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A talk given at the she says digital conference SCAMP, all about work in progress. I spoke about Chromaroma, a pervasive social game which I'm working on with Mudlark. Full notes available at http://www.katylindemann.com/shesays/
Hi, I’m Katy. I’m a communications strategist, plannery, creative geek type person. I’m a senior strategist at Naked Communications where I’ve been for the last 2.5 years, although I’m actually leaving my wonderful Naked family to try life as a lone gun freelancer (which is both terrifying and immensely exciting in equal measure!) One of the things I’m going to be doing in my new freelance life is working with the fantastic chaps at a company called Mudlark on their new project, a social game called Chromaroma, currently being funded by Channel 4’s digital innovation fund 4IP and Screen West Midlands, The lovely guys at Mudlark asked me if I would serve on the advisory board of Chromaroma and I was delighted to say yes. It’s only in very early Alpha stage, and very much a work in progress, so that’s what I’m going to be talking about today.
OK, slightly wanky plannery insight bit. This is a really smart guy called John Thackara. He’s a former director of the Netherlands Design Institute, and he’s spent the last decade championing smart design. He talks about the importance of “macroscopes.” The opposite of microscopes, which let you see one thing individual in very close up detail, a macroscope is something that helps us see what the aggregation of many small actions looks like when added together, allowing us to understand complexity
A great example of a macroscope was John Snow’s cholera map John Snow is considered to be one of the fathers of epidemiology because of this map. In the mid 19 th century there was a massive outbreak of cholera in Soho, and the commonly accepted theory of the day was that it was an air borne disease John Snow was a physician who managed to prove the disease was waterborne by plotting the incidences of cholera on a map, clearly identifying that the source of the outbreak was a waterpipe on Broad St (now Broadwick St) It was only by taking a step back and being able to look at the micro data as part of a bigger picture that he was able to identify a pattern, and in turn able to actually take action to halt the spread of disease. So macroscopes are one important means of trying to solve a problem
John Snow didn’t know it, but he was a hacker. A hack is a clever solution to a problem, often in the form of a shortcut. Jane McGonigal is an awesomely smart woman and game designer, and director of game research at the Institute of the Future, whose incredible work I urge you to check out. She talks about happiness hacking: Games are really good at making us feel happy – and actually not just happy, but engaged, challenged, focused upon a given task AND happy whilst doing so [click] So how can we use this understanding of game play to make real life more like a game?
So data’s awesome, especially when you can look at it in an aggregate way. And fun is brilliant, and if you believe Jane McGonigal (which I do), can change the world. And at the moment, we’re seeing a lot of cool stuff happen at the intersection between fun, game-like play, and data.
There are loads of examples, especially lots of the location based games like Foursquare, but for me some of the really interesting stuff in the sweet spot between fun and data is where you get game-changing stuff that actually helps change our behaviour. Like the Fiat Eco Drive, which turns monitoring your carbon emissions into a game – you can try and beat your own scores, beat others to become a more efficient driver, and by seeing the aggregate picture of your driving data you can really understand how you’re driving…and the impact of changing how you drive
And of course everyone’s favourite, Nike Plus You all know this one, but I still think it’s worth thinking about it in the context of a mash up between fun and data, and what happens to behaviour when you do this.
And what I’m going to talk to you about today is something which I think is an interesting mashup between fun and data, only this time it’s about commuting. It’s a game called [click] Chromaroma
Commuting in London pretty much sucks. It’s a chore, it’s a grind, it’s often the low point of our day. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could make commuting [click] MAGICAL
Chromaroma is a game that shows you your movements and location as you swipe your Oyster Card in and out of the Tube (Bus, Tram and Boat coming soon). It connects communities of people who cross paths and routes on a regular basis, and encourages people to make new journeys and use public transport in a different way by exploring new areas and potentially using different modes of public transport. At its simplest, Chromaroma is about amassing the most points possible. By watching your own travel details you can investigate interesting new ways to travel and exciting new destinations in order to get more points. Grab &quot;multipliers&quot; and bonus points by working with a team, building up connections with fellow passengers and discovering mysteries that are attached to locations on your routes. It’s currently in very early stage alpha so what I’m showing you is very very much work in progress!
