Play to Travel Smarter

Chromaroma from Mudlark on Vimeo.

Chromaroma takes your travel data
and makes it into a game where every journey
counts in a competition for the city!

Play with friends or compete
against them. Set records, earn
achievements, go on real missions.
Travel like you mean it!

This video does not, alone, explain the value that Mudlark intends to instill via their game, Chromaroma, but it does hint at its promise. It is also, I think, a very cool video!

Mudlark is a game development company that says about itself, “(We) are building ways to create entertaining games from the data we create and leave behind without noticing. Mudlark believes games are a way to access this information and to make smart decisions about our lives.”

I believe that the technologies we use and the ways in which they are implemented should be designed to enable people to make smart decisions about our lives. The companies that enable people to make smart decisions should be encouraged and rewarded, while the companies that allow or force people to make stupid and dangerous decisions should be discouraged and penalized. It is clear to me that much of contemporary commerce is designed to encourage people to make poor choices, for personal and environmental well being. It is prudent to build economic incentives that discourage companies and individuals from narrowing our choices to those that are poor, insensitive, unhealthful, but highly profitable.

The concept behind Chromaroma is wonderful. It is a location-based game that is focused on the journey, not the destination. Most location-based games, like Foursquare and Gowalla, are centered on the places we go to, like parks, restaurants, offices, and train stations. They enable us to keep track of where we’ve been to, but not how we got there. Some Foursquare-based games are extensions, like Forecast, which shares not where you are, but where you are going to be. But life, as we say, is about the journey, not the destination.

So how is Chromaroma more like life itself?

It connects communities of people who cross paths and routes on a regular basis, and encourages people to make new journeys and use public transport in a different way by exploring new areas and potentially using different modes of public transport.
At its simplest, Chromaroma is about amassing the most points possible. By watching your own travel details you can investigate interesting new ways to travel and exciting new destinations in order to get more points.
Beyond competition and conquest, Chromaroma’s gameplay opens up the beauty in the city’s transport flows and reveals to its most persistent players some of the mysteries of travel, and even the strange characters travelling through the tunnels in the centre of the system, who may hold the secrets to your city.

Rather than merely tracking where we go and what how we spend our money, then trying to encourage us to spend more money at certain venues, the objective of Chromaroma, then, is to encourage people to use smarter travel means – tram, bus, boat, bicycles, etc. – meet and team up with others to travel to destinations that are meaningful, and discover things together in collaboration and competition.

Chromaroma is currently primarily available only in London. It seems that Mudlark is spreading some aspects of the game to other places, though, such as in Birmingham and Amsterdam. But other venues, it seems, are starting to take notice. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City – MoMA – is one such venue. ChromaMOMA was born in an exhibition that opened on July 24, 2011 at MoMA, entitled “Talk to Me”. The exhibition focuses on “the communication between people and objects”, and how “designers write the initial script that enables the two parties to communicate effectively and elegantly and features projects that “establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.”

I think that these concepts will begin to spread to other places and directions (journey, not destination!), and will accelerate very quickly. Much has already been written about the tremendous growth of Foursquare. But again, I think that the viral growth of games that encourage and reward smart choices will rapidly rewrite this recent history. For I believe that most people are quite smart. We are smart enough to know that if we can play and win in activities that improve our lot, then it is pretty stupid to remain ignorant and dumb.

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