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Saturday, June 10 • 9:30am - 9:50am
Seize: A Mobile Augmented Reality Walking Game through Critical Making

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The previous zero-Covid policy in China was caused by the waning of public space and more disciplinary control. Although the policy has changed, the trauma of eroding the individual space and weakening our bodily control still exists. In this project, we will make a mobile augmented reality game named Seize to invite players in Shanghai, China, to create a playful space for accessibility, connection, and sharing emotions collectively in the context of the post-pandemic time. The game is a remembrance and healing of the lockdown. This game is a continuation of a series of virtual games organized during the lockdown in Shanghai from March to June 2022 at virtual meeting platforms for constructing a mutual connection.  In this game, walking is the key mechanic and a tool to re-configure, recognize, and re-experience the urban landscape. It is an expansion to the physical space for addressing the restrictions of the Chinese social, cultural, and political context. The process of making inherits the methodology of critical game design. The game playtesting will invite the locals in Shanghai to play, evaluate, discuss, and share collectively as a community. We will present the process of our game design, playtesting/workshop, iteration, and final gameplay organized in Shanghai.

Rather than seeing a game as the opposite of reality, it can provide a different engagement to a social and cultural event. Game space is a “third space” coined by Homi Bhabha in the Location of Culture: this is the space of subversion, hybridity, and blasphemy. Mary Flanagan(2009, 6) defines critical play as “to create or occupy play environments and activities that represent one or more questions about an aspect of human life.”

This project is situated in the framework of the critical game, echoing the previous projects like Macon Game (2010), defined as a “local community game” by Benjamin Stokes, A Labyrinth (2020), an alternate reality game designed by Patrick Jagoda and Heidi Coleman, and Casual Games for Protesters(2017), a collection of games for protesting initiated by Molleindustria and Harry Josephine Gilles. Seize not only reflects reality but intervenes and hacks into the Chinese political and cultural discourse through playful activities in the city.

Seize is also inspired by the long history of walking as a protest. In The Arcade Project, Walter Benjamin writes about Flâneur, the casual wanderer in the modern city, and as Flâneur visions the city as a phantasmagoric. In the later International Situationist movement, Guy Debord developed the notion of dérive (meaning drift). The city is remapped and reimagined through walking, creating a different sense of time and space.

Critical game-making is also embedded in the process of design. Mary Flanagan sees a non-hierarchical and participatory process in the critical game iteration. Rami Ismail presented the idea of performative game design in the 2016 GDC that uses live streaming in the process of development to form a gamer community. The reflexivity of game development is crucial in our project. The discussion and evaluation generated through iteration and playtesting are significant components to form a community to calibrate the direction of the game and discuss issues beyond the game itself.


Haoran Chang

York University

Yuemin Huang

East China Normal University

Saturday June 10, 2023 9:30am - 9:50am EDT
ARC E-02