Playful Public Participation in Urban Planning: A Case Study for Online Serious Games

Computers, Environment and Urban SystemsComputers, Environment and Urban Systems, Volume 36, Issue 3, May 2012, Pages 195–206

Alenka Poplin


  • We present the concept of play and games in urban planning.
  • The study case concentrates on the design of an online serious game.
  • The implemented game was tested with the help of students and external experts.
  • We summarize the positive and critical aspects of the implemented game.

“The aim of this paper is to study the implementation of online games to encourage public participation in urban planning. Its theoretical foundations are based on previous work in public participatory geographical information systems (PP GISs), play and games, with a special focus on serious games. Serious games aim to support learning processes in a new, more playful way. We developed the concept of playful public participation in urban planning, including playful elements such as storytelling, walking and moving, sketching, drawing, and games. A group of students designed an online serious public participatory game entitled NextCampus. The case study used in NextCampus was taken from the real-world question of a possible move of a university campus to a new location in the city of Hamburg, Germany. The development of the serious public participatory game NextCampus resulted in a physical prototype, user interface design, and a computational model of the game. The NextCampus game was tested with the help of two groups of urban planning students and presented to three external experts who provided valuable recommendations for further development. The critical comments questioned the level of complexity involved in such games. The positive comments included recognition of the potential for joy and the playfulness a game like NextCampus could evoke.”