MDB Insight Blog

Is your city playable?

All over the world, governments and tech companies are investing in smart systems for cities. By using networks and sensors to connect services they are collecting data to drive efficiency. But is this trend making our cities less human? A group of creative minds out of Bristol, UK, have found that this data-marked world lacks the human elements that make spaces more liveable and open.

Enter the Playable City – a framework that the Bristol community has embraced to generate a social dialogue by creating shared experiences through play. During the past year in Bristol, you could have plunged down a 300ft water slide on one of the city’s main shopping streets, had a text message conversation with a lamppost, let your children play outside during a temporary street closure, or played a zombie chase game around the city centre. The people behind these and similar projects believe they add up to much more than just a good laugh. This month, many of them are meeting for a conference at Bristol’s Watershed on Making the City Playable.

The Playable City movement can be seen as a creative response to the "coldness and anonymity" of urban environments. Cities are competing fiercely for residents – not just young professionals, but also families of all income‑levels who breathe energy and enterprise into neighbourhoods. Becoming more attractive and welcoming through play could prove to be an important competitive advantage for cities.

So how do you create a playable city? Ideas42 along with KaBOOM! – both behavioural research firms – explain how your community can achieve minimal “play” requirements through an easy to implement decision making process explained in their guide, Using Behavioral Economics to Create Playable Cities.

Returning to Bristol, a Playable City award program has been in place for the past two years. Check out this year’s finalists for some inspiration and to find out how Bristol’s creative talent is being used to make the city playable

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