I am archiving older pieces I have written on other sites, making this the definitive home for all my work. This is one of several I am porting over from my GameDev.Net user journal. Enjoy!
Continuing on the theme of my previous entry, it hit me while playing Cambiemos again that I'd like to do a few games on New York City. I live here and I love it here, and I want it to be better. There are problems, and I'd just like to express some of them in games - and perhaps spur creative solutions.
On July 22, 2005, the New York Police Department begain "random" searches of bags of commuters entering the Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway system, with intent to rapidly expand the searches to cover all MTA services - the Long Island Railroad, the Metro North Railroad, and so on. Many New Yorkers feel this to be a violation of their civil rights, and I'm one of them. Far more importantly, the system is a panacea - a supposedly miraculous cure-all - that simply doesn't work.
A simple game could, for example, have the player assume the duties of two NYPD cops assigned to any random subway or LIRR station and instruct the player to search commuters according to the criteria for the day - every fifth commuter, every eleventh commuter, etc. When the "shift" is complete, the game would then present the ethnic breakdown and other stats, as well as reveal whether a malicious rider indeed slipped past, the point being to illustrate the inefficacy of the system.
To make things a little more complex, the rate of commuter arrival/departure would vary with what time of day it was and what station it was, as would other demographics such as commuter age, profession and so forth. The whole process would quickly become quite absurd.
I don't have access to Flash authoring tools right now, so I'll probably go ahead and prototype this in Python+PyGame, partly as practice for PyWeek. Eventually, though, a game like this needs to be web-deployed to serve its purpose.
A hot-button issue in New York is "gentrification" and the pricing out of indegenous residents of neighborhoods, as well as the arguments made by the "other side" of "reclamation and restoration," among other things. From Bruce Ratner's proposed Brooklyn Nets stadium over the Atlantic Ave railyard (which I actually support, but mostly because I think it'd be cool to have an NBA team in Brooklyn) to the insidious redesignation of Harlem as "Upper Manhattan" by some, the issue generates quite a bit of heat.
Rather than coming down definitively on either side of the fence, this is an issue that I think needs to be shown to be complex. I haven't nailed the precise concept down yet, but it's something about managing transitions in such areas by incorporating some local character (eg grafitti-esque murals as paint schemes on residential buildings, blending the sensibilities of the original neighborhood with the aspirations of the new), ensuring that the elderly and poor are not disproportionately affected in the transition or otherwise just showing the possibility of thematic and aesthetic harmony. More on this as I mull it over.