Friday, September 3, 2010

How we came up with the GeoGame idea

The whole idea came about in 2007 when one of our undergraduate students came to me and wanted to do an independent study with me and design a new game map for the Days of Wonder board game Ticket to Ride. There are several unofficial versions of the game using different parts of the world as a backdrop for the game (see e.g. this unofficial version for Scandinavia) and this student wanted to do one for Canada. Now, during his work we discussed if there were ways that you could embed some more realistic aspects that would have people who play the game actually learn something about Canada, transportation systems, or whatever... We also started to talk about online versions of the game and what we could if we could somehow tap into online mapping services... Yes, what would happen?

We saw all kinds of fun games that obviously could be done where we could use real information from the map as a substitute for some of the really artificial numbers and look-up tables you can find in the regular boardgames. For example, in the game RISK you get your troops reinforcements based on a table that tells you that you get a new army for each territory you control + an army for each city in those territories. In addition you can get some bonus armies if you control an entire region. But these are just numbers. If we instead related those numbers directly to information about GDP or actual population counts, then players would probably learn something about the real world while playing the game and having fun. Another example is Monopoly where a lot of us can recall the rent for Broadway but have no idea what the actual rent is on Broadway, NY. Haboro, by the way, had a really cool GeoGame up to promote their new game Monopoly City Streets. (Background image source: AP Images)

There's was also recently an interesting note on GPB News about what Monoply can teach players and what it misleads people to think. In that article Russ Roberts, a professors of economics at George Mason University, argues that the real kick comes when you allow players to negotiate and bend the rules as they go along playing the game. And this is where we see GeoGames can become a really interesting tool. It could provide a way to simulate market dynamics, peoples social interaction, around a spatial problem. More on that another time.

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