011:  pg 358).

De Souza e Silva, A, and D. M. Sutko, eds. (2009) Digital Cityscapes: Merging Digital and Urban Playscapes. New York: Peter Lang: 1-17

Hjorth, L. (2011). Mobile@game cultures: The place of urban mobile gaming. Convergence, 17(4), 357-371.

BBC Charter 2015. Available at: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/reports/pdf/futureofthebbc2015.pdf

Blast Theory. Available at: http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/