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Place Storming

A context-driven and play-based approach to user research during the design process.


Taking brainstorming and bodystorming to the next level, Place Storming is a user centred approach to user research by adding context and some game elements to create a richer, more immersive research experience.

The game is a structured approach to user interviews, but other than traditional methods, is performed on the scene of the crime and include random props to stimulate creative thinking.







The Game



Time required: 2 - 3 hours
Group size: 5 - unlimited
Creator: Jane McGonigal



The facilitator prepares by outlining a research manifesto or objective - a broad statement to define the goal of the research and sends this out to all participants before the game.  

Possible physical locations are evaluatated and specified on a map.  Locations can be anything ranging from a bus stop, a shopping mall, a coffee shop and a playground.

Each person contributing to the game must submit a random word prior to the game.  For example, the 7th word on the 17th page of the 3rd book in your bookshelf.  This word is then attached to random every day use objects found at home or in the office, such as a stapler, a vacuum cleaner, a CD, an eraser etc.  to create the set of tools that will be used in play.  For example, "aspiring stapler", "future vacuum", "fiction CD" etc.



Place Storming Manifesto (as written and published by Jane McGonigal) :
1. More play.
2. More expression.
3. More space.
4. Everyday superpowers.

Our beliefs 
1. Recognize the use of public, community, transitional and in-between spaces as extension of home.
2. We observe that these environments contain and constrain specific possibilities for action and interaction.
3. By detecting and calling attention to these structural forces, we play with them.
4. These tools should make their users feel like superheroes.

Place Storming  Modus Operandi
1. Create context and then act in those context. 
2. Construct platforms and then play on those platforms.
3. Build bridges and then invite others to cross them.
4. Define opportunities and then invent tools to seize them.



1. Break the group into smaller teams of about 5 - 8 people per team.

2.  Optional: Assign a facilitator for each team who will guide and mentor the process and clarify questions during play.

3. Explain the manifesto and goal of Place Storming as outlined in the rules above.  

4. Each facilitator outline the mission for the day.

5. The tools are handed out to players and the facilitator explains that players can decide what each tool will be used for during play.

6. Each team plan their outing by compiling possible hypothesese / scenarios / scripts taking the tools into account and agree on a place(s) where it will be gathered, using the scouted locations as baseline and allowing time for participants to add their own locations to the map.

7. Each team spend the next 2 - 3 hours to act out and collect their research.

8. After the time limit teams reconvene and share insights.

9. Optional extension: Evaluate implications of ideas in an affinity map format followed by a plus delta exercise.



Substitute the list of tools with a list of random words on a piece of paper.  Instruct players to find as many of these objects as possible and apply to it their hypothesis / script.

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Workshop 17, V&A Waterfront
Cape Town, South Africa


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