Background

I. Problem Statement
Homelessness and blighted areas are a considerable problem facing many of San Francisco’s local neighborhoods. One such prominent area is a greenway space known as Bernal Cut or College Hill. Local residence have begun a grassroots effort to start beautifying this space and making it walkable for children and adults of all ages. Heal the Cut – documents the ongoing efforts the community has taken thus far. They have organized neighborhood clean up days, had trucks of woodchips delivered from DPW, and begun to lay the foundation for new plants and vegetation to take shape.

In the next phase of the project, a local city grant to help restore this area and transform it to an art space will commission a local artist to place a 20 foot statue with electronic eyes to light up the stairway and keep it safe from unmentionables. A mural will also be painted in an effort to bring more art and color to the area. As part of this effort more awareness and involvement in greening the space is needed. This game acts as a promotional vehicle to bring more foot traffic and awareness to this project, as well as local businesses.

II. Target Audience
The game targets local families who live in this and surrounding neighborhoods. The game will be difficult enough to keep the attention of only adults or teenagers, while also allowing small children to also enjoy some of the activities. Targeted mainly at a local family unit, visiting friends or families will also be able to play and become introduced to the College Hill Neighborhood.

III. Ouroboros Magic Circle
The Ouroboros Magic Circle outlines the key elements involved in the user experience.
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IV. Content Sources
Background on the current efforts of this project and history of the neighborhood can be found at : HealTheCut.com. Inspiration for our game and design come from: The Jejune Institute – A local mysterious San Francisco scavenger hunt game which received a lot of buzz over the couple of years which it ran and Ingress – Google’s new alternate reality game, which allows the city to be seen in a very different light.

V. Values
By playing this game, participants will engage-in and experience the following values –
Community engagement : the collaborative effort of the entire community to work towards a similar goal; Greening : education and efforts around beautifying a space by adding “green” and organic materials; Team building : working in small teams to solve problems and puzzles.

VI. Fun/Engagement
The experience is made fun by both problem solving activities, discovering new/ interesting art and establishments within the neighborhood, and adding an artistic growing element of their own. The initial challenges and difficulty level in solving them engages participants to work together to solve riddles and piece together missing pieces. A sense of satisfaction is gained with every next step that is achieved. As well, interacting with some of the local merchants or discovering new establishments, which they might otherwise not have visited simultaneously informs local visitors, as well as delights them in discovering their surroundings. Some of the art or public art installations which are also highlighted, test subjects seemed delighted to discover as well. Finally, a sense of involvement/ community participation and expression is achieved through artistically decorating their marker and growing a plant they can call their own.

VII. Theory
John Ferrara talks about experiential learning through games in Chapter 12 of his book Playful Design. He says, “Experiential guides can bring attention to things that would ordinarily go unnoticed by assigning a new significance to them… Games can bring people to wonderful smaller locations the way a personal tour from a local native could.” College Hill Hunt is an attempt at just that. Through changing the mindset of the players and immersing them into a world layered on top of their daily one, they are able to discover new things within their daily lives and own environment that perhaps they had never noticed before. It gives a new meaning to already existing places and opens players’ minds to seeing old locations in a new light.

Later, he continues on, describing how I Love Bees, another alternate reality game, fostered Collective Intelligence as a way to promote Halo 2. In a similar way, I also believe that by seeing other’s helping to re-build the greenway, The College Hill Hunt will help to foster Collective Action. That is to say, by seeing the end result and a growing collection of popsicle sticks and flowers, players become aware that others’ are also involved in the same mission for the redevelopment project. Facilitating a larger collective group cohesion, individuals become inspired to participate further and engage on a neighborhood level to help transform their surroundings together.