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Sunday, September 24, 2006 


So yesterday there was this big block party/demonstration on the street between I-House and the subway. It was an anti-gentrification thing... I guess being close to Columbia is taking its toll on the neighborhood. But anyway, they had the police come out to block off the street and keep an eye on things, and there were just a lot of people out talking up the posters and such, selling things, and just hanging out. The thing that surprised me most was how so many kids seeped out of the woodwork and congregated in the street, playing a bunch of different games all jumbled up through each other, and just having a blast. I had never really seen kids out in that area before, which, now that I think about it is kind of surprising because they don't have their own outside play space in their backyard like I did when I was growing up. But even after the police left and opened the streets back up to traffic later in the evening, a few of the kids stayed out, playing some sort of game of catch in the street, parting to the sides each time a car passed.

Between my walks past the block party, I went down to Eyebeam for the second night of Come Out and Play. They had a panel discussion with five scholars/video game theorists/urban game designers/game researchers/lots of other impressive titles. One of the panelists, Jesper Juul, put it nicely when he said that "we are the hillbilly astronauts of game design." Anyway, these game folks were discussing their views on the big urban/ubiquitous/street games being put on at this and other game festivals and events throughout the world in recent years. The thoughts of the night that were met with a sizeable round of applause from the audience were those of Jane McGonigal on the necessity of committing to expand the occurrence and scope of ubiquitous games (as she thinks they should be called, as they can be played in social spaces other than streets). She ended up suggesting that the ideal would be when people play these high-tech urban games in a sort of "pick-up" setting. I found this, well, a bit disheartening, after seeing all these kids running around playing with balls and scooters and whatever else they could find. As of now, the tech-infused urban games seem to be appealing mostly to the older (20's-40's) crowd, as many of them require cellphones and the ability to move freely throughout a space, but what's to say how this is going to change the face of children's play? Will there be a time when kids aren't interested in games of pick-up baseball or four square or catch? That would just make me sad.