We create games for urban public spaces

Hello everyone, my name is Augusto Pirovano, I live in Milan, in Italy and I’m new on Edgeryders (although I have heard so much from Alberto). I would like to intervene in this mission because this is precisely the field in which I measured in the last 5 years.

With 2 other friends we made a project called CriticalCity Upload: a game of urban transformation that uses a web platform and asks its players to perform creative missions. So far CCU is not very different from Edgeryders, the fact is that the missions are - instead of stories and reflections to write and share with others as it is on Edgeryders - creative actions that are generally performed in the public spaces of cities. The player picks the mission, shuts down the computer, gets out on the street, plays the mission, collects the necessary proof of his experience and then, after returning home, publishes the mission attaching photos and videos. As the player gets points, he levels up until he reaches level 7 and wins the Mechanical Box (a mysterious box that is delivered at his home).

Some examples of missions:

“Segnaletica obliqua” is a mission that requires you to invent a new road sign, build it and install it in your city. The image shows the construction of the sign that says “duty of greeting your neighbor while waiting for the bus”. The sign reads: “each traveler is obliged to greet arriving or leaving, the other passengers waiting at the bus stop. Any abuse will NOT be punished.”

“Pubblico soggiorno” requires you to make a living room in a square. As you go towards the higher level missions (there are 10 levels in CCU) missions are increasingly demanding to leave the house, coordinate with your friends and other players, perform in the public spaces of the city and interact with strangers. The image tells the story of what happened in Bologna between the two towers, on a spring day in which CCU players created a public living room, moving from house seats, cushions, lampshades, rugs, hot tea and biscuits and giving the space to all the people passing by. Obviously when you organize something like this, the unexpected is often the best thing, as in this case in the late afternoon, a Czech cellist was passing by with his instruments and players asked him to stop and play for them. Result: a sonata for cello improvised between the two towers, before the sunset with hundreds of citizens crowded around to enjoy the unexpected party.

“Orizzonti di Neon” asks to paint a chair in vibrant color and install it in a public place that has a beautiful view. The performance shown was made in Rome at the Pincio park.

This mission is called “The sound of the earth” and asks to make a musical instrument from a vegetable. We found on the internet a series of videos on Youtube of a Chinese guy that teaches you how to create one step by step … and it works! The mission ended then with the first (and so far last) appearance of “Pinzimonio Band” in Milan’s central station where dozens of players have organized a concert of vegetables, which ended in a collective dip at the end when everybody ate his own musical instrument.

Finally, “Sfumature carminio per un nodo” asks to go to a “Node” - these are special places special in the game and there are about 50 throughout Italy and in some foreign cities - dressed in red. The performance shown was done by a guy who came specially from Venice with his Cosplayer costume to achieve the mission in the “Node Paolo Sarpi - Milan 01”.

In these years I must admit that we have not made many reflections on the theory behind what we do. But there is something we understood that we would like to share with you:

  1. The presence of a common helps to build another one: in our case a free Internet, with free services (such as. YouTube) allows us to improve and act on another common that is dear to us: cities’ public spaces. So perhaps there is a multiplicative factor when a new public good is made available to all (not only the direct effects on its users, but also on all those other services that can be build on top of that common). Similarly privatizing or eliminating public goods is likely to have multiplicative negative effects on our society.
  2. If you work on commons, the absence of the profit motivation can be an important factor in order to gain the trust of your community. This is one of the reason why CCU is a non-for-profit project.
  3. If you work on a common good and you build around it a community of people passionate about it, a large margin of freedom generally doesn’t generate anarchy, but positive effects. With CriticalCity Upload, for example, after a year and a half of activity, 13,000 missions carried out by more than 8,000 different players from all over Italy, not even one act of vandalism has happened and the community is very careful and protective about what other players do in their city.
  4. We can do many more things than we generally think. This means for example that you can achieve - albeit with great effort - a project as ambitious as CCU in 2012 in Italy. And, in the same way, a lot of missions that have a positive impact but that would be technically illegal (for example, "pubblico soggiorno" which asks for an afternoon to make a living room in a square of your city) can be done without receiving fines or be evicted, maybe with some common sense and some extra smiles!
What do you think?


