Two Videos and a Point About The Science of Place


The subject of place has a tendency to wander off into positivist places where quantification rules and science seems to tell us how people behave and how we should design places.

The world of videogames staggers toward this abyss as well, with review scores and all manner of measurement suggesting that game design could benefit from some more formal science of fun.

And then we find this video:

Crowded Pool

And this one:

Fake Pool

What these two places have in common, other than the subject of “swimming pool.”, is that they are both completely wrapped around the idea of fun and defy a rational explanation.Why would so many people pack into the same wave pool? What would someone build a purposely realistic, but fake, pool?


Wacky Dubai — Summoning the Future


If you study videogames and architecture, a common response when people ask what you research is:

“Oh, really?”

I think that’s about to change.

Designboom has posted a fascinating, well, let’s be honest, completely insane, look at proposed buildings in Dubai

dubai architecture: new buildings in the united arab emirates

Taking ‘The Cloud’ as an example, this “speculative design” for a resort that floats on massive struts 300 meters above the ground sounds like something Archigram might have concoted. But placed against the actual buildings under construction or in development ( The Burj Dubai and Hadid’s Dancing Towers come to mind), something as improbably as The Cloud seems a plausible reality.

What does architecture have to do with videogames? If videogame designers don’t get busy, soon the built environment will provide more exotic, fanciful and playful places than those fictional worlds inside the computer.

Strange, but true.

Reality is Broken and the Tyranny of Fun


During her “Reality is Broken” GDC Rant games researcher and creator Jane McGonigal made a funny, poetic and passionate plea for game designers to do nothing less than change the world.

The nut of her argument was that game designers are in the business of making people happy and they’ve gotten quite good at it over the years. So, why put limits on this magical art at the boundaries of the game board or box? Why not use these skills to make the mundane, painful and sad exciting, safe and wonderful?

The premise seems so self-evidently positive that I think the four or five hundred people in audience in were a bit taken aback by the question posed by game developer and deep thinker Jonathan Blow.

What Blow wanted to know is this: McGonigal offered lots of examples and ideas of how game design could make the world a better, and more fun place. One example dealt with getting players wired up to something like the Nike+ running system, so that lumpy WOW players could level up their characters by running around the neighborhood. Tah dah! Exercise plus making the grind fun again. (McGonigal actually has been playing around with games using her own running).

Blow wondered if this was really such a good idea. Did we want to make something as natural and simple as running into something burdened with context and rules and conceptual overhead? He countered with the “game” of frequent flier miles. Where once you could simply take a flight, now you have to barter, negotiate, scheme and plan to optimize, not just travel schedules, but frequent flier mile accumulation and distribution.

I don’t think Blow was satisfied with McGonigal’s answer that good and smart and kind game developers simply would not design ugly, nasty and no-fun systems like the frequent flier mile example.

For me, this also raised another issue: Is there such a thing as too much fun? Should we be making our homes, and schools and bus stops and office spaces more fun, more enjoyable, more playful?

I don’t have an answer to that one, anymore than there is a ready answer to the question, “Does turning our lives into games make them more complicated than just letting them be a little boring a lot of the time?”

Here, I’d just like to point out the connection of questions and suggest that before we go about turning the planet into a fun house, might want to consider the consequences. After all, wasn’t that what concerned Guy Debord in The Society of the Spectacle?

Let the Good Links Roll


Sure, the Internet is a quagmire of misinformation, confusion and outright lies. Sort of like one’s mind. That’s where comes in for me. I use this bookmarking utility all the time to sift and sort the endless stream of interesting junk that floats through my browser.

Now, I’ve gotten around to adding a link roll to the site. Be sure to check it out on the right hand column to view my most recent excavations relevant to my interests around environmental design and videogames.

Hearing Spaces


I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while. In the world of virtual design and virtual environments we have recapitulated some bad habits from the history of architecture around giving primacy to the image. Our environements are about a lot more than what we can see, as a new book makes clear:

Spaces Speak, Are You Listening: book overview

The audible attributes of physical space have always contributed to the fabric of human culture, as demonstrated by prehistoric multimedia cave paintings, classical Greek open-air theaters, Gothic cathedrals, acoustic geography of French villages, modern music reproduction, and virtual spaces in home theaters. Auditory spatial awareness is a prism that reveals a culture’s attitudes toward hearing and space. Some listeners can learn to “see” objects with their ears, but even without training, we can all hear spatial geometry such as an open door or low ceiling.

I haven’t read the book, but I look forward to checking it out!

(Also, check out the book’s site at:

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