Etched wood table from WOO design
Etched wood table from WOO design – www.woodesign.online

Innovation is derived from play and storytelling. Imagine having a game that for a large set of players exists only for the sake of fun, with another set of players using it for scenario planning, education, and monitoring initiatives.

The outcome of this game includes both the public’s everyday awareness of our actions, with real value in simulation for research, complexity analysis, scenario planning.

Imagine an augmented reality game, a mix between something like Township or SimCity and Ingress or Pokemon Go, with a visual style similar to the Lumino City game. Imagine a building game that uses real cities and real challenges – like the current water crisis in Cape Town, where real resource limitations need to be managed. The game can start from a blank start to build your city or start with what exists in reality and modify it in certain ways (utopia or apocalypse) and play with what happens due to your decisions.

In what ways can this game be useful?

  • Using data to communicate choices (particularly with the investment trade-offs the various government levels faced with the water crisis)
  • Data democratisation to improve the equity of sanitation and hygiene services, for example, but also relevant to transport, densification, etc.
  • A method of immersive participation to create a platform for interactions between citizens, engineers, stakeholders, and government
  • A communication tool to extend participation in decision-making and increase data visibility and transparency.
  • The emerging field of immersive analytics can be used to enable visualising complex data sets with overlay of layers of data.

Why a game?

We all understand that critical basic services like water and sanitation is important, but in the daily fight for our attention it doesn’t get the top position it deserves. To get there, we need to couple it with things that are both exciting and meaningful. We also want to be rewarded and need continuous encouragement. Everything is connected, and we don’t even always know if our interventions make sense in the big picture. But this is what games do.

The data we need for the complex challenges we face in the world today is too disperse, too detailed to be generated from the top down. The data we need cannot come from any other source than user driven. This game implores users to submit their data through gamification. The purely hedonistic side of the game can generate data for scenario planning and data for the research and for-good focused part of the game.

For example, during the water crisis in Cape Town,  on a household level resolution, we need to show the links between what falls as rain and where stormwater goes, what happens with your toilet and wastewater, and connect, or plot every individual action to intervene in the system, while making sure it interfaces well with the bigger picture. User driven interventions can complement or frustrate the larger move towards resilience. An augmented reality game can help users understand and liaise with the decision-makers at city governance levels, resolving conflict through data-assisted conversation.