From Gamification to Integrated Urban Regeneration

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The primary challenge in urban planning is engaging citizens through their communities’ urban regeneration projects. Paisaje Transversal have been able to use the gamification approach to encourage citizens to engage and participate within their respective communities. Through the use of this participative game technique, communities are able to assess a neighborhood’s general requirements and suggest regenerative solutions specific to their urban initiatives. Through this approach, we were able to gauge participants’ preferences for development of their own neighborhoods, which allowed us to deduce and fine-tune solutions based on residential objectives. Our research affirms the need for individual approaches and community inclusion: implying that urban changes are continuous rather than discrete.

In this text, previously published in the Public Play Space Symposium -organized in the framework of the Public Play Space (PPS) project and co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union-, we expose the possibilities of play to improve neighborhoods.

by Paisaje Transversal and Costanza Tremante


Paisaje Transversal consider citizen participation a critical tool for improving all the urban challenges that a city faces. Creating a participatory culture, while difficult to cultivate, is a critical component in ensuring that cities suit the needs of both their citizens and visitors. We aim to do so through the gamification approach, where residents participate in a game in which they can analyze a neighborhood’s overall needs and provide regenerative urban solutions that are tailored to their local community aspirations. Participatory procedures are used in Paisajes Transversal’s urban initiatives to discover a neighborhood’s overall requirements and later suggest particular regeneration measures. Creating interactive and meaningful gadgets ensures that citizens are satisfied with their surroundings1, all while incorporating physical interventions into the participatory process. This enables researchers to draw conclusions with the goal of adjusting and enhancing subsequent initiatives that are specific to community needs, rather than discrete ones. This also promotes the notion popularized by that urban regeneration is a developing and continuous process.

Participatory procedures are used in Paisajes Transversal’s urban initiatives to discover a neighborhood’s overall requirements and later suggest particular regeneration measures. Creating interactive and meaningful gadgets ensures that citizens are satisfied with their surroundings (1), all while incorporating physical interventions into the participatory process. This enables researchers to draw conclusions with the goal of adjusting and enhancing subsequent initiatives that are specific to community needs, rather than discrete ones. This also promotes the notion popularized by that urban regeneration is a developing and continuous process. (2)


The gamification approach integrates game aspects to real-world tasks which functions as a way for making these procedures enjoyable for the users, in this case the citizens of an area or city. (3) The goal of this innovation is to encourage participants to engage in more appealing and engaging participation activities, while also encouraging active and consistent behavior. Games have been shown to have a motivating impact on its users, boosting their degree of involvement as a result. (4) Some key features of the gamification approach include (5):

  • Development of a system with features of a game, aimed at involving participants in an activity based on a system of rules, goals, interactions, feedbacks, and measurable score system;
  • Use of particular mechanisms typical of games such as points, levels, score, or time limits for the performance of particular tasks;
  • Development of a coherent plot and aesthetics characteristic of a game;
  • Generating a playful approach to the activity in participants, leading to an increase in internal motivation for action; – Focusing on the subject of the game, and increase in emotional involvement for better memorisation of new content, and faster learning in such an environment;
  • Development of a clear motivational system for all participants;

Paisaje Transversal have been able to use the gamification approach in neighborhoods like Virgen de Begoña and the City of Olot. It functioned as a way for citizens’ involvement towards their community regeneration projects.

Aerial view of the Virgen de Begoña neighborhood

Barrio Virgen de Begoña (VdB)

The Virgen de Begoña neighborhood is one of almost 200 open-block polygons in Madrid’s municipality that have been identified as priority intervention sites owing to their present state of decay. (6) The isolation of Virgen de Begoña in particular, with borders formed by transit and infrastructure on all sides, made it particularly susceptible to deterioration. The neighborhood’s vulnerabilities include building obsolescence and inadequacy, poor urbanization and low public space identity, a weakened demographic and socioeconomic structure, and limited economic opportunities due to its mono-functionality. (7)

Businesses in the Virgen de Begoña neighborhood. Paisaje Transversal

The area has a population of little over 8,000 people, with a sizable elderly population that is particularly susceptible. (8) Residents of Virgen de Begoña have demonstrated they want to be engaged and committed to their communities. However, a challenge this area faces is a frequent lack of financial means to bring about the changes desired. (9) In 2011, with the help of the Begoña Neighbors Association Paisaje Transversal were able to launch an integrated plan of action to address community concerns such as housing, building and public space degradation, and the need for improved economic opportunities.

