Open data is a cornerstone of transparency, democratization and the guarantee of free access to information. But over the last 15 years it has also become a commercial commodity that is hugely in demand, and one that is proliferating fast. Juegos del Común is an exciting digital association in Barcelona using games dynamics to challenge this model and promote citizen empowerment and open data.

Large digital technology corporations offer “free” tools to help make their data useable but only if those companies can control the data, and to use it for their own commercial ends. All this led Juegos del Común – a project designed by the Arsgames Association and launched in Barcelona in 2017-2018 – to research and develop mechanisms to transform open data into clear, accessible information.

This in turn gave rise to the development of an interactive experience based on game dynamics, with the aim of promoting citizen empowerment and participation and encouraging critical thinking about the function and value of data and information in our society.

Screenshot from Last Hope, a simulation of homelessness

Juegos del Común developed four game prototypes and an online service providing access to open data sets about the impact of tourism on housing in the city. These prototypes aim to encourage reflection based on real data provided by Barcelona City Council, and the processing of this data.

The online service aims to provide access to open data with a focus on housing and tourism issues through game drivers such as Construct2, Godot, Unity, Gdevelop, GameMaker.

Four video game prototypes have been developed: Rambla Rush: a run along the Rambla in Barcelona based on the average cost of rented accommodation and the city’s many cultural festivals; Flatsweeper: a minesweeper in search of rented flats in Barcelona; PimPamPom: A pinball game that you have to win in order to be able to pay the rent; and Last Hope: a simulation of the everyday life of a homeless person.

These four prototypes have helped forge links between different local communities, and are enabling Barcelona City Council’s open data to be used in a creative and impactful way.

“The fact that this initiative is explicitly linking experts in video game design and
human rights activists for a common objective is very inspiring – and should be replicated! At the same time, the focus on using official data for socio-political use sheds relevant light on current discussions around the “smart city” mantra that private-public partnerships are trying to impose around the globe.”

-Evaluator Lorena Zarate

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