In part one of this blog, gamification in community engagement offline, I looked in to the world of using traditional style games from board to card to inspire participation in engagement opportunities offline. The blog came about as I had started to see an increase in not just offline but online variants of traditional children’s games being used to seemingly achieve 1 of if not all 4 outcomes when involving the community in the decision making process through gamification of a process. These outcomes came from examples crowd sourced by LinkedIn users I had consulted. The outcomes were:
- To Engage
- To Inform/build understanding
- To build relationships/teamwork
- Break the ice
When approaching the subject of online games as with offline I already had a few in mind that I had seen and for those of you who know me had already pinned on my ever increasing ‘Innovative Community Engagement’ Pinterest board. However yet again I wanted to know if I had missed any that I could draw on when writing this blog. So yet again using trusty social media I asked for examples, this time via Twitter with the first blog as bate, and was happy to receive a number of new examples from Ben Fowkes (@ben_fowkes) in the UK.
Obviously the online world is different to the offline. For example all the examples given in the offline blog need multiplayers to complete successfully. Another difference I have noticed is that most of the offline games don’t have a winner as such but more of an outcome. Outcomes such as a new concept plan for an urban area or an understanding of an issue but with online gamification it’s different. In online games you are more likely to be looking for a win, reach a target or achievement and in some of the examples I will show below it’s even possible to lose. The final difference I have noticed is that of who is guiding the game. The offline games in part 1 were, or at least those I found as examples, driven/designed by non-government organisations even community driven individuals however those online are more likely, though sometimes hidden from view, to be funded by government departments/councils etc to maybe aid them? Justify decisions? Or maybe even collect data on their community?
So before I ramble on to much about the who, how and whys here are a few of my favourite online examples:
I’m going to start with a slightly tedious one but one that is known mainstream, Minecraft. In this article by Nick Bilton on the New York Times blog, he picks up on the educational and informing level that the 16 bit world construction game can offer. He quotes one school teacher in Sweden about her kids where the game is now part of the curriculum
“They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future”
So this game can not only build knowledge around a subject and inform on issues through fun but can engage young community members in things like city and future planning. With the fact the game can also be multiplayer this allows relationship building therefore meeting 3 or the 4 outcomes identified above.
Run that town
Developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Run that Town is a game driven by census data where you can choose to be put in charge of any town in Australia. By using the readily available data you are asked to make decisions, build projects and ultimately keep your community satisfied. With the addition of ‘vital’ issues popping up via news broadcasts some of those decisions you make are often not popular ones and if you measure the mood of your citizens wrong you will be run out of town.
Described as a light and funny strategy game for me that is exactly what it is. I’m sure the Australian Bureau of Statistics see it as an informative tool relating to building an understanding of how census data is used by local government to plan communities but once you get past the how tos and into a competitive streak of how long can you stay Mayor then a game is a game.
Do local councils benefit from the game by seeing what community members who play do with issues to see if it could guide them, no. Is data collected on how the game is being used in communities shared to benefit local council decisions, I doubt it. And does the game educate the majority of Australians in to why they, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, do what they do, not likely.
However it is fun and if you are slightly politically minded then maybe it may get your geek on too.
Counties work via icivics
Similar to Run that Town icivics ‘Counties work’ gives you the chance to play the local politician American style. You decide about the programs and services that affect the community. Your choices shape the community, and your citizens’ satisfaction determines whether you get re-elected for a second term as County leader.
A little more interactive than Run that town ‘Counties work’ has the same outcomes. A slight education for players in how hard a council is to run and the difficulty in making decisions when you have conflicting priorities but at the end of the day it’s a game and you basically just want to win a second term.
Icivics games are meant to be more for educational purposes and are used to prepare the next generation of students to become knowledgeable and engaged citizens according to their website and have teacher resources attached.
If you visit the site to play ‘Counties work’ I also suggest you also check out ‘Win the Whitehouse’ where you basically take on the campaign to become President of the United States of America by racing around the states to win their votes… however as a warning this one is highly addictive.
I’m not going to lie this is the same kind of concept as 2 and 3 in the list but with even more added interactivity and therefore more fun.
With My UK you basically get to run the UK as the government, however this is where it gets more interactive, with your friends via Facebook. You can appoint your friends to the cabinet to help you make decisions even give the country a national makeover.
Promoted as a less-than-serious look at a serious business MyUK is a playful activity that lets you reshape the UK with some far-fetched proposals. Again this is primarily an educational tool on how government works, where laws come from and to teach the next generation of voters to be good citizens.
However this time MyUK does confess to using Google Analytics to collect statistics about how players are progressing through the activity. This non-personal usage information is being gathered, it’s claimed, to help them understand how the game is used. But being funded by the UK Parliaments Education service I do wonder if the current debates around dropping the national age for voting in the UK to 16 could actually benefit from some of those stats being collected.
My 2050 is a game of priorities, a game style we are starting to see a lot of. Developed by Delib for the UKs Department of Energy and Climate change the game is a step by step educational tool on how government could reduce, with your help, CO2 levels to that of the 1990s to avoid dangerous changes in the world’s climate.
Using sliders linked to supply and demand the aim of the game is to think about how you can reduce CO2 emissions personally at home, as a community member in your city and as a citizen of the country to 20% by 2050. With each slide you get consequences or positive outcomes and with each slide you either move closer or further away from the 20% goal so think wisely.
Certainly built to make you think, once you hit the magic 20% you get to see what your 2050 country might look like and submit your plan or go back and try to do better. Once submitted you can then compare against other players on where your plan sits as well as join ongoing discussions via social media.
I certainly think that this meets 3 of the 4 identified outcomes of gamification in engagement as it builds knowledge, is engaging and if used via the discussion options helps you network on the subject. I also think the Department of Energy and Climate Change must benefit greatly from the data, statistics and ideas raised by the games players as well as through joining and facilitating the conversations afterwards.
Thanks to Ben Fowkes for sharing this one.
Other similar Gamification of decision making using this slider and priority type model and are generally based on budget planning in government. Examples include:
- Help Lambeth Library prioritise their budget
- BBC budget ‘What would you cut’
- American University Radio’s ‘Budget Hero’
Also if you do a search of Budget Allocator tools via google you will come across a few examples by the guys at Bang the Table. Whereas they don’t look gamey there is an element of strategy in these tools to get priorities and budgets to balance.
One last quote that came in just as I was finishing the blog, but wanted to include as I think it sums up gamification beautifully, came from Dr Ben Guy via LinkedIn:
Real-time 3d or VIS is often called a game. We deploy it widely to engage – not just community. To develop ideas and solutions together. It can look like a modern computer game – but there are no enemies to shoot nor status to achieve. I guess the game is between the people – it is a rich sharing of information at the least, and collaborative accelerated development at its best.
Dr Ben Guy, CEO, Urban Circus: Integrated Built Environment Facilitators
As with the first blog on offline games I’m sure there are many more examples and these are just a few that have happened to catch my eye in the last year or two. Online gamification is certainly an area that is going to grow fast when it comes to community engagement I believe in the next two years as more people and engagement opportunities move into the online space. Whether it’s as an educational informing tool promoting participation or a tool to help government make tough decisions on spending one things for sure online gamification is adding a lot more fun to the way we in the field engage our citizens.
Thanks again to all those who helped contribute to the first part of this blog and to Ben Fowkes in the UK for his input in this part. All examples plus more can be found via my Innovative Community Engagement board on Pinterest.
If you have seen any other great examples or would like to comments on Gamification in community engagement please leave in the box below… we love feedback.
Picture credit: Pac Man