Locally Played: Real-World Games for Stronger Places and Communities

Locally Played: Real-World Games for Stronger Places and Communities

Locally Played: Real-World Games for Stronger Places and Communities

Locally Played: Real-World Games for Stronger Places and Communities


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How games can make a real-world difference in communities when city leaders tap into the power of play for local impact.

In 2016, city officials were surprised when Pokémon GO brought millions of players out into the public space, blending digital participation with the physical. Yet for local control and empowerment, a new framework is needed to guide the power of mixed reality and pervasive play. In Locally Played, Benjamin Stokes describes the rise of games that can connect strangers across zip codes, support the “buy local” economy, and build cohesion in the fight for equity. With a mix of high- and low-tech games, Stokes shows, cities can tap into the power of play for the good of the group, including healthier neighborhoods and stronger communities. 

Stokes shows how impact is greatest when games “fit” to the local community—not just in terms of culture, but at the level of group identity and network structure. By pairing design principles with a range of empirical methods, Stokes investigates the impact of several games, including Macon Money, where an alternative currency encouraged people to cross lines of socioeconomic segregation in Macon, Georgia; Reality Ends Here, where teams in Los Angeles competed to tell multimedia stories around local mythology; and Pokémon GO, appropriated by several cities to serve local needs through local libraries and open street festivals. 

Locally Played provides game designers with a model to strengthen existing networks tied to place and gives city leaders tools to look past technology trends in order to make a difference in the real world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262043489
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.31(w) x 9.31(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Benjamin Stokes, a cofounder of Games for Change, is Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at American University, where he works in the AU Game Lab.

Table of Contents

Foreword Tracy Fullerton ix

Acknowledgments xiii

1 Introduction: A New Opportunity 1

Part I 25

2 Social Exchange: Macon Money 27

3 Local Fit: A Framework for Stronger Communities 45

Part II 65

4 Game Mechanics and Social Policy: Fit in Macon 67

5 Small Croups and Network Science: Reality Ends Here 91

6 Circulating across Platforms: Playful Movement, Stories, and Civic Data 127

7 Reclaiming Commercial Games: Cities Remix Pokémon CO 159

8 Sustainable Growth and Design: Embedding with Scale 191

Notes 211

Bibliography 245

Index 265

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Locally Played, with its focus on games for good embedded into people's local places and daily lives, is a crucial contribution to the games for change and impact movement. It is a must-read for designers, players, activists, citizens, educators, and people who care about the state of our current world.”

James Paul Gee, Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor and Regents' Professor at Arizona State University

Benjamin Stokes provides clear examples of ways cities can use game design to empower local communities. Locally Played is a must-read for anyone interested in making a difference on their block, in their neighborhood, or around their city.”

Ben Hecht, President and CEO, Living Cities

“Through a detailed and well-written account of the power of games to achieve real-world social impact, Stokes shows us how games can help us rediscover the neighborhoods we live in and make real connections with the neighbors who live there with us.”

Frank Lantz, Director, NYU Game Center

Locally Played makes a persuasive case for embedding ethical, social, and meaningful play in the social fabric of place. Taking us beyond augmented or gamified cities, Stokes explores the powerful and often subtle ways that games can strengthen social ties and amplify networks when their design connects critically to community life, not just physical space.”

Katie Salen Tekinbas, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine; Cofounder/Chief Designer, Connected Camps

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