We have heard much good words about you, Augusto, since yor are featured in Edgeryders video presentation. Great project!

Interesting... We can see that you probably had an influence on the concept of Edgeryders.
Also using similar approach to missions, Four years ago  (13,769 commitments made), and Intent (128,487 intents, 25,005 intents accomplished), However, Edgeryders seems to be the first government project to experiment with this approach. It is very innovative, and the results and experience will probably serve for future projects.

By encouraging participation, your project provides structures and conditions favoring the opportunity for participants to develop their power to act as members of a community. It also develops the ability to optimize forces of the community. Community capital creates a community of mutual aid and mobilization on broader societal issues, fueling the sense of belonging and a sense of citizenship.

I wonder if such initiatives could happen outside Europe. In America, for instance, we do not have a strong (historic) sense of belonging or relating to piazza, piazzetta, or public places, as there is in Europe. This is probably different in large U.S. cities, but when I think of Montreal or Toronto, for instance, many beautiful public spaces with nice public art and landscape design, are quite deserted, except for the homeless. Everything is also more compact and cozy in Europe.

Projects such as this one bring life. I like the expression ‘urban transformation’. Hey, Transformers!

Thanks Lyne for your feedback!

I can confirm you that there are games and initiatives similar to ours in US and Canada too.

sfzero.org is an example from our partners (and mentors) born in San Francisco.

Aslo in Toronto there is newmindspace.com

Marked on new map

Thanks for informing me. I added both to new CitizensLab Edgeryders map of future builders. http://www.communitywalk.com/citizensforchange  I am glad to discover Newmindspace.

More Social Games

Hey guys, there’s one called MakeSense from France focusing on the creation of social businesses as defined by prof. Muhammad Yunus. I met them last year, they are a group of 3-4 very young, fresh and energetic!

Good faith collaboration for building commons

What I think, Augusto, is that you have come a long way. You play down your theoretical thinking, but your work may have long ranging consequences for the way we think about policy on commons. Most people think about this issue in terms of tragedy: how to avoid the Tragedy of the commons? The implication is that, if you leave people alone, they will destroy, appropriate and exclude. So, we spend a great deal of energy ring-fencing, restricting, forbidding.

Is this the right approach? Sometimes it will be. But other times, no. On the Internet, online community managers steer by little drops of wisdom like “assume good faith” and “if you design your system for trolls, your users will be trolls”. It seems that, at least in this case, you can just leave open access and deal with abuse on a case by case basis. Criticalcity Upload happens not online, but on the street: and yet, the same dynamics seems to apply. People don’t need to be controlled much: they actively care for the cities they live in, and they strive to improve them and protect them as a community. At least in your case, commons are built spontaneously, by people that love their urban spaces and love each other in the context of theor urban spaces. The real tragedy happens when they are forbidden to do so!

Maybe this is just me and my idée fixe, but CriticalCity Upload implies policy as enabler. In this case the management of urban public spaces can happen not by making decisions like “let’s put a fountian there”, but by giving people like you and your community the freedom and the tools to improve them, making more sociable, safe, beautiful and fun.

This is madness - I love it!

Tell me, what do you think of the role of art in creating the cutural commons - there’s something about the excess, the amazingness of places like Burning Man which seems to be key to the opening of the vision which lets people see each-other as friends…

Genuinely amazing.


Welcome to EdgeRyders,


the link between art and commons

Hallo Vinay!

The link between art and commons is one of the field that I’m interested in.

As you’ve written, I think that the art gives the opportunity to live some places in a unusual way and so it makes possible a new vision of the places and of the people, like CriticalCity, but I believe also that a fundamental element that links art and commons is the urgency to defend them.

Some days ago I’ve published a mission about a bottom up production (700 co-producers) of a film documentary to block drillings in a large sicilian area recognized by Unesco in the World Heritage List.


