Leo Burnett has launched a SimCity-style strategy game, Run That Town, using census data collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The game allows players to take control of an Australian neighbourhood of their choice and use census data to decide how best to develop it.
Players can consult with and influence residents before building pools, casinos, stadiums and even theme parks. Popular leaders will receive ticker tape parades, while unsuccessful ones will be chased out of town by an angry mob.
Since its launch six days ago, the free game has been downloaded by 7,500 people and has a 4.5 star rating based on 128 reviews.
Zaid Al-Asady, creative/art director at Leo Burnett Australia, who led the campaign with colleague Kieran Ots, says the agency developed the game on behalf of ABS to encourage more Australians to engage with census data.
“This data helps inform planning decisions that could have a huge impact on people’s day to day lives, but since most people don’t find themselves in the position of having to make those decisions, they don’t get to see it first hand. By putting them in charge of their own local area, Run That Town gives them a chance to use that data for themselves,” he explains.
The agency pitched the idea for a mobile game in early 2012 and it took almost a year to produce, says Al-Asady.
“It started with a conversation with ABS, who raised the possibility of using location-based data to get people more connected with the statistics of their local area. We went away for a couple of weeks before pitching the idea of making a mobile game that would use real data to drive the gameplay experience. They were pretty keen from the outset,” he adds.
Working with game development partner Millipede, Leo Burnett had to design game flow and graphics for hundreds of in-game events and variants, creating more than 100,000 words of in-app copy, before thoroughly testing and refining the finished product.
The result is a game that’s well-designed and enjoyable to play. Run That Town’s success won’t be determined until the next census in 2016 but it’s a great idea, and Leo Burnett may have successfully pulled off the almost impossible task of getting the general public excited about census data.
“The feedback we’ve received within social media and the blogging community is really encouraging – especially considering this is all without any media support, which is due to kick in next week,” says Al-Asady.
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