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What can a city do to boost gamification?

gamification cities

I was approached by a city council member of a small city in Estonia with an idea of having a city adventure game to attract tourists. An initial idea was to provide their own app, then use a platform. We ended up agreeing that it is best to focus on infrastructure and let private entrepreneurs take care of the games.  Here are the main focus areas that a city can provide to boost touristic games.

1. Pedestrian focus
Does your city have areas that are only for pedestrians, or at least pedestrians focus with ample room to walk and the car traffic is slowed down? This is probably the most important aspect of the city adventure. If the game area has narrow walks and fast moving traffic then this is dangerous and not a fun place to be. We see that hazards coming from traffic are number one risk the game creators need to communicate. If the sidewalks are narrow and crowded then adding players to the mix will not fare good. It seems that many cities are working towards suppressing traffic in city centers, so this will open up new areas for games.

2. Safety
Is the area safe? Are the areas well lit? Can you play safely in the evenings? Do the players need flashlights to play?
Overall safety is a big concern for game creators and players, so the safer the areas the better. Players are focused on a game, so the guards might be down against outside risks. There are 3 main risk areas:
a) Is the are safe to move on. Are there holes, cliffs, sharp objects etc. that might pose a threat.
b) Risks from traffic. Mainly cars, but also bikes and scooters.
c)A small criminal element. Pickpockets etc.

3. Public transport
If you do not have your own “Central Park” size area in the city, then people might need to move from one area to another. Can they walk there? A bike share available? Can they take a tram or bus? This will add a new layer of planning and challenge. If players are forced to use their own cars, it will introduce new risks (using smart devices in a car) that you need to plan form. How to force the public transport? You can add tickets to the game package and add locations to the transport route. We did it in Helsinki so that we added checkpoints onto Metro line that were activated by wifi stations underground.

4. Street Art
Asking about physical features in a city is good, info signs are great but what really will rise your area above everybody else is meaningful street art. I am from Tallinn and I spend fair a bit of time in Helsinki. Helsinki has loads of modern art and also old statues out on the streets while Tallinn has very little. In everyday life a person sees a piece of art on the street and goes maybe: “Hmm, nice…”, but when it is in a game you have to find out the story behind it. I`ve never seen a piece of art without a story. And if the story is not apparent, then for adventure games it works even better. My feelings from Stockholm and Helsinki are that street art does not have to be created by famous artist nor expensive installation. A good piece of art just needs to have a meaning and be durable enough to survive on the streets.

5. Information availability
Digging up information that can be trusted is hard work. If possible, the city should provide online information about all the aspects of the city. This includes history and historical sites and features, but also stories behind street names etc. City web-page is ok, but better yet maintain good records in Wikipedia. Wikipedia shows up really well in search engines and allows other contributors to add information. Maintaining these actively is a very good idea. This allows for game creators to create better games in your city. Build the city for the people and make it easy and safe to move around and make a strong base for good adventure games.
These were just short ideas. Let us know in the comments what have you used, or what have you seen that works in cities for adventure games?

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