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Q: The Gainer block has been a spot for foodies since the Gainer family opened their butcher shop here in 1892. What is your favourite food you can find on Whyte?
Q: The Gainer block has been a spot for foodies since the Gainer family opened their butcher shop here in 1892. What is your favourite food you can find on Whyte?
Message: That sounds delicious! Check out this link for more information about the Gainer Block's foodie roots:  
Message: That sounds delicious! Check out this link for more information about the Gainer Block's foodie roots:

Revision as of 10:02, 19 August 2011


Old Strathcona Business Association Game

We have partnered with the Old Strathcona Business Association[1] (OSBA)to build a geolocation based game to be played within the Old Strathcona/Whyte Ave area taking advantage of the diversity of opportunities this unique neighbourhood presents. The OSBA is a non-profit organisation that supports the local community, small business, festivals, events, and the historical area of Old Strathcona. The partnership provides us with a rich opportunity to create a multifaceted game that incorporates a range of themes that, when taken together, both highlight the diversity of the area but also provide us with a rich content resource for game development and testing.

For this client we will be building two games: one based on the fAR-Play platform and the other on the SCVNGR platform. These games will be built, tested, and compared by the research team.

The following information largely pertains to both games although they will have slightly different functionality due to their different infrastructure and interface qualities. Both games will make use of QR codes, will require players to go to different place and complete challenges that require them to create content including answering questions, entering free text answers, or taking and uploading photographs. The games will grant points and keep a leaderboard tally of players. They both also grant badges for larger or cumulative achievements.

Game Play:

This partnership provides us with many themes and content options for creating a game and we feel this diversity is both a challenge and an opportunity. We propose to design a game that is both modular and expansive. Multiple themed adventures, where players travel physically to different locations and use smartphones to complete challenges at each stop, will make up a larger umbrella game that links together the different adventures. Each adventure will focus on a unique idea, group of locations, event, or player demographic. The game play will be played over the long term with players welcome to dedicate a few hours to completing an adventure, or they may progress bit by bit over time as they return to the area repeatedly. Players will progress thorough these adventures and achieve themed badges for each adventure sequence of locations and challenges they complete. A master leaderboard for the game will track the progress of the most active players and users will be able to track their individual progress through personal accounts on a website. The Old Strathcona business community and the OSBA are very excited about this project and have proposed the option of having achievements in the game translated to real world rewards like discounts at business, free coffees, or passes to performances or events. This functionality is already built into the SCVNGR interface. This is an aspect of involvement we hope will engage players and make this a truly social game as they interact not only with the smartphone interface and the environment, but also with the merchants and other area participants.

Although the game will be played within the business district it is not designed for commercial purposes or individual business promotion. Businesses may choose to participate more actively in the game environment by offering real-world rewards but essential game play will never require purchases to be made. The purpose is to educate, not advertise.

Learning Potential:

These games have the potential for learning on multiple levels and is adaptable to a range of pedagogical aims. We see this game as being a fun and entertaining platform to present different content, link that content with the experience of a place, and to solicit engagement and feedback from players. One of the best ways to learn is to engage, respond, and create, so one of the most important aspects of this game is the ability and requirement for players to generate their own game content that stems from their personal experiences of the Old Strathcona area. The challenges scattered throughout the different adventures will present players with an open ended question or task that will ask them to enter text, take a photo, or upload other content they create themselves. These questions will ask players to respond to the location they are at and information presented through the game interface. We hope this will engage players to learn by challenge them to go beyond walking to different locations and reading directions as well as reinforcing connections to the area and its history through active and thoughtful engagement.

