City Residents as Videogame Characters in Smart Urban Environments

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In this chapter, we argue that residents in future smart cities will have a role that can be compared with that of non-player characters in videogames. They can play, but their play is supervised, there is no free play, there is no spontaneous play, and there will be a McDonaldization and Googlization of play all over the smart world. This view is contrary to the notion that smart technology and citizens’ access to such technology will allow them to reconfigure their urban environments to make them playful. We will illustrate this view with some current examples of control, management, and privatization of urban environments. These examples clearly show that future smart city citizens will not be allowed to use this technology in creative, collaborative, and competitive play; instead, their play will be controlled by smart technology. Will urban operating systems really differ from the engines that control videogame environments? Do we play smart environments, or do these environments play us? Artists and urban activists have commented on these developments with playful yet critical activities and art.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMaking Smart Cities More Playable
Subtitle of host publicationExploring Playable Cities
EditorsAnton Nijholt
Place of PublicationSingapore
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-13-9765-3
ISBN (Print)978-981-13-9764-6
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2019

Publication series

NameGaming Media and Social Effects
ISSN (Print)2197-9685
ISSN (Electronic)2197-9693


  • Playable cities
  • Smart cities
  • Urban games
  • Citizen monitoring
  • Face recognition
  • Privatization
  • Subversive games
  • Narrative systems

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