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November 14, 2006

Filed under: gaming»design»learning

Street Sense

The World Bank Institute's Urban and Local Government division is holding a game design competition. Designers are asked to submit proposals for a board or card game that will teach the concepts and benefits of street addressing, and the winner will recieve a $6,000 consultancy contract to fine-tune the game before publication. Runners-up may receive short contracts to discuss their concepts if there are interesting aspects for consideration. If you're interested, you can find the call for proposals here, but hurry: the competition closes at the end of November.

Why street addressing? For Americans this sounds like a silly assignment. My manager stood up at the meeting and explained that it's actually a huge economic drain in lesser-developed countries, including places we typically think of as mostly-developed. For example, she said, when she worked in East Germany during its transition from communism to democracy, the street signs had been removed but new ones hadn't been posted. Finding the firms for which she was consulting on any given day without clear addresses took a great deal of effort, and harmed productivity. Convincing local governments of the benefits of street addressing, as well as the methods for implementation, can be really important.

My thought, and feel free to steal this, is a card game where each player is trying to reach their destination in a fictional city. By playing street sign and address cards, they build a set of directions and move closer. Other players can play obstacle and inefficiency cards that represent a lack of good orientation, sending opponents off course and moving them farther away. The first player to reach their final destination, say by assembling 20 "direction points," wins the game. It's like Magic: the Gathering, but for street addresses. I can just see myself trying to explain that to my colleagues. "Magic: the Gathering? Thomas, you are such a dork."

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