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Critical City – Milan

By Camille Vilain

Critical City

CriticalCity was established in 2007 thanks to the passion and the efforts of four young friends who had the idea of creating a new type of urban game aiming at transforming the public space trough creative actions run by the citizens. After one year, in 2008, the website was created, and the beta-version of the game was launched in of Milan, in the form of a night event called CriticalTrophy.

In 2009 the project became part of the Focus cooperative, but the turning point was in 2010, when, thanks to funding from Fondazione Cariplo, the definitive version of the game was established, named CriticalCity Upload.

The first ‘season’ of CriticalCity Upload lasted 1 year: it collected 5000 players who accomplished more than 800 creative missions throughout Italy, then the second ‘season’ was financed by some local foundations and by the players themselves. The third ‘season’ took place in 2013 and it was conceived and managed by a group of players, supported by Focus Cooperative. Finally, in January 2015, CriticalCity Upload concludes with a collective mission in Milan, after 4 years and collecting 13.901 players who run 21.064 actions.

Some examples of creative missions are:

  • ‘guerrilla gardening style’ actions, as planting trees in abandoned flowerbeds;
  • to create alternative systems of signage using an ironic ‘tone of voice’, but providing important information at the same time;
  • to organize parties or convivial events in neglected traffic circles;
  • to organize flash-mobs and happenings to foster socialization among strangers, also including immigrants.

Key actors

The original founders of CriticalCity are two young friends Matteo Battaglia and Augusto Pirovano, followed later by Davide Portanome and Matteo Uguzzoni. This group of friends had the idea of developing an urban game aiming at transforming the city of Milan, especially in the more underserved areas and fostering unprecedented forms of successful socialization. Then the project became part of the Focus cooperative, which currently manages all the activities related to CriticalCity; Augusto Pirovano and Matteo Uguzzoni are official members of this cooperative. Another key-actor is Fondazione Cariplo, which founded the project from the very beginning, allowing it to grow and diffuse from Milan to the whole country.

The protagonists of CriticalCity are ordinary people: citizens who decide to participate to the game and change the city by accomplishing creative missions while having fun, developing a new form of civic activism.

Role of design

Game design is an emerging area among the design disciplines: the main aim is to create a game that facilitates interaction between players for playful, healthful, educational, social or simulation purposes. The role of design within CricalCity is essentially to identify roles and rules, to conceive creative missions and define the whole narrative that guides the game. The designer is a sort of ‘director’, similarly to movie or theatre directors, but he has also to ideate rewarding processes for the players, and, above all, to design and develop participatory practices for engaging a growing number of people. Many other forms of design interact together: public space design for developing interventions at a street level, redesigning street furniture and signage, communication design for creating a transmedia storytelling, co-design and community centred design for working with people and empowering them at conceiving and launching other new missions by themselves.

The use of design is explicit on the part of the creators of the game, while is implicit on the part of the players, at least at the beginning, then, little by little, players become more experienced and they can decide to launch a mission by using their creativity and the lessons learnt during the previous games.

CONTACT (of the editor)

 Daniela Selloni – Organization : POLIMI – Email :


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