Refining the game idea at DebConf19

The slide presentation using reveal.js for my talk is here:
The video recording of the talk (30 minutes) is available on the DebConf website:

After the talk I thought more about the privacy issue, and remembered a slightly different version of what I planned to do, that I revisit here. I think this is more achievable to start with, and possibly more elegant.

The complete setup of the game is like a macaron.

  • The middle layer is the actual game. It is bounded, has predefined levels and storylines. In that way it does not need data from anyone and respects all privacy. Compared to Open Street Map (OSM) this is the map most people use, they don’t add to it or modify it.
  • The top layer is the contributors, in the OSM analogy the people who add information to the map. They have certain privileges, and know more about how things work. I think this layer is mostly computer-technical.
  • The bottom layer is the urban metabolism data, models and relationships. It’s the Multiplicity website. Data gets wrangled, sourced, fit into the game here. This is where privacy and interpretations are likely most important.

This version of the game is not AR, and likely not even in VR.

When the game starts for a player for the first time, the canvas – the city – already exists with some basic resource layers. The player enters as a stranger to the city looking for refuge. The first round effectively works as a tutorial.

The player completes tasks to level up and at some point has reached the end of the tutorial and can restart the game with a reward of a multiplier, similar to how clicker games reward restarts. This restart is to incentivise players to try several roles in the city, to put themselves in different points of view.

On restart, the player can choose a role, possible options: mayor, leader of an activist group, zombie, leader of a revolutionary group, a private salvage company (to gather resources post-apocalypse), leader of a rehab team (to rehabilitate, along the lines of permaculture).

Once at these levels, events happen that force choices. There is a drought warning, which may or may not result in an actual drought etc.

As the player levels up, more areas are unlocked with different advantages, resources or fun features, but likely also more challenges, politics, dangers… This is in fairly low resolution. Suburbs are homogenous little houses, for example, and fictionalised, except for significant features.

As the player levels up, different portals, mini-games and events are unlocked that give different experiences. Some of these are only unlocked if the game is restarted in different points of view (to incentivise a wider understanding of different ways of reasoning, e.g. businesspeople vs government vs activists…)

These portals are a bit of fun but can also share insights and interesting angles on other cultures, especially in places like Cape Town which is a melting-pot of cultures.

The portals can also mess with scale, do events for a microscope – showing the metabolism of a biological cell or a plant or a animal/human, for example. Or at the other end, through a telescope for a city, a country, Earth, or an alien planet (build your own).

The game is open source and can be copied or forked. (Limited?) areas can then be made higher resolution for private use.

The real purpose of the game is to provide the canvas, the skins of the cities, the game engine, to explore and make more beautifully visual the intricacies of urban metabolism.

I’ll start with Cape Town, it is world famous as a tourist site, I know it well and has a lot of urban metabolism documented through Paul Hoekman’s thesis.

This game has to be FOSS so that people can
1) use and adapt for their own needs (own game, lobbying for urban reform, education (geography for example) etc)
2) access the core data underlying the assumptions of the resource flows and outcomes of games, to be able to learn or challenge these findings.
3) contribute data back (e.g. the Multiplicity initiative from Metabolism of Cities)

** What is the playline, what do people do to level up?

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