Engaging with Open Data through Video Games

Presented by Paris Buttfield-Addison, Jon Manning, Tim Nugent
Wednesday 11:35 a.m.–12:20 p.m.
Target audience: Developer


Open data, such as that provided by many governments around the world is cool. It’s fantastic to see countries around the world opening as much as they can, allowing citizens and interested parties to build upon and enhance the myriad of interesting information collected by countries. There’s a lot of people doing great work with this sort of data, but they have to be extremely passionate, engaged, and motivated in order to want to get involved.

We found another way. For the last three years we’ve been participating in government-data-focused hackathons, and turning them into game jams.

This session explores why this is a good idea, and how you might want to do it to. We cover:

  • conceiving of game ideas based on normally dry open data sets (we once made a Pokemon-style battle game based on the energy efficiency data provided by the government energy regulator, it helped you figure out if your fridge was efficient by letting you battle it against other people’s fridges);

  • preserving the spirit and meaning of the data in games you make with it; tools for parsing and interpreting the data, and making it usable for your games (we’re very good at Perl, Awk, Sed, and R now);

  • getting out and engaging people with your data-based games, and making sure people don’t draw the wrong conclusions from what your game shows them (while still having fun – it is a game after all!)

We’ve built games –– often at GovHack in Australia that do everything from turn your local politician’s parliamentary voting history into a party game, to parsing and interpreting a giant database incorporating all the functional roles in a government, and turning it into a SpaceTeam style party game. We’ll tell you how you can do the same thing in your community, how to make it engaging and meaningful, why you might want to do this, and how to get started.

Presented by

Paris Buttfield-Addison

Dr Paris Buttfield-Addison is co-founder of Secret Lab, a mobile development studio based in beautiful Hobart, Australia. Secret Lab builds games and apps for mobile devices, including the award-winning ABC Play School iPad games, and the Qantas Joey Playbox. Paris formerly worked as mobile product manager for Meebo (acquired by Google), has a degree in medieval history, a PhD in Computing, and writes technical books on mobile and game development for O’Reilly Media. He can be found on Twitter @parisba and online at http://why.wtf

Jon Manning

Jon Manning is a co-founder of Secret Lab, where he makes games and does research. He has an actual PhD about jerks on the internet, has written about a dozen technical books for O’Reilly Media, and wrote two games for ABC’s Play School and one for Qantas. He’s currently working on Button Squid, a top-down puzzler for iOS, and is fond of making cool tools for rad devs.

Tim Nugent

Tim pretends to be a mobile app developer, game designer, and PhD student, and now he’s even pretending to be an author. (He cowrote the latest versions of Learning Cocoa with Objective-C, Swift Developement with Cocoa, Learning Swift, and the Kerbal Space Program Players Guide for O’Reilly.) When he isn’t busy avoiding being found out as a fraud, Tim spends most of his time designing and creating little apps and games he won’t let anyone see. He also spent a disproportionately long time writing this tiny little bio, most of which was taken up trying to stick a witty sci-fi reference in... before he simply gave up.

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