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In this webinar, speakers will address the relation between urban space and play in various ways. What do actual cities do with games? But also what do digital games do with urban space? Our first speaker, Sjors Martens, will address the role that games play in urban spaces. Games have been used for a variety of functions in cities, aside from entertainment, such as placemaking, education, and collaborative planning. Sometimes these functions present an imposed mode of play that does not mix with the structured but also appropriative activities of the player. Martens will introduce a prevaluative method of the ‘city-game fit’ that explores the afforded modes of play in urban games and links these to their projected city models. This method strives for more realistic and player-centric tampering of what is still (bountifully) possible with urban games. Our second speaker, Toni Pape, will address how one engages with urban space in digital games. Specifically, Pape will study the dystopian ‘smart city’ of Watch Dogs: Legion to elaborate how this game articulates an efficient resistance to the digital surveillance infrastructure through its gameplay. Pape’s contribution will show that Watch Dogs: Legion proposes a gameplay aesthetic of technostealth which relies on networks of distributed agency that allow for resistance under the perceptual threshold of digital devices. The urban space of the smart city must be experienced as a digital interface.

Event details of Urban Play: Games in the City and the City in Games
Date 7 May 2021
Time 16:00 -17:00


Thijs Jeursen, University of Utrecht. 


Sjors Martens is a PhD Candidate at Utrecht University, in both the department of Media and Culture Studies and Computer Science. In his research, he looks at the problems plaguing the use of urban games when addressing city issues. He graduated from Media and Performance Studies at Utrecht University after graduating from Television, Film and Theatre Studies at Utrecht University. During his research masters, he studied game design at the IT University in Copenhagen. His main research interests lie with game design, urban planning, and the significations of cities. His main research objects are therefore videogames, cities, and theme parks. Besides this, he works as a game advisor and reporter for the urban game company Play the City which uses games as a means to provide inhabitants of attention neighborhoods of contacts and resources. He also served as PhD Representative for the research school RMeS.

T. (Toni) Pape

Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam

Toni Pape is a teacher and researcher at the Department of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. His book Figures of Time: Affect and the Television of Preemption came out with Duke UP in 2019. Toni’s current book project is called The Aesthetics of Stealth and looks at video games, television, and video art.