I’ve never been a gamer. Even back in the days of early Atari, Sega, and Nintendo systems, I never got much beyond the 3rd or 4th level of Super Mario Bros. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about these fantastical worlds. But with today’s technology, games aren’t just about fantasy anymore. They take place in the world around us, intimately integrated with our lives, and we are the very characters in search of points, credits, and check-ins. And I am starting to come around. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/22023369 w=400&h=225]
I stumbled upon Chromaroma a couple days ago, a mobile app developed by Mudlark in the UK that turns riding The Tube into a social game. Poking around its website, I realized that all games are really just about incentives, and as any self-respecting economist will tell you, people respond to incentives. Chromaroma incentivizes riding public transport by giving riders points for each ride and sending them on missions to “capture” stations and identify unique locations along The Tube (like the station where Jerry Springer was born).
The game excites me not as much for its current use, but for its potential. Transport for London should seize this opportunity to make a public-private partnership. Mudlark now owns some extremely valuable data for the agency (it reminds me a lot of the data collected by San Francisco County Transportation Agency’s CycleTracks app). They can tell you when people travel, where they travel from, where they travel to, and whether they use a diversity of transit lines or mainly rely on it for commuting purposes. Depending on how widespread the game gets, it could even provide a measure of how overcrowded particular lines get – a metric for prioritizing transit investment.
The private sector has clearly seized on the opportunity technology presented to capture ubiquitous travel data. Let’s hope the public sector rides that wave as well.
- Terra Curtis