We used the PIER-People Involved Effort for Regeneration (10) approach within the neighborhood of Virgen de Begoña. Within the PIER methodology, there exists an established list of criteria to measure the sustainability of our urban regeneration strategies from ideation to action. This allowed for us to carry out the bottom-up method, while laying out a detailed plan for improving many areas of urban life, including public space, local business, and housing. Galvanizing community involvement is integral to the bottom-up process, and so reaching community members from the beginning is essential. By connecting with the existing neighborhood networks in Virgen de Begoña, we identified existing problems as well as current and potential assets.

Virgen de Begoña (VdB). Paisaje Transversal

During the past six years, the regeneration process in Virgen de Begoña has been propelled by activism from within the community. Every year, Paisaje Transversal participated in an event called “Fiestacción”, a yearly celebration of local culture and civic involvement. The community’s goal was to bring the neighborhood’s condition of urban, environmental, and social degeneration to the attention of the City Council and the Fuencarral-El Pardo District Board, to encourage the administration to take action to help Virgen de Begoña regenerate. At “Fiestacción”, we have implemented a number of projects, which have taken the form of inclusive games with instructional components. Throughout the years we have introduced two games: “Trivial VdB” and “¡Conquista el espacio público!” (Conquering public space!)

Trivial VdB

Our first initiative called, “Trivial VdB” served as an introduction to local geography, history, and neighborhood dynamics. Each team is generated by neighborhood areas, depending on where each citizen lives (yellow, pink, and green). Each team rolled the dice and whoever got the side that was labeled as “test” they began playing. Each team took turns rolling the dice and answering factual questions about the specific issue that interests them. If they answered correctly, they would place a marker in their designated neighborhood. This process continues until the question is answered incorrectly. There are 4 thematic blocks of questions: Society, Geography, Culture, and History.

The aim of this game was to engage citizens within their communities and inform them of the current issues they may or may not be aware of; that is why the cycle continues until they answer incorrectly, because it ensures that topic areas that are unfamiliar to citizens are described. This can allow a tremendous amount of insight for community members and researchers like ourselves. Community members might learn about issues they may have thought were trivial and could become more willing to care about them, while researchers using these tools can understand the matters important to residents, across different community preferences.

Trivial VdB. Paisaje Transversal

Once a team has completed their neighborhood area, they received an urban regeneration award for each correct answer from the following categories: cultural endowment, urban gardens, architectural barrier elimination, underground parking, pedestrianization, bike lanes, recycle rainwater, reuse inter-block space, energy renovation of homes, accessibility of homes, sports facilities, and urban furniture. The game ends when a team considers that it has enough rewards and decides to withhold any further action. Finally, the citizens debated which team had the best choice for the complete regeneration of the neighborhood.

¡Conquista el espacio público! (Conquering public space!)

For the second game, Paisaje Transversal manufactured a new giant board game that would serve as an urban pedagogy tool. We used the same concept as the Party & Co. game which had a defined route with boxes that included different types of games: Gymkhana, Pictionari, Taboo, Mimicry or general questions. All the games were related to the VdB neighborhood and its public space. The players were divided into three groups (green, yellow and pink), and once again, divided according to the areas of the neighborhood in which they resided. Once the teams are formed, they would roll the dice and whichever team got the highest number would begin.