Proposed Adventure Themes:

  • Historical adventure to many of the original buildings from the founding of the area to teach players about the layers of history still presentin the neighbourhood. Stops on this adventure could include the Princess Theatre, the Dominion Hotel, the Strathcona Public Library, the Varscona firehall (now the Varscona Theatre) and the trolley stop by the farmer’s market. (*This adventure is currently being built)
  • Healthy Living in Old Strathcona adventure which would take players to the farmer’s market for healthy food options, yoga studios, the river walking trail, the bicycle commuters of Edmonton, McIntyre Memorial Park, personal trainers, medical clinics and other health and wellness resources. This game would teach players about ways they can integrate healthy living into their daily schedules within the urban environment.
  • International Dining adventure would have players travelling to the different international restaurants in the area to highlight the diversity of cultures and businesses in the area. This game can teach players about the multicultural identity of the neighbourhood and encourage both geographic and culinary exploration.
  • Locally Made adventure would have players identify places in the area that support local business, artisans, and community initiatives. This game would teach awareness of local initiatives and community building by making visible different levels of engagement and options they have for supporting local farmers, small businesses, volunteer organisations, and community engagement in general.
  • Festival Season adventures would guide players through time limited events like the Fringe, the Francophone Music Festival, the Old Strathcona Art Walk, and Ice on Whyte.
  • Family Friendly adventures engage children, parents and grandparents to explore the neighbourhood and discover resources for family activities.
  • Live Music and Theatre adventures engage players to discover the multitude of live entertainment venues in the city and learn about the vibrant performing arts culture in Edmonton.

These are only some options, there are many more layers of content to be explored in Old Strathcona. Individual challenge could also be built into the game that do not require a time commitment to complete. One interesting option that also teaches about the city’s history would be to ask players to find and photograph one of the rare all white albino magpies that nest in the Old Strathcona area. These are descendants from a magpie with the gene variation that has nested in Edmonton since the 1940’s.

Questions & Locations

Strathcona Public Library (Reading Refuge)- 5 pts

Q: The library has a collection of over 42,000 items - tell us about your favourite thing(s) the library provides access to. Snap a photo for extra points. (open response)

Message: Thanks! This library has a particularily extensive collection of classical and jazz music recordings. For more about this spot:

Princess Theatre (You Oughta Be in Pictures)- 5 pts Q: The Princess Theatre's vintage marquee and opulent architecture make it a photogenic spot. Take a photo from a unique perspective. (photo challenge)

Message: Thanks! That looks great. Why not catch a show and check out the interior of the theatre too.

Ross Block (The More Things Change...)- 5 pts Q: The reuse of historical buildings is common in growing cities like Edmonton, can you imagine what this building has been? What would you do with this building? (Open response)

Message: Thanks for sharing! This building has been many things including a hardware store, cultural centre, feed store, Masonic Hall, restaurant, & yoga studio.

Farmer's Market (Back to the Land)- 5 pts Q: Many Edmontonians make a tradition of going to the farmer's market and visiting particular vendors. Describe a tradition or memory linked to this place. (open response)

Message: Many of the people have been coming to the market for many years such as the kettle corn vendor. Check out their site for more information:

Strathcona Hotel (You can check out...)- 4 pts Q: Built in 1903, this is one of the oldest buildings in the city. What kind of events can you imagine having taken place in this building over the years? (open response)

Message: In the early 1900's this hotel was one of the best on the prairies. Check out this link to see more about the history of this spot:

Highlevel Bridge Streetcar (Clang x3 went the trolley)- 5 pts Q: When service across the Highlevel Bridge began in 1913 it was the highest river crossing by a streetcar in the world. Take a ride & snap a photo of the view.

Message: Nice shot! Check out this site for much more info about transportation in Edmonton:

McIntyre Fountain (Monumental disaster)- 4 pts Q: While this fountain looks historical, it is a replica built in 1989 to replace the original which was destroyed in 1952. How do you think it was destroyed?

Message: Great story, click here to read the offical account of how it was destroyed:

Walterdale Theatre (All the town's a stage...)- 4 pts Q: The Walterdale is only one of many arts venues in Old Strathcona. Tell us about a memorable show you've seen at the performance venues in the neighbourhood.

Message: Thanks! This building started out as a firehall (just like the Varscona across ths street), click this link to see more about the theatre district:

Hub News (??)- 4 pts Q: Hub News has one of the largest selections of magazines in Canada. What is your favourite place to pick up something to read in Old Strathcona?

