[ISEA2011] Paper: Iouliani A. Theona & Dimitris Charitos – Playing with the city


Pschychogeographers proposed drifting as a method of urban exploration. The flâneur experiences the city through a detached observation. Respectively, skaters and traceurs, contest spatial constrains and try to overcome obstacles, thus utilising, the built environment in a more physical way. Recently, pervasive games have taken ludic action into the streets yet again, invading the urban realm and claiming the city as their playground. Analysing the nature of the spatial experience of a pervasive game participant, is the main goal of the paper.

Pervasive games constitute a distinguishable category, their main characteristic being that of blurring the magic circle. In a pervasive game the participant can play with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Focusing on the spatial expansion, these games can be staged in prepared locations, or can unfold within any place, in the real world. Moreover, they can generate a mixed reality by infusing digital content in certain locations, thus augmenting physical space. The player can participate while on the move, or in many cases can be asked to move, so as to play. Pervasive games most often rely on the use of locative media and while location, proximity and spatial distance are of primary importance, it is not uncommon for such a game to occur in different cities or countries concurrently, undertaking a global scale. All these properties determine -to an extend- the spatial experience afforded to participants.

The paper regards pervasive games as a means of urban re-discovery and spatial exploration. Approaching the built environment through such a playful context can lead to revealing appropriations, changing of perception and destabilisation of spatial preconceptions. The player can make use of the architecture and the technological infrastructure of the city in original, unforeseen ways. She can play with the city itself. The paper seeks to categorise pervasive games in terms of their spatial characteristics, the manners in which they incorporate the urban landscape into their design and the forms of interaction with the built environment that the players engage in. By referring to a series of relevant examples, the paper aims at investigating how such playful activity transforms and enriches spatial experience.

  • Iouliani A. Theona is an Architect Engineer, having graduated from the School of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. She has also been awarded a Master’s degree at the field of “Architectural Design–Space–Culture” from the School of Architecture of the National and Technical University of Athens and a Master’s degree in “Digital Communication Media and Interactive Environments,” at the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, where she also collaborates as a researcher. Since 2009, she is a PhD candidate in the School of Architecture of the National and Technical University of Athens and her doctoral thesis is titled “The spatial experience of pervasive games: Researching new potentials of architectural practise.” Her research interests include pervasive games, locative media and hybrid spatial experiences.
  • Dimitris Charitos is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.  He has studied architectural design (National Technical University of Athens, 1990), computer aided design (University of Strathclyde, 1993) and was awarded a PhD on interactive design and virtual environments (University of Strathclyde, 1998). He has taught at an undergraduate and postgraduate level since 1994 in Scotland and Greece in 4 different Departments (Information Technology, Architecture, Communication and Media Studies). He has coordinated or worked as a researcher in more than 12 research projects funded by Greek or European funding bodies since 1994 on areas such as: interactive design, virtual environment design, locative media, interactive art, environmental behaviour. He was awarded the Human Capital and Mobility (1994-1996) and the Marie Curie (1997-1998) fellowships. He has authored or co-authored more than 70 publications in books, journals or conference proceedings. His artistic work involves electronic music, audiovisual, interactive, site-specific installations and virtual environments.

Full text (PDF) p. 2359-2361