Kars Alfrink presented at Raum Schiff Erde in February 2010.His talk on Transmutation is now online.
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.