London’s transport system is transformed into a massive playground
par Adrien Geneste | 11.18.11
And what happens when a public transport network becomes the scene of gigantic team games? Inspired by the principle of Fun Theory, which suggests that environmentally responsible behavior can be encouraged through attractive infrastructure, Chromaroma invites London Underground users to participate in an eco-citizen turf war.
Chromaroma is a game in which anyone can participate either individually or as part of a team. The sole requirement: an Oyster Card, London’s equivalent of the Île-de-France’s Navigo, which is the main tool of the game “The only price of admission to the game is a transport subscription,” said Richard Birkin, engineer in charge of the project at Mudlark. Based on the interactions between the points of entry and exit of the subway, bus stations and self-service bicycles in London Chromaroma engages users in a veritable turf war, vying for station “ownership,” awarded to the team or individual with the highest attendance. Players, who wish, can follow their results on the Chromaroma site. The goal? Make commuting more fun by breaking the monotony of public transport, and developing the imagination and ingenuity of each participant. In some cases, Richard Birkin assures us, Chromaroma elicits real “emotion.”
Although automatically affiliated with a team, each participant can also play individually by completing all types of missions, like getting off the metro early and making the rest of a journey on foot, or getting on at a station further from his or her usual spot and thus getting to know a new and unusual place. Logically, any travel outside of peak hours is applauded.
In the hopes of reaching the widest audience possible and to keep from discouraging the more recalcitrant, Chromaroma has a system of graduated engagement that allows individuals to participate in varying degrees. From completely passive gameplay that only takes into account regular travel, to an array of active missions, from the simplest to the most demanding, Chromaroma adapts to each participant.
Today, more than 10 000 registered users battle it out, a number that has been steadily increasing since late 2010, thanks to favorable word of mouth buzz. But Richard Birkin and his team do not count on stopping there: in order to attract more participants, the game must soon be accessible in real time. “Up until now, data has only been updated every 24 hours which can de-motivate players. We want players to be able to measure the impact of their actions immediately.” Also, Transport for London (TfL), the transport organizer in the capital, must open up its data to the public, which has not yet occurred.
A future model in France?
When asked whether the model might be exported, Richard Birkin’s response is clear: “a very large number of foreign transit companies are watching from the wings.” Several megacities and even some countries are paying close attention to the application. “We are quite willing to share our expertise in this area to create a true community beyond borders. This could make the game more exciting.” Alas, the cost of this “sharing” is still up in the air.
Translated by Genny Cortinovis