Vote it up!

  • Date:19 Jun 2011
  • Location: Foley Square
  • Address: Foley Square, New York
  • Time: 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
  • Commons is a game for urban communities to improve their city through citizen stewardship. Vote it up!

    In Commons, compete to do good, while problems in your city get fixed. Report a problem or recommend an improvement in your neighborhood that you think deserves attention and resources, and show your city some lovin’. Vote on the best reports and improvements, and see what’s most popular in the hood. Go on short missions around town to earn bonus points, and unlock City awards to level up through the game. With Commons, share the things that you care most about fixing and improving in your neighborhood, and discover new ways to explore your city.

    Game website:

    The game was selected as the winner of the first Games for Change Real-world Challenge.



    Commons is a multi-player location-based mobile game played on the iPhone. Players can choose to play the game individually, or in a self-selected group with one iPhone per group. We encourage you to play in pairs!

    Download the Commons game from the iTunes App Store.

    City Tasks

    A “City Task” is a short fix-it mission given to players about a specific location in the city. These City Tasks are sorted by district located in Lower Manhattan that players can pick and choose from as they play the game. City Tasks encourage players to explore the city and create their own adventure.

    City Tasks range from very broad challenges, such as “Report a problem south of Fulton Street”, to very specific challenges, such as “What would you recommend for joggers in Battery Park?” or “What do you love about South Street Sea Port?” Players earn points by submitting different City Tasks.

    Players go to neighborhood and use a mobile phone to submit City Tasks, which is to say 1) report a problem in the neighborhood, or 2) recommend an improvement in the neighborhood, or 3) show appreciation about something in the neighborhood.

    Each City Task consists of a text description (maximum 100 characters), including the street intersection or geo-tag where the issue exists, and a photo. When a player submits a City Task, he/she earns experience points for each submission.

    Here are some examples of City Task submissions:

    • Report a Problem: Cracked sidewalk in front of subway station. William & Pine St. [photo uploaded]
    • Recommend Improvement: Put lights in bball court – how we gonna see those slam dunks?! Broadway & Liberty St. [photo uploaded]
    • Recommend Improvement: Need more bike racks at Chambers St station. Church and Warren. [photo uploaded]
    • Show Appreciation: Love the tulip magnolia trees in City Hall Park. Park Row and Murray. [photo uploaded]


    When a City Task is submitted to the database, it is then sent anonymously to a random sampling of players for voting in the “Poll Booth”. In the Poll Booth, each player will be presented with a choice of two City Tasks to vote on and will be required to choose the one they think is the best idea and deserves the most attention and resources. While in the Poll Booth, players will get the opportunity to vote on several comparative City Task clusters before resuming gameplay. Vote it up!

    When a player’s own City Task is voted up, he/she earns experience points for each vote accrued.


    Players may adopt several strategies to win the game. For example, the more creative a player can be with the text descriptions and photos in City Tasks, the more likely he/she may be to grab people’s attention and amass votes. Another strategy might be for players to spread out and report from geographic areas within the game boundaries where they know that other players are not congregating, so as to find unique things to report on.


    Throughout gameplay and post-gameplay, players can check a leader board to see rankings of the most popular City Task ideas and who submitted those ideas, and total number of votes earned. Also, players can view the awards they’ve unlocked and the titles they’ve achieved.


    Players earn a final game score based on the total number of experience points earned for all their activities. Players also level up through coveted City titles throughout gameplay.

    To win the game, a player has to get his/her idea voted up the stack.

    Number of Players

    100 – 200+ players.

    Duration of Game

    This game is played over a period of 2 hours to give people a chance to wander around neighborhoods on foot and explore lower Manhattan.

    Location of Game

    The game will be kicked-off at Foley Square, just north of Chambers street. The game boundaries will be south of Chambers street within the western and eastern boundaries of the Hudson River. More generally, we hope that this game could be played in areas that could really benefit from civic awareness and attention.

    Game Rules

    Players can go anywhere within the game’s geographic boundaries, south of Chambers Street, and can travel by any means necessary.

    A “City Task” must describe a public place or issue that exists outside in the open air and exterior environs. Inside of buildings, vehicles, or in underground subway stations does not count in this game.

    A “City Task” must include 3 things: a text description, a photo, and street intersection or location.

    Players can choose whether to travel around as individuals or in groups; the winners will receive prizes.


    Suzanne Kirkpatrick, Creator & Lead Game Designer

    Suzanne Kirkpatrick is a creative technologist and interaction designer currently enrolled in the Master’s Degree program at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, where she studies hardware and software engineering and interactive design. Besides her enrollment at ITP, she is also a Graduate Researcher at NYU-Polytechnic’s Social Game Lab, Intern for New York City’s Chief Digital Officer at the Mayor’s Office of Digital Coordination, and Creative Tech Intern at Apple, Inc.

    In the HCI space, her current research interests are focused on the emotional and social effects of physical movements in gaming and virtual worlds, and the application of organic materials as digital media controllers. She also focuses her energy towards solving issues in global development and creating technology for social impact, as well as mobile services and applications for urban communities.

    Suzanne completed her undergraduate degree at Stanford University, and has 8 years of professional experience in the tech industry and Silicon Valley, managing programs and projects for both public and private sector organizations, including Cisco Systems, United Nations Development Program, and Microsoft Corporation.

    Email: suzkirkpatrick (at) gmail (dot) com
    Twitter: @suzkita

    Nien Lam, Developer & Game Designer

    Nien Lam is a programmer and designer based in New York City. He is a graduate student at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. His areas of focus are gaming, computer vision, mobile applications and wearable devices.

    His work has been featured in the NY Daily News, NPR, The Huffington Post and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

    Email: nien.p.lam (at) gmail (dot) com

    Jamie Lin, Interaction & Game Designer

    Real-world Games for Change Challenge Winner Commons, Interaction & Game Designer Jamie Lin is a graduate student at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Her interests span the fields of psychology, design, and technology. Her goal in life is to fuse behavioral research and narrative into games and interactive stories.
    Her secret childhood dream is to be a National Geographic camerawoman or engineer the worlds first unicorn.
    She also worked on the graphics of an educational Xbox360 game that made it to the top six of Microsoft’s 2011 Imagine Cup Game Design competition.

    Email: jamietlin (at) gmail (dot) com


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