Part of the game play is about achievements. You get points for achievements such as your first journey, the fastest journey between two stations, the number of different stations you pass through in a single day…
Players are set missions You too could become the Cock of the North if you visit Cockfosters within 7 days, earning you 200 points Although being a Hipsta, and visiting Hoxton, only gets you a measly 50 points, Sorry Hipsters.
This screengrab is from an earlier design, but I’m using it because I’m there [click] on the leader board, and on the current leader board I’m not, and I’m tragically proud of my leader board status Like any good game, you can earn a place on the leaderboard, in this case it’s for fastest journey records
And individuals can also see their own personal data, and see your own travel patterns. Unsurprisingly, given my travel patterns, I’m getting close to earning the full collection of ‘Shoreditch Twat’
You can also play Chromaroma as a team – here you can see which stations on the tube map have been taken by which team, through the lovely visualisations you get when you play Chromaroma You’ll see that the word pattern is used very directly, because we can start to see interesting patterns arising through players’ game play The team have used some of the visualisations from the last few weeks alpha players to show some of the emerging patterns – here’s a snippet from what I think’s quite an entrancing and beautiful video:
OK so that’s a brief overview of what Chromaroma is. But SCAMP is all about work in progress, so I wanted to share with you some of the issues, thoughts, questions and so on that have arisen along the winding road that is the development process
These aren’t quite scamps but they are samples of the design processes the team have been through in the development of the visual interface for Chromaroma. Here’s one experiment with how to visualise things on the London Underground network.
This is another – it feels a lot like a Kandinsky as it explodes into abstraction.
Here are some more developed designs which address different aspects of data representation: Such as player journeys & station stats
Larger granular data such as number of players through stations could be represented as heat maps as in this design.
Or it could be represented as peaks where the colour of the team that owns the station is the colour of the peak, and the height is defined by numbers through.
Or as voxel terrain map.
Pretty designs are all well and good, but actually the development process raises a lot of more fundamental questions as you progress…
The development process itself is quite tangled and interesting! The dev team and the creative team are often working separately and so when they got together for a big 2 day workshop, lots of issues and questions and ideas came out in the process.
One of the really interesting & exciting – but also really problematic – areas, is in the potential of real time data. As you can see from the post it from the dev session a few weeks ago (only with slightly choicer language!)
And then there’s the future development, bigger picture stuff. Which is some of the stuff I’m working with Toby & the Mudlark team on At the moment the immediate focus is on the development of the game into beta. But we’re thinking ahead, and having ongoing discussions with Transport For London about Chromaroma’s potential in fostering positive behavioral change. What kind of changes do we want to promote? Can we expect people to go “Yeah!”? We think so. TFL’s aim is ultimately not to get everyone on trains and buses, but to get them around London quickly and safely. They’re also well into health. So we’re adding more things to the system to allow us to intelligently create game events that encourage the use of bikes and feet as well as buses, boats, trains and trams. So we’re thinking about how we can develop Chromaroma in partnership with TFL to do this. It’s exciting and we really hope that we can develop the game into something that realises the potential of mashing up fun and data, and provides a useful macroscope into understanding how we use public transport. Exciting times, and a long way to go, but hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse into the process of developing Chromaroma
Thanks very much for having me!
Chromaroma @ She Says SCAMP - Jul 10
Date Presentation Title 1 st July 2010 SheSays: SCAMP Conference
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48692800@N00/4359084837/ Jane McGonigal on Happiness Hacking When we play games, we experience relaxation, concentration, cohesion, elation, adventurous thinking, constant challenge, focus, and relief. We want more of these things in everyday life.