Game Space

Can urban environments be classified according to the types of games they facilitate? Roger Caillois created a typology of games titled Man, Play and Games. I learned about this from my recent reading of Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Games are an important way to facilitate what Mihaly calls “optimal experience” – a condition that he describes:

The optimal state of experience is one in which there is order in consciousness. This happens when psychic energy – or attention – is invested in realistic goals and when skills match the opportunities for action. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990)

Play and games provide a shortcut to flow experiences by illustrating clear goals, immediate feedback and the conditions to develop skills. Caillois defined four types of games.

  • Agon, or competition
  • Alea, or chance
  • Mimicry, or role-playing
  • Ilinx, or vertigo

Do certain types of built environments support or discourage types of games? If so, can this knowledge help us to design and arrange spaces to increase the likelihood of optimal experiences?

I doubt that even the best physical conditions can generate true flow as Mihaly defines it. While Disney World can play with perception in a pleasant and subtle way, it is a personal decision to generate fulfilling experiences.

In the following weeks I plan to explore this question from a variety of angles to see if there are unifying factors that we can use to organize the built environment.