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Locally Played: Real-World Games for Stronger Places and Communities
by Benjamin Stokes, foreword by Tracy Fullerton
Published by MIT Press, Jan. 2020
In 2016, city officials were surprised when Pokémon GO brought millions of players into public space, blending digital participation with the physical. Yet for local control and empowerment, a new framework is needed to guide mixed reality and pervasive play. In Locally Played, Benjamin Stokes describes the rise of games that are designed to connect strangers across zip codes, support the “buy local” economy, and build cohesion in the fight for equity. With a mix of high-tech and low-tech games, Stokes reveals how cities can tap the power of play for the good of the group, including healthier neighborhoods and stronger communities. 
Analytically, Stokes shows how impact is greatest when games “fit” to the community—not just in terms of local content, 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 games like Macon Money, where an alternative currency helps residents 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 how several cities appropriated Pokémon GO to serve their local needs, including 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 the tools to look past technology trends to make a difference in the real world. 
Benjamin Stokes, a cofounder of Games for Change, is Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at American University, and teaches design for the AU Game Lab.