"Players around the world complete creative tasks in their cities."
January 2006 - Present

Over 5000 players from San Francisco to London to Baghdad have completed over ten thousand tasks, transforming their everyday environment into a playing field and making the world more interesting for the people around them.

SFZero has been praised by NPR, CNET, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal and more.

Flashback [game]

"Flashback is a game in which you complete real-world missions with the aim of de- and re-constructing American History and connecting with others to change the world. You begin at level 1 with 0 points. As you complete missions and advance in level you gain the skills and historical knowledge you'll need to develop strategies for overcoming persistent historical injustices and defeating your class enemies."

Flashback is funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. For more information, see the American History and Civics Initiative press release.

flashback.paragoogle.com [demo site]

Helen Chanam

A sprawling urban epic. Told by doctored book, hidden floppy disk, sticker streetcorner narrative, instant message spambot, art gallery exhibition, multi-user text-based dungeon, craigslist personals, PGP encryption, spray-painted stencil, free voicemail service, personal terrorism.

Funded in part by the University of Chicago Festival of the Arts.

Journey To The End Of The Night [street game]

"The city spreads out before you. Rushing from point to point, lit by the slow strobe of fluorescent buses and dark streets. Stumbling into situations for a stranger's signature. Fleeing unknown pursuers, breathing hard, admiring the landscape and the multitude of worlds hidden in it.

For one night, drop your relations, your work and leisure activities, and all your usual motives for movement and action, and let yourself be drawn by the attractions of the chase and the encounters you find there."

Check out Journey to the End of the Night in:
San Francisco
Los Angeles
Washington DC

If you want some tips on organizing a game in your city, let us know.

CriticalCity [consulting]

CriticalCity is a mission-based game set Milan, designed to change the way people interact with cities. Inspired in part by SFZero, the preview site launched to the public in October 2008 has attracted the attention of the the press and a growing community of players. In February 2009, CriticalCity won the Kublai Award. With the help of this grant, two of CriticalCity's founders were able to come to San Francisco to work on the future of their game with Playtime in April 2009.

We worked with Augusto and Matteo to articulate a compelling vision for CriticalCity, and to set appropriate goals for the progress of the game and its players. Using the preview site's strengths as a starting point, we helped them to draft an innovative game structure designed to increase player participation in CriticalCity, and to encourage players to be more actively involved in cities and neighborhoods throughout Italy.

We're looking forward to helping the CriticalCity team build the next phase of their already-impressive game. Until then, check out the fully-functional CriticalCity game preview.

The Sweet Cheat Gone [street game]

An investigation of guilt and innocence played out across the streets of San Francisco. Players are divided into teams that either prosecute or defend the accused perpetrator. It is their job to collect evidence around San Francisco on foot, bike, or Muni (no cars or taxis allowed) that supports their case.

The Sweet Cheat Gone

Seeing Beyond Sight

Blindfolded photography challenge, ongoing at SFZero.org, with past events in SF, NY, and Raleigh NC. Also, we had a big party at 111 Minna (in collaboration with The Craigslist Foundation and the Exploratorium).

check out:
SeeingBeyondSight.com (the book)
or SFZero praxis

Ghosts of a Chance

[in production]

A game for the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Ghosts of a Chance

“Ghosts of a Chance” invites gamers to create objects and mail them to the museum for an "exhibition" curated by two game characters posing as employees. But the "game within the game" is also a challenge to uncover clues to the narrative that binds those objects, and to investigate the way objects embody histories.

Ghosts of a Chance (event)

Playtime designed this game both to bring the Ghosts of a Chance ARG to a conclusion, and to create a new way of experiencing The Smithsonian American Art Museum that would not rely on players having followed the preceding online game. A simplified version of this game is currently being run by the museum. Several players emailed their thoughts about the event:

"I have spent quite some time in art museums and this is probably the first time that it felt like the museum was meant to be fun and interactive rather than more somber and pensive."

