Reading: Towns Conquer paper analysis

by Chris F

I’ve found this paper while I was searching for “Gamification in Volunteering Geographical Information” on Google Scholar because I needed a reference. It seemed like an interesting paper, being linked with all the concepts that I’m studying, and I wanted to find out more, so I downloaded the paper.

A bit different than THIS type of town conquering

It’s a basic paper, much like the original “Gamification in VGI”, in which a few students from Spain decide to make a gamified application for Android and web which will allow users to input the names of Spain’s many provinces, in hopes of cleaning the official Spanish dataset with the names, and completing it with more local knowledge. The reason behind this is because Spain has a lot of dialects of Spanish/Portuguese and the writers of the paper wanted to find out more about names of certain regions, based on the dialects.

The paper starts by mentioning that crowd-sourcing is a really important concept, empowering the citizen, and that they would like to use it in this project, in conjunction with gamification. They mention OpenStreetMap and WikiMapia (first time I’ve seen Wikimapia in an academic paper till now) as examples of crowd-sourcing. It also states that the disadvantage of OSM is “reliance on small communities of “Neo-geographers”” and that their project “aims at tackling these problems by providing alternative motivation specifically a smartphone based computer based game service”. It looks like they didn’t do a lot of research into OSM and all the game apps that I’ve been talking about over the past few weeks.

They then go on to talk about the problems that they hope to tackle through this project and mention that they plan to use gamification. The authors reference Zichermann’s SAPS model and Bartle’s player types without going further than mentioning them as something they’ve looked into.

A description of the app is next. The application will be a map with all the provinces of Spain, which will prompt the user to choose from a list of 3 names for a province, or having the 4th option of inputting them themselves. For each input, the user will receive one point, and the user with the most points in a province “conquers” that region. They mention that the users will begin at lower administrative levels(municipality->province->region), and make their way up, conquering along the way. There will also be badges, and that the game will be released in a few months on the Play Store (paper was published in May, couldn’t find anything on the Play Store).

Although stating that the purpose behind this is to get as many inputs as possible, after which they will compare them with the official datasets and ask an IGN (equivalent of Ordnance Survey?) officer where conflicts arise, I need to ask myself how many of the users will play fair? The good thing about OSM is that the sheer number of users doesn’t usually allow for a mistake to stay in the map for long, especially in areas with a high density of active users. Another good thing about OSM is the user interaction. I add the name of a street, someone else can modify what I’ve done or add more on top, like sidewalk information or speed limits. With their example, the interaction between users is minimal, with the only thing that users can do being to see what someone else has conquered. It also looks like a user can get a maximum number of points, with 1 point for each region that they name, meaning that after a while, a lot of the users will have the maximum points possible, which leads me to ask what happens when a region has 5 users with the maximum number of points. While I really like the idea of having only a simple radio button layout with a text input for “other” as the forms of input, it also looks like people could just cheat so that they would win the province, and the paper doesn’t talk about that. Also, although it mentions Bartle’s player types, it does not talk about which of those types the game would be for, or how they would motivate the different types to take part in the game.

As a game designer, these are the things that I would like to know when you tell me that you have an idea for a game, especially a non-traditional game like a gamified crowd-sourcing application. Maybe I’m asking for too much. What I did learn from this paper, though, other than an interesting name for such a game, is that as a game designer, I cannot let my dissertation be as lacking in information as this here paper, when it comes to game design concepts. I can’t just skim over gamification as a concept or the mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics of the game that I will be creating, those need to be the core of it. I might skim over the technical aspect, as I’m not a computer science student like the guys in Zurich, I might skim over the more complex geographical aspect of it, since I’m not a geography student, but I absolutely can’t skim over the game design aspect of it, since I’m doing a Games Design course.

Chris F.

CASTELLOTE, J., J. HUERTA, J. PESCADOR and M. BROWN. Towns Conquer:A Gamified application to collect geographical names (vernacular names/toponyms)Anonymous AGILE 2013, 2013. Available at: Last accessed: 24th of October, 2013