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Urban game designers seek new ideas for engaging people with public space

From giant Tetris games on buildings to app-controlled fountains

By now, we’ve all read about how Pokémon Go is getting people out and about and connecting with their neighborhoods. But the wildly popular mobile game is just one of the latest examples of a growing trend: urban gamification.

For example, on Thursdays, Tel Aviv’s City Hall hosts a giant game of Tetris. And in London, the fountains at Granary Square can be turned into a damp game of Snake. Way back in 2004, Manhattan also became the site of a giant Pac-Man game.

While many of these gamified events and installations are intended to promote initiatives like Tel Aviv’s Innovation Festival or the London Games Festival, others are just plain fun.

Beyond sheer amusement, these projects break the script of normal city life, encouraging participants and passersby to see their urban environments in new ways. It also fosters interactions between people who might otherwise ignore one another as they passed on the sidewalk. Improv Everywhere’s annual MP3 Experiments—see the video below—regularly draw thousands of participants into wildly wacky scenarios.

“Playing is a thing that we usually do in places that feel like they’re ours – like we’re safe there,” urban game designer Holly Gramazio tells the Guardian. “Having that happen in a city, where people are wandering through, can make me as a player feel more at home.” Get the full story here.