Minecraft and Playful Public Participation in Urban Design

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Minecraft and Playful Public Participation in Urban Design


  • James Delaney The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London, UK


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Abstract:  Digital networks are transforming the way in which our built environment is planned, designed, and developed. Whilst many have heralded this technology as a solution to the problems of citizen engagement and participation in planning and design processes, the state of public participation in this field still arguably leaves much to be desired. In the last decade, academics and practitioners have explored the possibilities of 3D, multi-user, digital environments in planning and urban design contexts. These “inhabited virtual spaces,” where stakeholders are represented through digital avatars, hold the possibility of engaging a much wider audience in participatory processes, creating a more democratic and bottom-up process, and improving the outcome of community consultations. These multi-user environments can take many forms—and among the most promising are game environments. The benefits of using play and games in creative tasks and decision-making have been widely recorded, leading to the developing field of “serious games,” games which have been designed to accomplish a serious task. Despite this, there has been a reluctance to entertain the idea of appropriating more commercial and widely played games for serious tasks, rather than designing ones from scratch. One game in particular, Minecraft, has shown promising results as part of a participatory design methodology pioneered by UN-Habitat and the Block by Block Foundation. Through an analysis of this program, I will explore how the videogame Minecraft might be used as an innovative tool to improve public participation in urban design, whilst offering a virtual alternative to traditional models of consultation.

Keywords:  city-making; co-design; games; geogames; participatory approaches; playful city; public participation; urban planning

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v7i2.5229


© James Delaney. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.