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Play Your Place is an online game for anyone to draw and play their future town!  

This project by artists Ruth Catlow, Furtherfield (UK) and Mary Flanagan, Tiltfactor (US) is planned as a series of Play Your Place games.

People create their own game level, by making a drawing of place in the town. Then they think about how it could be changed for the better. They devise their own rules, drawing obstacles and rewards; building and sharing game level after level for an epic play session.

Planners say that the most interesting challenge of public consultation and deliberation about the future of a place, is to encourage people to think beyond their own individual needs/wants to the common good. Play Your Place platform games, draws on open participatory techniques (used by artists and engineers) to develop a collective vision of place created by its communities that can then be entered and played by people all over the world.

The open source game framework is published on git hub to be shared with other community based art projects. Play Your Place combines two strategies for “forming the world” that connect particularly with young people: drawing and gaming.

This project has developed out of conversations with people at a local level including those working with planning and regeneration. We want the game to reveal what people value in their communities especially when they are asked to think about the future. Planners also tell us that their work is seen by others as dull and bureaucratic. At the same time it is often hard for people to know where the important decisions are made that effect the places we live. We think this project could inform long term civic and urban planning.

A Place as a Platform Game

The game takes the familiar platform game format of Little Big Planet or the older classic arcade Donkey Kong and can be played on-line on the web, on mobile phones, in settings through schools and homes, as well as played publicly in areas in town equipped for large scale video spectacle.

Players take on challenges as they would in a typical platform game such as obstacles, leaps, drops, prizes and enemies. To play, they must run, jump and dodge objects and enemies. Crucially, every element in in the game- the setting, characters, and challenges – are entirely created by community members. The game continues to be available to be played on-line or on mobile phone. Players play over time and the world grows through the addition of endless drawings.

Gaming and drawing activities are to devised by an artistic team including individuals from local community groups. We will develop a kit and a programme of workshops to develop game level themes and to set drawing challenges to elicit cool and exquisite drawings-by-hand from children and adults. We hope that the familiar game format and well designed resources enthuse people to engage with issues that effect their immediate environment such as climate change, regeneration, or any other social developments that can be depicted in this format.

This project grew from conversations between artists, writers and Southend residents about how people could get involved in planning decisions about their own town. This formed the foundation for an artists’ residency for Ruth Catlow (UK) and Mary Flanagan (USA) and author Rachel Lichtenstein (UK) hosted by Metal in 2010.

SODA, the UK play and learning software development company worked with Ruth and Mary to create an Open Software platform upon which the “Play Your Place“ series of games will be built.

About Us

Lead artists, Ruth Catlow (Southend, UK) and Mary Flanagan (US): Concept and project development, coordination.
Software Development, SODA
Partnerships, Workshops and Games Clubs in Southend – Sarah Bedell and Jo Melville
Social media and PR – Michaela Freeman
Commissioned Artist and lead workshopper in Southend – Nastassja Simenski
Workshop leaders – Michael Szpakowski and Pete Gomes
Game design testing: Max, Zara, Sukie (Tiltfactor, Dartmouth College)
Local game design testing: SoSLUG (Southend-on-Sea Linux User Group)
Production support: Ale Scapin (Furtherfield)
Web Production and Design: Olga Panades Massanet (Furtherfield)
Commissioned Artists:
Heidi Wigmore – Game Levels
Stuart Bowditch – Sounds
Historian/writer: Rachel Lichtenstein (UK) Concept development and consultant on local history.
Local urban planner: Giles Tofield Consultant on issues with local urban planning in Southend
Advisers on public planning, deliberation and consultation: Isis Brooks (WSD)
Southend Borough Council Planners: Paul and Neil
Filming of interviews: Pete Gomes (at Drawing Jam, Village Green 2012)
Good conversations: Tim Waterman (WSD)
Artistic team: informing game and workshop design and production- Local teachers and schoolchildren, local artists/workshop leaders, Art and Design students and staff from Writtle College of Design and South East Essex College
Thanks to other co-creators to date:
Artists and project design advisers, Writtle School of Design (WSD), UK: Michael Szpakowski, Pete S., Janie T., Liz S., Isis B., Beccy L., Tracy V.

Sarah Bedell, Michaela Freeman, and Jo Melville engaging with people across the community

Fiddian Warman (Soda), Jons Jones-Morris (Soda), Mary Flanagan, Ruth Catlow, and Olga Panades Massanet (Furtherfield)

Ruth (left) and Mary (right)

Ruth Catlow (UK) is a Southend-based artist. She is currently exploring drawing in natural environments and social drawing. She is also co-director with Marc Garrett of Furtherfield, a grassroots on-line community, gallery and residency organisation for art, technology and social change, based in the middle of Finsbury Park in North London. She works with the tools, meanings, metaphors and processes of commons-based peer-production to engender shared visions and infrastructures for other possible worlds. Her work has been exhibited world wide and is featured in archives as well as in a number of books and academic publications. She is co-editor of a book about artists’ critical engagement with games. Since 1998 she has collaborated with others (often working with digital media) to create artworks and experiences that intervene in contexts not normally associated with art. Projects include Rethinking Wargames (Lo-fi Netart commission 2003) VisitorsStudio (awarded the Grand Netart Prize in 2009), Connecting Across Difference, a multimedia performance at V&A Museum of Childhood (2010), WeWontFlyForArt (2009) Zero Dollar Laptop (2010-ongoing). Catlow is Head of School at Writtle School of Design.

Dr Mary Flanagan (US) is an artist, theorist and radical game designer focused on how people create and use technology. Her explorations across the arts, humanities, and sciences deploy methods and tools that bind research with introspective cultural production. As an artist, her work ranges from game-inspired systems to computer viruses, embodied interfaces to interactive texts; these works are exhibited internationally. As a scholar interested in how human values are in play across technologies and systems, Flanagan has written more than 20 critical essays and chapters on games, empathy, gender and digital representation, art and technology, and responsible design. Her three books in English include the recent Critical Play (2009) with MIT Press. Flanagan founded the Tiltfactor game research laboratory in 2003, where researchers study and make social games, urban games, and software in a rigorous theory/practice environment. She is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College. /



This work by Local Play (based on a collaboration between Ruth Catlow and Dr Mary
Flanagan) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

The free software, that enables anyone to draw, make and play their own platform game levels, developed with Soda was first published to Github October 2013