perjantai 12. heinäkuuta 2013

Games in Planning? Pop-up Pest - an Experiment to Promote Children’s Participation in Urban Planning

 Eszter Tóth

Why develop games for participatory planning? Since the 1970s the game concept has been used in the planning practice, in the form of role games (Simpolis, C. Abt, 1970), urban games (The Big Urban Game, Design Institute of the University of Minnesota, 2003), digital games (B3, HafenCity University Hamburg and Florida Atlantic University) or even board games (Stadtspieler, Netzwerk Agens e.V., 2009). Games provide playful and engaging environments and thus they can motivate and encourage the players with different backgrounds, particularly under-represented social groups, such as children and adolescents. I am especially interested in the question whether cooperative games are appropriate tools to raise the interest and motivation of children and youth in participatory processes and if they can foster learning about the built environment. By developing the game Pop-up Pest presented in this article, I was looking for an answer to this question.

Pop-up Pest has been developed as a part of a PhD research at the HafenCity University Hamburg (supervisor: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Alenka Poplin) and supported by kultúrAktív Association. Designing the game, our primarily aim was to implement a cooperative game for children and youth, that promotes active engagement in urban planning and facilitates learning about the living environment, as well as contemporary urban phenomena and concepts. The aim of the game is to make Budapest more liveable by means of small interventions, which are suggested changes in the game environment: the game Pop-up Pest consists of a 25 m² large playing area where players can move and change its appearance by placing building blocks on the playground. It represents the 6th and 7th districts of downtown Budapest. Main traffic routes and nodes, green spaces and cultural institutions are marked on the playground. Building blocks symbolizes urban interventions, like contributing in a community garden, placing bicycle stands, creating public art works, etc. Information cards regulate the players’ activities and contain short informative explications and descriptions of related examples on interventions in the chosen districts.

Besides the transfer of knowledge, the game design supports the development of skills and competences regarding the use and the co-creation of urban space. These skills include communication skills, social and civic competences including cooperativeness and empathy towards others, and all forms of interpersonal competences and behaviours that enable to participate constructively and effectively in social and spatial issues. Thus, we implemented the concept of cooperate learning in the gameplay which fosters collaboration among the players and reduces the importance of competitiveness among them. Players are divided into three groups of four, which are striving to enhance urban traffic, to establish more green spaces in the city and to initiate a variety of cultural activities. Every player has an individual mission that has to be fulfilled on order to achieve the common group aim and succeed in the game.

The pilot-version of the Pop-up Pest game was presented and tested in September 2012 at two open air festivals (with a total of 167 players), as well as two school classes and a group of university students. In summary, after the evaluation we can say that the players liked the format of the game, they got interested in the content (however, for different age groups different content units were relevant: while for younger children the interventions themselves seemed to be interesting, adolescents and young adults preferred to read the information cards) and they especially liked to work in a team. However, the possibilities for cooperation were limited and the intensity of collaboration between players changed from team to team. Based on the results of the evaluation we are going to develop the game further starting in autumn 2013. Pupils from local secondary schools are going to be involved in the development process, as well as in the game testings. The game will be played in primary and secondary schools (7th to 11th grade) in Pécs, Hungary.

The writer is an engaged activist in built environment education and a PhD student in urban studies at the HafenCity University in Hamburg, Currently she is doing research on the field of children’s participation in urban planning.

The project was funded by the Hungarian Ministry of National Resources, the National Institute for Family and Social Affairs, and the Kunsthalle Budapest.

Suomenkielinen tiivistelmä

Pelejä on 1970-luvulta saakka kehitetty osallistumisen avuksi kaupunkisuunnitteluun. Eszter Tóthin tutkimuksessa on suunniteltu osallistumista edistävä lautapeli Pop-up Pest, jonka avulla pyritään selvittämään, ovatko pelit hyviä välineitä herättämään lasten ja nuorten kiinnostus ja motivaatio osallistumista kohtaan sekä opettamaan uutta rakennetusta ympäristöstä. Pelilauta esittää osaa Budapestin kaupungista, ja laudalla joukkueet pyrkivät edistämään heille asetettuja tavoitteita, kuten liikenteen parantamista tai viheralueiden lisäämistä. Pelin kehittäminen jatkuu testauksessa havaittujen kehityskohteiden pohjalta syksyllä 2013.

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