The game board – Conquer the public space. Paisaje Transversal

Whenever a team would win a certain number of games there would be two types of prizes. For those that won a game three times in a row, the prize would be a creation of an interblock space that would serve as an open area for the neighborhood. For the team that had won 4 consecutive times, the prize awarded was one of a few rehabilitation options. The options included: either the elimination of architectural barriers, the addition of urban architecture, the installation of a wall to make graffiti, and planting trees, among other activities.

The objective of the game is not for one team to win, but rather for the whole neighborhood and its community to win. Additionally, the game included intergenerational activities, so that there were different types of activities aimed at different age groups. Therefore, it was convenient for the team to include insights from older people, adults, young adults, and children. The game ends when the public «interblock» spaces on the board are fully regenerated. That is, they have achieved all rehabilitation strategies. If a team completes its space before the rest, they will collaborate with that team to achieve more strategies for the rehabilitation of the public space. The group with the most regeneration prizes wins.

Results of the games

The objectives of “¡Conquista El Espacio Público!” and “Trivial VdB” games consisted of generating awareness for the need to establish strategies and actions of appropriation for the improvement of residents’ closest shared environment. It is a strategy aimed at promoting citizen participation and emphasizing that the neighborhood can only regenerate when the people who live in it collaborate.

The “Trivial VdB” game revealed management difficulties, provided a foundation of engagement from which to grow, and, with our support, helped define three strategic themes for the project’s second phase: public space optimization, economic reactivation (to transform the residential area into a hub of varied activity), and urban edge creation (to solve the neighborhood’s geographic isolation due to its boundaries).

Game tokens and public space rehabilitation awards. Paisaje Transversal

The use of our participative indicators to identify key themes, assisted in the development and prioritization of our initiatives. The economic reactivation topic, for example, inspired us to do a communal mapping project that included both digital and physical components. The initiative of optimizing a public space led us to create a collaborative design workshop involving neighbors and specialists. A plan to activate inter-block areas illustrated where we could create public space and increase the mobility of pedestrians, particularly handicapped persons. A collaborative plan has since been in place to improve the quality of life in the VdB and Olot neighborhoods.

Sant Miquel

Sant Miquel is a neighborhood in the City of Olot that, while having valuable resources and significant potential, has had a negative reputation among the rest of the City of Olot. For many of the residents, the neighborhood is now unappealing since it is one of the areas with the highest immigrant populations. (11) Sant Miquel has suffered neglect during the last decades that has caused deterioration in the quality of the public space, due to infrastructures like large commercial and industrial parts. (12) This has resulted in making it a comparatively unattractive neighborhood. Sant Miquel is considered one of the neighborhoods in the City of Olot with the highest proportion of young people. (13) In this sense, the opinion of children and young adults of the neighborhood is essential to understand the foundation of the neighborhood.

Joc de Barri (Game of the Neighborhood)

Joc de Barri functioned as a recreational activity with the primary goal of raising awareness for the Sant Miquel project. Simultaneously, the game detected the neighborhood’s major value elements: its significant spaces and its elements of identity. These aspects, like the people and local events, are what gives Sant Miquel its character. Afterwards, we gathered suggestions for improvement from the neighborhood’s residents.

The groups were chosen randomly at the day of the event and all stood around a three- dimensional model of the neighborhood. Each group was given a set of questions on Sant Miquel drawn from one of five categories: geography, history, society, culture, and the environment. The team was able to build an area of the neighborhood (residential or an open space area), for each correct response. Then, the group was allowed to go on to the next phase once they had contributed to their region. Each team earned tokens for each correct response, which they could then use toward their community. Each modification had an assigned value, based on how difficult it would be to implement them (pedestrianizing a roadway, enhancing pedestrian safety, etc.). These modifications were grouped into four main themes: the neighborhood’s relationship with Olot, mobility and accessibility, public and free spaces, and socio-economic activity.

As the questions were answered, each team determined together which improvements were the most vital for the area, as well as where they should be placed. The game concluded when one of the teams collected five tokens. It was then determined which side made the better selections in terms of the changes chosen and their placement.

