There has been an increasing trend in urban explorations to draw on gaming and play as means to develop alternative visions and uses of city spaces. It is assumed that fun offers a unique way of drawing in different kinds of people to address sensitive issues in a non-threatening way. SERIOUS FUN explores this assumption through researching and experimenting at the intersection of playful participation, creative practice and serious urban issues. Henri Lefebvre and Michel De Certeau speak about the notion of critical spatial practice, a term that describes both everyday activities and creative practices which seek to resist the dominant social order, and spaces of resistance where invention and imagination flourish. Keeping in mind this notion of critical spatial practice, three of the urban issues for which games, in the form of performative installations, have been developed, are about participatory planning, climate change, and the food security system.
It has been essential that the conceptual framework from which our games have been developed, is rooted in games for the purpose of conscientising about the issues connected to the city of Cape Town and its environment. For this reason we have looked to the writings of Augusto Boal and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, both of whom have a background in applied theatre. Boal is known particularly for his Theatre of the Oppressed. He designed games for the purpose of conscientising, by engaging the audience as active participants, getting them to know their bodies. It was through this activation of the passive audience, and body, where information could be passed on, and a conscientisation coud take place. Ngũgĩ’s essays on Decolonizing the Mind, and in particular, Decolonizing the Theatre, using applied theatre as a tool for decolonizing mindsets, reinforced the notions that Boal speaks of.
It has been out of Boal and Ngũgĩ that we have realized, in order to create games that aimed to conscientize, we have to consider the body and the mind as foremost in this interaction. If we consider the word Environment (or Environmental) as being environ (from the french), meaning surroundings, space, place, and ment or mental, meaning of the mind, it becomes obvious that it is the environment of Cape Town, the City, that would be transformed as the Body and Mind of its people. Thus, bringing us back to Lefebvre and De Certeau, these games have been rooted in the City, the Body and Mind; as spaces of resistance where invention and imagination can flourish.
Check out the videos below to see the games we developed.