Announcing: The Garbage Game

    by Gail Robinson
    November 14, 2007

    After many nervous moments and late nights, Gotham Gazette’s The Garbage Game is on our site and ready for players. This is the first in a series of six games on key policy issues facing New York City that Gotham Gazette will be producing over the next two years. As we hope you’ll see for yourself, this one focuses on managing the almost 7 billion pounds of residential trash that New Yorkers produce every year.

    The idea behind the games is to let New Yorkers not only read about policy dilemmas but play an active role in addressing them. And we hope the game format brings people, who might otherwise not read about an issue, into the discussion. In the weeks to come, we’ll be reporting on the results of the game and on reactions to it. And we plan to relay the policy prescriptions to people at City Hall.

    Much of the discussion here has focused on the use of open source software — and not Flash — for the game. We used OpenLazlo and would be interested in your reactions to that. One big concern is what — if anything — the game loses by not being in Flash.


    But the software was just one part of the puzzle. Putting together this type of game involves hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions. It demands the kind of reporting that goes into a feature story — but that’s only the beginning. In this game, for example, we had to determine what types of garbage to include, which policy options should be offered, how to strike the balance between provding information and not cluttering the screen.how to make the game fun and substantive. And so on.

    After the staff at Gotham Gazette has a bit more time to reflect, we’ll probably blog more about some issues involved here. But in the meantime, please offer your comments, questions and suggestions.

    Tagged: games garbage game gothamgazette open source
    • Gail: Great stuff!!! Just took a quick stroll through the Garbage game and found it both fun and educational. Two questions…

      1) Are you planning on multiple (human) languages for this and other of your games?
      2) Have you connected with Majora Carter and her Sustainable South Bronx project. Would seem to be a natural fit and a good way to get your game out there more broadly, particularly as she is getting so much attention in the Green space these days.



    • As one of the big proponents of the free and open source games approach and an advocate of the long-term importance of free software, I have to admit a surprise: there were no moving parts in the game. (Firefox 2 on Mac OS 10.4, to disclose my platform and expose my hypocrisy, but I think it’s the design of the game.)

      http://openlaszlo.org allows for dragging and dropping though.

      Will pushing parts around be coming? I think an online game needs more than clicking– this version could pretty much have been done with HTML.

      Also, less intro to get into the game? Get people interacting and then educate?

      The current poster child for addictive internet game phenom is http://FreeRice.com (which doesn’t have moving parts either, which shows how much I know). But it does have instant entry into gameplay (no ‘next’).

      Another comment on why Flash is successful, and why this just proves the superiority of the free software approach:

      “Flash used to be proprietary-only, but after some reverse engineered open-source plugins showed up Adobe got behind the idea of open sourcing parts of Flash (although this doesn’t include Flash Video).”

      From http://catb.org/~esr/writings/world-domination/world-domination-201.html

    • Clarification: It is a good game, I’m just hoping for more!

      Also: this is why I need to make computer software to let others relate content; I can’t spot related things when they’re hitting me over the head. Was saving this to turn into a post of its own, but here it is:

      Giant mass of garbage floating in the Pacific (twice the size of Texas and growing) would be a good visual for your game (if you can find one) and in my opinion on the evening news at least once a year.

    • Ben,

      This version was pretty much done in HTML. Or, PHP and MySQL. That is a story for another post, later, when I’ve had a chance to get my bearings. The short versions is that deadlines, even soft ones like “we want this to go live at least a week before Thanksgiving so it doesn’t get buried by holidays” and software you’ve never used before don’t mix. We dropped OpenLaszlo because we were stuck and it was too late to be confident that we could get unstuck and still get the game done.

      Whether or not that was the right choice is hard to say. Sometimes you do not know what was down the path you did not take.

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