Phygital Futures – Thesis, Y5. Thesis Tutor: Luke Pearson. Using geolocations and a smartphone interface, Pokémon Go enforced a new layer of city-use on an urban scale – taking the self-contained game environment out of the equation. Virtual maps and physical terrain were joined, creating four-dimensional struggles that took place – quite literally.
With the fad coming to a halt – by now plummeting trainer numbers have transformed urban hunting grounds into peaceful habitats for digital creatures – it is time to reassess. The process of stepping out into the augmented world – registering for an online account, orientating within the game map, making a first catch – serves as the backbone to a case study of Pokémon Go. Laying emphasis on the spatial nature of the game, the reader is taken for a fictive stroll through the city. This approach structures the discussion about the interfaces and game elements that are observed and scrutinized along the way. Bringing in current coverage retrieved from online magazines and blogs as well as contextualising these findings with notions taken from cultural history and philosophy, social sciences and game studies, this walk is augmented.
Once woven into this broad framework, Pokémon Go is established as a relevant object of enquiry rather than being dismissed as a transient fad. This opens up spaces for a broader discussion about the technologies involved, the relationship between game space and ‘real’ space, and the societal implications. What can we, as architects and urban planners, take on from the ‘phygital’ (physical plus digital) world of Pokémon Go? How can new technologies such as Augmented Reality and gaming principles inform new design methodologies?
To provoke discussion around these questions the author introduces his own design research, Realised Augmentity, a series of experiments conducted to investigate the possibility of Augmented Reality as tool for delivery, and an attempt to formulate a compelling alternative to detached digital manufacturing processes such as robotic milling and 3D-printing.
Phygital Futures aims to shed light on how the introduction of a gamified urban layer challenges our relationship with data. What potentials lay bare in front of urban planners when maps and datasets become play and design resources of the future? And finally, will the notion of games as social constructs make game design an important societal tool that can be employed for participatory governance and design processes? This outlook will hopefully foster imagination as well as delineate new fields of research and enquiry.