The latest issue of Global Frequency comic (by Warren Ellis et al) is great. It's based around les parkours: urban gymnasts, who can cross the congealed fabric of London quicker on foot than anything/anyone else (as part of an distributed International Rescue-like, al-Qaeda-but-good, smartmobbing network). In this strip, le parkour is described as:
"Treating the city as an obstacle course. Urban thrashing. Like Tarzan with buildings."
There are fantastic climactic scenes admidst the Hungerford footbridge and London Eye. I was just remarking to friend t'other night just how cinematic the South Bank bridges are on that curve, with vistas east to Parliament and west to City, and St. Paul's looming magisterially over the whole affair. The apex of the Millennium Bridge alone is surely about to feature in about 50 films over the next year ... As ever, comics are ahead of films.
(That whole thing reminds me of last year's excellent BBC1 campaign (RealVideo), featuring such a gymnast character traversing the rooftops—London's Marylebone High Street?)
And using the city as obstacle course, or playground, is a compelling notion. Every day presents tiny opportunities for gaming the city. For example, on a mundane but gently satisfying level, seeing a pedestrian crossing as part of a greater system of traffic flow, aware that the speed you cross the road is affecting the overall pace of traffic around that part of the city, and therefore (via butterfly wing flaps) the actual speed of the city itself. I've previously suggested (to no one in particular) that there should signs on Oxford Street saying "YOU SHOULD BE ALMOST RUNNING", produced by some Ministry of Urban Continuity or something, in order to maintain the general pace of city life, reminding citizens of their cog-like role in the overall system of the city.
Robert Elms' excellent phone-in show on BBC London often features such mundane yet satisfying acts of gaming in quotidian urban life. For instance, the Green Wave: attempting the drive in from "the chronically staccato Marylebone Road, from Kings Cross to the Westway or vice versa, a journey of perhaps a couple of miles, without ever stopping, even at the numerous traffic lights." Here's how a listener described it:
"The tension as you find all the greens falling your way is incredible, it's like you're being carried along by the road itself, a kind of domino effect, and you start to sweat and fret."
I love the fact that that guy felt that "the road itself" was carrying him along—that there was some kind of usually imperceptible 'other force' at work, the city's systems becoming tangible, briefly. These kind of experiences are all out there, waiting to be unlocked. So seek out the hidden challenges in city life. Oh, and keep on the Global Frequency. Vive le parkour!