"I actually had no idea there was a modern art section to the museum and was extremely impressed with that section of the museum. ... One thing we were most surprised by was the chalice that said 'shake your booty.' It had never occurred to us that in that section, or that a chalice like that, would say such a thing."


"Even though we were 'exposed' to the whole museum, I also liked that there were a couple of pieces of art that we actually had to sit and ponder. I don't know if people got frustrated with the 'Faces' painting challenge (perhaps thinking that there was only one right answer) but I never would have spent the time staring into the painting and trying to understand it if it weren't part of a task. And I ended up enjoying that."

"The game was SO much more than I expected. I thought that we'd come in for an hour or so and then get bored. Instead, we completed all six scavenger hunts."

"I very much hope you’ll consider running another program like Ghosts of a Chance again. My 8 year old (3rd grade) daughter and I had a FANTASTIC time, and she’s extremely eager for more of such a creative game --- and of course, she wants to bring her friends with her next time. If anything, we’re only sorry we waited until 3pm to show up… we wanted to keep going."


D Fatower

A series of enigmatic and interconnected texts and objects that led participants to explore and investigate various locations in Bologna Italy while uncovering a narrative.

D Fatower


We also make stuff.

Virtual Visits to Para-Chicago

We made this text-based multi-user space modeled on Chicago under Helen Chanam's identity and got it accepted into Rhizome, a virtual museum! For further description, see the text below:

"A game set in virtual Chicago. "The Loop" becomes an intertextual spatiality: nodes conflate city intersections and unfinished manuscripts. A narrative begins to unfold, assigning the user a role that he/she may decide to ignore. At the same time, a paradoxical metanarrative arises from the explicit absence of the protagonist and her implicit presence as the very interface itself: that which mediates subjectivity. This could be described as a confusion between text and context.

The protocols which govern and regulate my cartography-impulse extend beyond physical space. I allow myself to indulge in a protocol which renders all nodes equivalent.

Rhizome Terms: access, allegory, artificial life, body, Conceptual, contextual, death, desire, digital, disappearance, game, Generative, historical, HTML, immersion, interface, Internet, Java, Narrative, network, Perl, posthuman, public space, social space, software, space, Telematic, Text, Virtual reality"

"I remember the MUD landscape I designed, where it was always the winter of the broken twig, the summer of heated abjection; there was the cooling sea where Clara might go, smeared with shit, piss, and cum, mixing with the tepid waters; there was the neophyte Alan, hysterically picking up coins and menses in any combination, delving into tunnels, falling into the vaginal opening in the floor, labial opening in the wall, the clock bleeding second after second. Nothing happened that couldn't be corrected by prayer as Death and Tiffany fucked murderously, returning the unstable world to where it used to be. There were Man to be fought in this world where everyone is naked, crawling, where the Pub offered female and male cum, as well as piss to drink, where delirium is the order of the night. I could fight with Honey there, and violated I could die piecemeal. I never programmed the eating of corpses, but the possibility was there, running ragged through the body of the other in the midst of bodies. Everyone sexed everyone else, every hole offered itself, the mazes crashed against impossible topologies, and there were prisons from which it was impossible to escape, ever, before the shutdown-closure of the world. But most of all I remember wandering within all of this, things dripping, stumbling about at the debris of my own creation built upon the structure of a clean economy, clean game, with foreclosed though wounded bodies. Here one slid with every hole filled with fingers and other proturberances, with burbling or mewling mouths, with insatiable hungers for bodies among bodies. I remember returning in my dreams to dissolute programming, walking along the path strewn with feces, the two of us covered in menstrual blood, the blood-red sun crashed hard against horizon of the text. Build one yourself she said, motion begets motion."
(source: http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/sondheim__internet_text/an.txt)


Speaking Engagments and Conferences

Previously Upcoming
[contact us]




Playtime is: Sean Mahan, Ian Kizu-Blair, Sam Lavigne

You can also download our CV: playtime_cv.pdf


Antiboredom is no more. If you'd like to get in touch with us, please visit Sam and Ian at Situate, or Sean at Intended Effect. Thanks!