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W@L Theme: Physical Games in Museums and Playgrounds

Physical Games in Playgrounds

This workshop theme investigates movement-based games in the context of museums and playgrounds (for both adults and children, or a combination of both groups).

What we will do:

In this theme we will devise and develop game prototypes that consider and address the above questions (and others arising or added by participants). Methods for prototyping can include technology and also paper, card, etc. The idea is to finish the workshop with one or more game prototypes to demonstrate and also to play!

Participants are welcome to bring along any technology and tech accessories or other artefacts, games or toys that they think could be helpful.

One of the particular challenges of this workshop is to look at what happens when physical activity from the ‘real’ world is transferred to the virtual world – both in terms of representation and in terms of  emotion or ‘affect’.

Possible questions to think about and address:

  • What is required for a good/enjoyable virtual movement-based game experience?
  • Given that some senses like touch and smell are reduced or absent from the virtual experience – how can this be compensated for?
  • What are the sensory and affective aspects of computer movement-game experiences?
  • Playgrounds and museums are generally seen as two spaces with different purposes – but are there areas of helpful crossover in the context of movement-based games? .

Some game mechanics:

Iona and Peter Opie, who studied playgrounds and researched children’s games from the 1950s to the 1980s, produced the following game categories – all involving movement. These categories might be useful both individually and in combination – for devising game scenarios.

Chasing – games in which a player tries to touch others who are running freely in a prescribed area. These can also include, players restricted to particular ways of moving; chases in difficult environments.

Catching – games in which a player attempts to intercept other players who are obliged to move from one designated place to another (often from one side of the road to another), and who if caught either take the catcher’s place or assist him/her.

Seeking – Games in which a player tries to find others, who obtain safety by remaining out of sight or by getting back to the starting place.

Hunting – Games in which there are no boundaries, in which both pursuers and pursued generally operate in teams, and in which the pursued generally have to give some assistance to their pursuers.

Racing – Races and chases over set courses, in which fleetness of foot is not necessarily a decisive factor

Duelling – games in which two players place themselves in direct conflict with each other

Exerting – games in which the qualities of most account are physical strength and stamina

Guessing – games in which guessing is a necessary prelude or climax to physical action

Acting – games in which particular stories are enacted with set dialogue, rhyme etc.


Places where play and social interaction takes place: where children play games, pretend; break up and make up with other playmates; let off steam; compete; teach each other new games or tricks, swap cards or other crazes, show off their latest acquisition/skill/joke; invent new games/jokes.

The spaces, paths and objects in playgrounds are also full of hidden meanings: the grill on the window is a ‘gaol’; the drain cover is a refuge or ‘home’; the tree or post is where prisoners are tied up, the wall is a frontier; the stone path a raging river and so on.

Playgrounds are metaphorical spaces for adults – places where adults can be playful and inventive (the sandpit idea).

Playgrounds are also performative spaces: in the context of games – including pretend play and mimetic play (where for example TV shows are re-enacted e.g.  X Factor or Jeremy Kyle or Dr Who), but also in the dance and cheerleading displays, hand clapping and skipping rhymes and routines,  in pretend fighting and other similar activities.

Playgrounds  can also be places for “performing” individual and group identities: e.g. for individual enactment of identity (gender, ethnic, and other categories) and for group display, group bonding, or competition – for example in forming groups/teams, competing with other groups, etc.

Playground games generally involve movement. They can also involve dancing and dance routines, clapping and complex clapping routines, skipping singly or in a group, and playfighting; catching; chasing; hunting; racing; duelling amongst other movement activities.