Message: Although this is one of the oldest businesses in town it hasn't always been at this location, click to see where Hub New got it's start:

Gainer Block (Let's eat!)- 4 pts Q: The Gainer block has been a spot for foodies since the Gainer family opened their butcher shop here in 1892. What is your favourite food you can find on Whyte?

Message: That sounds delicious! Check out this link for more information about the Gainer Block's foodie roots:

Sample game play narrative:

Sam is picking up a coffee at a cafe on Whyte Ave and spots a colourful poster from the OSBA with a QR tag on it next to the door. She grabs her phone and snaps a photos of the tag and a mobile site loads. A pop up tells her she just took a first step in playing a game in Old Strathcona, explains it is a way of learning about the area, sharing her thoughts and opinions, and earning both digital and physical rewards. She creates an account by entering a username and password to get started and the game interface asks if she would like to complete her first challenge.

Tapping yes on her phone the website informs her that on the same spot where this cafe now stands there used to be a building that was originally a bakery and later housed a milliner and a candy store. The interior of the building was destroyed by fire in 1985 but outside you can still see remnants of it's original form. The game interface asks: Can you describe or photograph an architectural feature from when this building was first constructed?

Sam walks outside with her coffee and around the corner and finds a plaque with the year 1912 inscribed on it. She snaps a photo, adds a quick comment about the building being much older than she thought from the inside renovations, and then uploads it to the site. She earns 3 points in the game and her phone gives her a short list of other architectural features with photos that date the building to 1912.

Next it shows her a maps with other historical locations in the area and asks if she’d like to keep playing. There is a stop at the Princess Theater just across the street so she walks over. She scans the QR code poster in the front window and a web page loads that asks her to describe a movie or event she attended at the theater or snap a photo of the unique art deco exterior. She types a short note about how her family used to go to Saturday matinees at the theater after visiting the farmers market, taking up an extra seat for all their groceries.

She earns 5 points and the map loads again showing the other stops on the adventure. Since she is heading to campus she declines and her progress in the history adventure game is saved.

Sam can now return to the main game mobile site and log into her account to keep playing anytime. The neighbourhood has signs with QR codes posted at every business that is part of the larger OSBA game. The main game website lists all of the different adventures she can start to play and shows a leaderboard of players who have achieved high rankings in the game. Although the history game was interesting, she decides she is more interested in the Healthy Strathcona game and heads out on Saturday morning to the Strathcona Farmers’ Market to find the QR code at that location. She found this adventure by checking the main game website and browsing the available adventures and the stops included in each. After some looking around she sees a QR tag sign like the one at the cafe, scans it with her phone, and completes a challenge to find a vendor selling produce grown in a local greenhouse. Typing in the name of the vendor (and snapping a photo of the fresh tomatoes for bonus points) Sam sees the next stop is the Yoga Loft two blocks away.

She walks over to the Yoga Loft and scans the QR tag in their front window. The challenge at this location is to go inside to find a poster about the health benefits of practicing yoga and answer a question in the game interface. This location also has a real-world reward feature. If you attend three classes and log your visits in the game interface you can win a free class voucher.

Sam visits other locations over the next two weeks including the Edmonton Bicycle Commuter’s garage, an acupuncture clinic, vitamin and health food store, and the park, as well as walking the length of the neighbourhood from 99th St to 109th St, checking in at both ends by scanning QR codes posted outside. By visiting all the locations on the adventure she earns the Healthy Strathcona badge, achieves a higher personal score on the leaderboard, and earns some real world rewards from participating businesses. In addition she gets other friends involved and they complete some challenges together and can now play competitively by tracking each others progress either through the game leaderboard or updates pushed to Twitter and Facebook when players achieve game milestones.

When the Healthy Strathcona adventure is complete Sam can choose to play other adventures or play selectively at individual locations with the QR tags posted to earn points and rewards. New adventure themes, new locations, and short-term adventures for festivals like the Fringe are added to keep the game exciting and players engaged.

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