Gentrification: The Game! is an award-winning transmedia game, which uses mobile technology to facilitate and augment offline gameplay. It has been presented at game and culture festivals around the world to critical acclaim. Small teams compete to collect real-world properties, “convert” them, and transform the neighbourhood. As developers, they’ll build swanky lofts, erect coffee shops, and raise property values. Or, as locals, they’ll form BIAs, make community centres, and try to thwart the developers. The neighbourhood’s changing face is tracked on a mobile web app, which updates along with players’ offline actions, and allows them to strategize while moving around. The same data is replicated on a giant sidewalk chalk map, which serves as a central meeting point, and looks fabulous.
Gentrification is played in rounds. In each round, your team scrambles to perform a variety of tasks. You start the round by consulting the web app, strategizing, and deciding who needs to do what. Some of you head out into the neighbourhood to choose and photograph properties to collect. Meanwhile, some of you stick around at City Hall, to plan conversions and negotiate with other teams. And, at the same time, the bravest of you perform one of several wild and creative “tactics”, from the Slick Advertising Campaign (performed via sidewalk chalk) to the nefarious Protest (complete with real placards.) Finally, you all meet back up along with the other teams, to find out how successful you were, hear about changes to the neighbourhood, and listen to the occasional lawsuit or impassioned speech.
Gentrification is a fantastic combination of real world action and online strategy; a bit like SimCity mixed with a scavenger hunt. What’s surprising about the game is how it uses technology so effectively - normally any kind of mobile technology is a pain to use and doesn’t provide much benefit, but I saw plenty of smartphones being used to plan tactics and outwit opponents. Certainly my favourite game out of the entire Hide and Seek festival in London.
Adrian Hon, Six to Start
Gentrification at Come Out and Play 2010 was so much fun! Really tight monopoly-like game design around buying and improving local properties was tied effortlessly with RIDICULOUS antics like fake petitions and flower- distributing, culminating with a completely wonderfully bombastic parade. Technology was DIY but seamlessly integrated -- I’d love to see it built out into an always-on version. I loved the tone of the game too; a really fun sense of humor tied the whole thing together. I can’t wait to see what Atmosphere Industries does next!
Gabe Smedresman, MeetGatsby
I noticed players debriefing after the game, talking about what worked, what didn’t, and how things were in “real life.” With all due respect to the brilliant artists of the museum hall, I would be hard-pressed to configure a means by which a painting or sculpture could accommodate such reflexivity.
Sarah Brin, Brintendo
At each level of the game, Gentrification presented a new community dilemma regarding property (zoning, sprawl, public art, etc.). By integrating real-life interaction with local residents, a mini-community was fostered during the game itself.
Meghan Warby, Community Manager, Cabinet Office,
Communications Branch, Province of Ontario
Taking Back the Streets.
Otiena Ellwand, Spacing Magazine: Winter Issue 2011
Andrew Walsh, Spacing Radio. July 29, 2010
Robyn Urback, blogTO. July 23, 2010
Eye Weekly. July 22, 2010
Jane Doh, ARGN. July 16, 2010
Ryan Bigge, Toronto Star. July 11, 2010
Jeff Watson, The Interactive Media Division Blog (University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts). October 6, 2010
We’re a group of fairly nifty Canadians who create award-winning cross media experiences that excite, educate and engage. Our projects tend to combine fun, community, technology, and a hearty helping of sprinkles. We've made games that have been played all over the world, including NYC, London, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Australia. They range from a Twitter- based/sticker-based game at a conference, to a GPS-driven cat and mouse street game, to a Bluetooth-distributed locative radio drama. We believe that unexpected fun makes the world a better place.