City Gaming Method

As master planning falls out of favor, city makers are calling for more effective and collaborative methods. We consult governments and companies through our ‘city-gaming’ method.


A game is a model, a simplified version of reality. Using this allows complex issues to be made accessible to a larger number of people; both experts and non-experts. Our Games accelerate consensus amongst multiple stakeholders, support informed decision making, and resolve conflicts. Stakeholders have fun and engage in the process genuinely. We tailor our collaborative method according to each specific case. Here is how we apply the city-gaming method to advanced urban questions:


1. Define the Game Challenge

Starting with the right question will help you to focus game constraints and gear collaborations towards producing meaningful outcomes. If your challenge concerns a multiplayer, multidisciplinary and unpredictable process, it will be worth- while designing a city game. All Play the City games are about a real life challenge. Before making any intellectual or material investment, important criteria to check include the familiarity of the game challenge, and consequently, the potential for this challenge to be scaled up.


STEP 2. Engage Your Stakeholder Network

Research which specific stake- holders need to be engaged in, and by, the game. Games produce more impactful outcomes when stakeholders are arranged in dynamic and mixed networks with non-linear relations, as opposed to top-down or bottom-up binaries. A well-developed map of the stakeholder network (individual and organizational; and representatives for nature and future generations) becomes the basis for your rules of play in step 5.


STEP 3. Identify Relevant Data

Accumulate GIS information and translate this into a physical map. Design physical props to represent the collected data, creating a tangible and interactive method for visualizing information. This helps to activate the players involved. Provide environments that simplify data down to a common language. Design your game system flexibly to include real- time updates and modifications. Multiple game sessions enable you to incorporate learned knowledge from previous sessions into your ‘maturing’ game.


STEP 4. Identify Available Resources

Use collected data to define relevant resources for the game. Resources should match the particular private parties or aspects of the commons that are important for defining stakeholder agency and their respective action capacities. Man-made resources, such as available financial investments, are represented through game money, while human resources are represented through stakeholder role cards that mandate particular actions from stakeholders.


STEP 5. Design Game Rules and Conditions

Rules define the boundaries of each player’s behavior in relation to one another. Stakeholder role cards define the possible actions of each individual player, creating the ‘rules’ governing an individual’s actions in the game. Collective rules include: sequence, respect, priority and marketplace, maintaining structure in the game without inhibiting collaboration. Conditions determine which facts constrain each player’s actions and behavior.


STEP 6. Build the Game Interface

Building the interface requires integrating all of your stakeholders, data, resources and rules and conditions into one game space: a game room. This will enable creating tangible and interactive representations of challenges that can be reconfigured multiple times, enabling human interaction and collaboration. The format of your game is dependent on the type of outcomes anticipated from it, and should be geared towards encouraging interaction between stakeholders.


STEP 7. Play and Record Game Sessions

To achieve longer-term goals and impact, we advise embed- ding the game into both the planning and implementation process that your game concerns. By nature, games are process-based, and therefore, much of their value derives from generating process related outcomes, identifying shared interests, and increasing interaction among stakeholders. Video recording all game sessions with steady and dynamic cameras helps to identify key moments in a game where a player’s move influences the game’s trajectory or flow.