(Photo courtesy of Arad Malhotra)
All too many people do not fully understand how their government actually works. This is in part due to the lack of resources dedicated to teaching about this subject. Additionally, despite the existence of a successful nationwide movement to promote transparency in government, very few average people have any desire to access this information or understand its implications on their daily lives.
At Skyless Game Studios, we decided to do something about this issue. We are developing a video game specifically designed to teach people about municipal government using real open budget data as a part of the game.
The mobile game, called City Hall, provides players with a unique opportunity to take charge of their city’s government and to decide the best way to achieve growth, prosperity and happiness for its citizens. To be successful at this they must balance the wants and needs of varied groups of citizens. This is all designed to be a challenging but realistic simulation of what municipal government really involves.
The goal of City Hall is to help players better understand the complexities of their cities’ governments and the pros and cons of each decision made, with the hope that this will ultimately lead to a more informed and engaged public.
Chris Bennett, Oleks Levtchenko and I founded Skyless Game Studios to specialize in creating games for social, educational and philanthropic impact. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to apply our process to such an exciting and important challenge.
Despite still being in development, City Hall is already picking up some steam. It has attracted the attention of a number of transparency and open data experts including government consultants Frank McNally and Jim Burkart, who are serving as advisors on the project. Also, in late 2014, we were also awarded a grant by Transparency International, a global anti-corruption and transparency watchdog organization, as part of its Social Entrepreneurship Initiative.
The first version of City Hall, featuring Philadelphia as a playable city, is slated to be released in Fall 2015.