Making emotive games from open data

Katie Collins at WIRED: “Microsoft researcher Kati London’s aim is “to try to get people to think of data in terms of personalities, relationships and emotions”, she tells the audience at the Story Festival in London. Through Project Sentient Data, she uses her background in games development to create fun but meaningful experiences that bridge online interactions and things that are happening in the real world.
One such experience invited children to play against the real-time flow of London traffic through an online game called the Code of Everand. The aim was to test the road safety knowledge of 9-11 year olds and “make alertness something that kids valued”.
The core mechanic of the game was that of a normal world populated by little people, containing spirit channels that only kids could see and go through. Within these spirit channels, everything from lorries and cars from the streets became monsters. The children had to assess what kind of dangers the monsters posed and use their tools to dispel them.
“Games are great ways to blur and observe the ways people interact with real-world data,” says London.
In one of her earlier projects back in 2005, London used her knowledge of horticulture to bring artificial intelligence to plants. “Almost every workspace I go into has a half dead plant in it, so we gave plants the ability to tell us what they need.” It was, she says, an exercise in “humanising data” that led to further projects that saw her create self aware street signs and a dynamic city map that expressed shame neighbourhood by neighbourhood depending on the open dataset of public complaints in New York.
A further project turned complaint data into cartoons on Instagram every week. London praised the open data initiative in New York, but added that for people to access it, they had to know it existed and know where to find it. The cartoons were a “lightweight” form of “civic engagement” that helped to integrate hyperlocal issues into everyday conversation.
London also gamified community engagement through a project commissioned by the Knight Foundation called Macon Money….(More)”.