Results of the games

The Joc de Barri game was a participatory activity in which the residents were able to share their knowledge of the neighborhood and began to form a shared identity. Residents learned more about the history of Sant Miquel, its locations, and the people that residing there by answering these questions. As a result of the improvement activities, the participants began to collaborate and collectively decide on neighborhood suggestions. Some of the main conclusions that were gathered from the Joc de Barri activity are explained below:

  • Mobility appears to be one of the most important issues. Improvements were made to the security and accessibility of certain conflictive points, such as the La Canya and Les Tries roads.
  • Due to their scarcity and lack of adaptability, open spaces are another pressing concern. In this regard, suggestions were made for the development of spaces such as the Ignasi Buxó park via sports activities and the resuscitation of Mas Les Mates through cultural activities.
  • Avinguda Girona reappeared on other occasions, considering it necessary to improve the commercial activity of this street, which is understood as the «main street» of the neighborhood, the gateway to City of Olot and a space that must be valued.


Our cities’ public spaces are a valuable resource. They give several opportunities for people to interact with one another and with their surrounding communities. Around the world public spaces function as an inclusive atmosphere, where everyone in the community can participate to create a healthy social environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted drastic changes in public spaces, requiring communities to adapt and integrate innovative behavioural and usage patterns to meet evolving demands.

Based on collective quantitative diagnostics and community feedback through the games, Paisaje Transversal presented a strategy to make Virgen de Begona more accessible to everyone. Our first project focused on making pedestrian routes more accessible by removing physical obstacles like steps and stairways, reusing pavement and masonry, and rearranging parking and public areas. Making communities more walkable promotes public space interaction, social cohesiveness, and local business. (14) On the other hand, for the Olot neighborhood we saw a high demand for open green spaces. Citizens wanted more recreational areas in order for them to feel more connected with their environment and community. This and other insights offered in this project underscore the need to include community participants while also treating every neighborhood with the unique care its unique problems deserve.

In this paper the authors were able to explain how Paisaje Transversal have been able to use gamification to encourage citizens to engage and participate within their respective communities. At Paisaje Transversal, we began to consider and innovate with the gamification approach. This allowed us to handle our communities’ urban changes from an integrative and participative viewpoint. We hope to show the results of the gamification approach that can transform the physical, environmental, and social reality of a neighborhood. At the same time, we also hope to incentivize citizens to understand that they can be the protagonists of their neighborhood regeneration projects. As a result, we can only be pleased with the feedback and we can declare that this gamification approach to urban regeneration is a resourceful method with measurable outcomes.



  1. Olszewski, R. et al. “Urban Gamification as a Source of Information for Spatial Data Analysis and Predictive Participatory Modelling of a City’s Development.” DATA (2016).
  2. “URBAN REGENERATION PROCESS – THE CASE OF GENOA, AN EXAMPLE OF INTEGRATED URBAN DEVELOPMENT APPROACH.” EconStor, Louvain-La-Neuve: European Regional Science Association (ERSA), 1 Jan. 1970, 
  3. Thibault, Mattia. “Towards a Typology of Urban Gamification.” Proceedings of the 52nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2019, doi:10.24251/hicss.2019.179. 
  4. Kapp, K. M. “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education,” 2012.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Advocacy Planning in Madrid: the Bottom-up Regeneration of Virgen the Begoña.Paisaje Transversal, 4 June 2020,
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. PIER: Generating Urban Resiliency.Paisaje Transversal, 29 Apr. 2020,
  11. Pinyol-Jiménez, Gemma. Report on the Integration of Immigrants in Catalonia 2015. 2015,
  12. “#OlotMésB: Cuando La Regeneración Urbana Integral y Participativa Se Hace Realidad.” Paisaje Transversal, 29 Apr. 2020,
  13. Ibid
  14. Ibid.

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