Street Games


Citizens from San Francisco and beyond are offered a unique interface for collaborative gaming with SFZero, a website engineered by non-profit organization Playtime. Steeping their enterprise in unabashedly Marxist terms, the site organizers seek to engender in users “genuinely free, self-conscious, authentic activity as opposed to the alienated labor demanded under capitalism,” an aspiration practically manifest through a series of tasks players must perform in their metropolis to accrue points and advance in levels. Such tasks are assigned by and characteristic of the bureaucracies populating SFZero’s ranks, including the BART Psychogeographical Association, Humanitarian Crisis, and the University of Aesthematics, and range from outright urban intervention to poetic, quasi-Fluxist action. "Take a sign (the more permanent/authoritative it looks the better) and install it in a place that changes the sign's original meaning or intent," instructs one task from the Society For Nihilistic Intent And Disruptive Efforts. "Preenact a major future occurrence of your choice in a public place," reads another from Chrononautic Exploratorium: "Props and costumes are required, though they need not be authentic." The accumulation of points, and their dispersal across the bureaucratic organizations - a process known as Grouposis - ultimately prove double-edged, however, revealing user choice to be fundamentally linked to the ideological constituencies of SFZero. In other words, while this novel platform promotes liberating ways of engaging with a given user's city, it partly does so to produce a sharp critique of contemporary capitalism: aping gaming's competitive infrastructure to reveal the potential of all individual action to be appropriated by overarching bureaucracies, and for virtual-political labor to service ulterior ends. - Tyler Coburn