But I’m thinking also to the series of occupied theatres in Italy to block the closure or to restitute them to the community (Roma,Catania, Napoli). In particular the occupation of the Valle Theatre in Rome is a very interesting experience because it continous from about 1 year, with a numbers of interesting activities, and  the occupants are forming a foundation to mantain alive the theatre with the partecipation of the community also to write the statute of the foundation


I’d like to go in depth about this issue with others Edgeryders :slight_smile:


I have written to Valle occupato, but received no reply :frowning:

The next week I should interview in Venice one of the Lavoratori dell’Arte (Art workers), the movement from which are coming all the theatres’  occupations. He has worked for the occupation of the Theatre Valle and I want ask him a direct contact with someone in Rome.

Vision and Community

Hy Hexayurt, i’m Matteo, i’m also part of the CriticalCity work team) i take the opportunity from your question to also talk about an issue that has mentioned by Alberto.

When you talk about great vision as a driving force made me turn a light bulb (i’m not sure that is the correct translation), in this speech Jane MCGonigal tells many things, but one - essential to create a better world - is to have a big vision, an epic meaning.

In our game the epic meaning is do things you’ve never did before, and, the implicit meaning, is change and “conquer” the public spaces.

To achieve that is necessary what  you define “see each-other as friends” that also Alberto describe, and for me also in primary, the concept of community (in italian we have the possibility to use the word comunità, when is in the real world, differentiating it from the word community, that is predominantly online) in Upload the community is real, is a comunità.

Before reaching the public spaces we must reach the reliance on the other people, have a sort of “social curiosity”.

The use of art, that we translate on creative missions (everyone is creative) is a key part of the game: do things, get their hands dirty, put yourself into action, helps you to fell alive (too poetic?) and is a thing that is able to free many energy, and to change the world is necessary a lot of energy! (Epic ending)


living of a genial idea

Ciao Augusto!

I’ve already tell you how great is your project and now I repeat here that it is genial!

I know that CriticalCity in the past had the financial aid of a Foundation and I’d like to know if also the last edition of the play has had the same support or you are working with other finance.

and, If I am not too indiscrete, I’d like to know if you and how many others of the team can live with this project.

Right now this project (and other urban games related projects) are paying the wages of me, Matteo and another collaborator.  This is not easy and we need to find each day new opportunities, but until now this is working :slight_smile:

Hope in the fight against corporatised cities

I’m really sad when I spend time in leeds… while there are great events and communities tucked away in private spaces, the city centre is super finance trendy with shops and restaurants for a yuppy corporate world. it makes me feel cold and lonely! i’ve never heard of anything like what you’re describing - do you know of anything, in the whole of the uk even?

thank you for the inspiration!

In the Uk too!

Hi Marukomu, in the UK there is Hide&Seek (http://www.hideandseek.net/).

They organize street game festival in London and other Uk cities!

And also

Speaking about corporatized cities, you should have a look to Upper Street’s ad-free cities, also on Edgeryders:


Alberto, the link is broken :frowning:

Game Players

Hello Augusto,

my name is Chara and I have met Giacomo in the mini conference of Edgeryders this March. I am working at the Hub Vienna and recently we hosted a 48hours Game Design workshop which went very well and we created innovative ways to explore the city and get more engaged with it! These days we are talking about having one workshop every month in order to create awareness and involve more people :slight_smile:

I really liked your ideas and the way the platform works… I think it is more constent than a workshop… I would like to know if you are thinking of scaling it more. For example, as I am orginally from Athens, I think it would be  a great idea to have something like that there… I know there are initiatives starting for urban games but as you have already the knowledge and the technology of the platform maybe it would be easier …

I would like to hear more from u :slight_smile:


Hi Luna, your initiative sounds really interesting!

At the moment we are not yet ready to scale CriticalCity Upload to an European level (we would need to find more funds and the right people), but this is something we would really like to do!

We will talk more about this in June for sure!


Perfect! we can talk about it in person in June!

Looking forward to meeting you :slight_smile: