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The Arcade Zone

Still image from the movie ‘Ready Player One’ directed by Steven Spielberg (USA, 2018-140′)

In recent times a conscious reflection has arisen about the possible ways to understand and produce architecture and an urban planning that is more integrated and functional. Within this matter the presence of digital or technological components has become essential. We know that cities are completely covered by an invisible layer of virtual space. Wifi networks, registers and control signals, electric circuits… A great part of managing real life takes place in this digital space, where all modification and adaptation processes also begin.

In a first time approximation, it seems that the control of any urban activity continually moves further and further away from its own users. Over time there is more disassociation from citizens and they end up playing more the role of spectators.

Public spaces are used in agreement with a ton of rules and laws imposed on us or taught to us (traffic codes, citizen behaviors, social protocols, etc.). Architecture wears itself out within this unadapted context. Our models of development stop functioning if citizens are continually treated as mere consumers of finished products.

Paradoxically, when we use these same spaces in a completely virtual environment, an enormous freedom appears along with a generation of new experiences.

Videogames (or any digital content containing urban information that isn’t of a purely playful nature) allows us to experiment in the same cities with physical laws, putting social phenomenons to the test, challenging the events permitted by the authorities… This universe manages to break barriers, remove the stigmatism of regulated uses, and encourage an interaction with the environment.

In fact, we can always find different modes of play/use/experience:

Editor Mode: where the scene is susceptible to be managed by the petition of the user

Campaign Mode: where the world is explored through the player’s own experience

Adventure Mode: where all of the spacial components are previously arranged and adapted to the development of sequential actions

If we were capable of transferring the teachings provided to us in player mode to real life we would find a perfect fusion between the editor, player, and user modes. Applying this dialogue to the surroundings, mental opening, and a re-edition to our daily lives we would be capable of uncovering the possibilities and expanding the limits of the significance of space to its maximum consequences.

Every day we carry out fictions as eventual approximations knowing that there are no effective modifications neither on stage nor in action: we study which is the best way to get to work depending on the schedule, method of transportation… and we make the decision to start the game over, without real consequences.

Applying these same mechanisms to our ideas and the use of architecture and urban planning, we have the possibility to materialize utopia. Citizens understand themselves as the creators and editors of their own project. This is the root cause to be strengthened so that the participatory processes can be truly efficient.

As Aida Red explained to us, the primary recreational machines were called Arcades for the galleries or the porticos where they were located. Typically they were situated as a blur between public and private, a place where it wasn’t exactly clear as to which laws would adhere to it.

In this same space where urban projects of future cities must be worked on, we need to be responsible not only of the structural problems but rather of an integral understanding of all the dimensions of activity on an urban level, citizen level, and environmental level.
Can we use these terms to enrich our understanding of traditional architecture? Are the true limits of habitable space really being explored? Can our interactions in virtual space modify our codes of conduct in real spaces?

You might also be interested in:

Documental Ciudades jugadas: la Ciudad en y desde el videojuego #Imperdible_03 (Santiago Bustamante)

Enrique Parra y Manuel Saga: Arquitectura y Videojuegos: los laberintos más allá del espacio tridimiensional, en MetaSpace (Published 9.10.2015)

Paisaje Transversal: Dimensiones de la privatización del espacio público (Published 12.8.2015)

Text translated by: Kaitlyn P. Delaney
(Burgos, 1988). Arquitecta por la ETSAM desde 2014. Trabajando multidisciplinarmente en estudio, docencia y como freelance. Con especial interés en temas urbanos, diseño y cooperación para el desarrollo. Viajera empedernida, inquieta y observadora. Bloguera amateur.

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