• Games and the .nyc TLD

last modified October 31, 2012 by tomlowenhaupt

­­If we're to entice more people to become engaged with civic affairs, we need to make the experience more competitive with our national pastime - as much fun as baseball. This page looks at ways a TLD might be fashioned to facilitate the creation of games for governance. While our principle focus is civic benefit, our efforts should prove beneficial to the development of games of all types.

 Traditional, electronic, physical...


 (Commons photo courtesy pf moriza.)


Queens Community Board 3's website was in the planning and development stages for 10 years in 2002, with the dream of a more engaged community seemingly within reach.

As the board waited for a more engaged community to emerge from this new technological wonder, days, weeks, months, and years went by with minuscule public participation.

Eventually, the realization of how dull and tedious 99% of the public found local governance issues became clear. The site's lead developer first tried SecondLife’s virtual world and then other explorations of ways to make “governance as much fun as baseball.”

When the .nyc TLD's arrival moved closer to reality in 2005, attention focused on its potential - mixed with cell phones, RFIDs, the Net, and some "game think" - to make the city more civicly engaging.

Wikipedia on Games
One of the many Wikipedia definitions of games is: an interactive, goal-oriented activity, active agents to play against, in which players (including active agents) can interfere with each other.
Jane McGonigal

In this inspirational TED presentation, Jane McGonigal focuses on four elements of gaming:

  • Urgent Optimism
  • Social Trust Develops
  • Blissful Productivity
  • Epic Meaning
Gamers are super-powered hopeful individuals. They believe they can change the virtual world.

We need to convince them that they can change the real world.

Herodotus - Dice games were invented in Lydia in a time of famine as a means of escape.That's how we're using games today at the Foundation for the Future.

  • World Without Oil - Started with 1,700 users in 2007.
  • SuperStruct - 8,000 people played for 8 weeks.
  • Evoke - Developed by World Bank Institute to certify social innovators.


























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What: Preliminary planning session for Games and the .nyc TLD

When: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 10:00 PM (New York)

Where: Democracy Island in SecondLife.com. Just appear if you know how, or email tom@connectingnyc.org  for directions.

(If this goes well, we'll have a face 2 face in late May during Games for Change.)

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Is there a relationship between a Top Level Domain and games? Might there be an opportunity to help games cascade through the .nyc TLD by planning the name space? What does .nyc offer in terms of a platform for games? Here's what we start with:

  • We've a virgin TLD for New York City that's in its early planning stage.
  • Within .nyc there will be a strong Internet of Things implementation providing a domain name for everything - every fire hydrant, street, building, tree, street light, sewer, dropcurb, etc. - that exists in real life.
  • And there's to be a parallel virtual.nyc (or two) that will exist in places like SecondLife.
  • There's the blossoming of games in media of all types.
  • And there are increasing numbers of people expert in their development, self taught and from programs at the New School and NYU.

We'll be eyeballing one another on April 27th on Democracy Island, thinking about creating a platform that's good both for commercial games and for games that facilitate community building and the governance process. Refreshments will be served.

Here are some game resources related to  our exploration.

Civic Hero - An early prospect for a game is one that meets the need of identifying important domain names. Civic Hero might use an environmental sustainability metaphor for categorizing New York City’s domain names. Its premise is that certain civic domain names are vital to the effective operation of our city. Some of these can be easily identified – gov.nyc, soho.nyc, mayor.nyc, schools.nyc. Others are more difficult – street names, community events, and names reserved for future generations.

Civic Hero would be a game that transforms the search for civic domain names into a contest, with the winner being the individual uncovering the most. A successful game will establish a mechanism for suggesting a name, and require the concurrence of others to set it aside as a civic name and thus to score. Two games to draw upon for inspiration and example are:

Virtual.nyc - A virtual map of the city is being discussed, one that might be as accessible as Second Life, but linked into real life sensors – video cameras, cell phones, RFIDs (where’s Orwell?). Such a virtual city will provide the foundation for games that cross pollinate the real and the virtual worlds.

What civicly positive games might be developed using virtual.nyc as the foundation?

Mobility - What games might arise from our increasingly pervasive cell phones. See the mobility page for some thoughts on this and imagine the cell phone within an Internet of Things and/or a virtual.nyc.

Games.nyc - A May 2008 report by the Center for the Urban Future "Getting in the Game" presents an overview of the city's game industry. It presents games as a huge and growing industry: big on the West coast, in Austin, and Atlanta, with New York a distant 4th. The money invested in games development here is primarily in advertising, and these are one-offs, of little long term value.

Is there a games community in New York City? How might the games.nyc name be used as an organizing force for growing this industry? Who will take the lead?

Games and Democracy

One of great possibilities for .nyc is that, through the Net's refocusing on local needs, it provides a new platform for our society's organizational arrangements. The 'games for governance' effort seeks to uncover ways a TLD might be imagined as a technology for civic good. With governance a key determinant of what gets addressed and by whom, might civic engagement be enhanced by the more localized Internet?

This is new territory. Little had been accomplished. Some budget games, a few park design efforts, and in early 2008, Justice Sandra O'Connor's effort to develop a "judiciary" game. From the New york Times:

"Yet there she was, a notable figure in modern history, at once engaging and imposing as she explained why she had embraced the Internet and interactive digital media as an essential tool for preserving American democracy. In cooperation with Georgetown University Law Center and Arizona State University, Justice O’Connor is helping develop a Web site and interactive civics curriculum for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students called Our Courts. See (www.ourcourts.org)."

 What type of legislative and executive games might compliment this judicial effort?

Related Links

  • Game Mechanics - This page is a compilation of open source Game Mechanics and Game Dynamics Theories.
  • Games for Change - A "non-profit which seeks to harness the extraordinary power of video games to address the most pressing issues of our day, including poverty, education, human rights, global conflict and climate change. G4C acts as a voice for the transformative power of games, bringing together organizations and individuals from the nonprofit sector, government, journalism, academia, industry and the arts, to grow the sector and provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and resources. " 
  • Games with a Purpose - According to its website "When you play a game at Gwap, you aren't just having fun. You're helping the world become a better place. By playing our games, you're training computers to solve problems for humans all over the world."  
  • Ian Bogost Blog - What lies at the intersection of video games and journalism? Read Ian.
  • Gotham Gazette Balance the Budget Code 
  • Engagement Lab at Emerson

Key .nyc Pages

  • The TLD Acquisition Campaign - The .nyc TLD's acquisition effort requires that we develop support here in New York City and convincingly present our goals and capabilities to the organization that issues new TLDs, the ICANN. 
  • Advantages of the .nyc TLD - Marketing city resources, creating a more livable city, economic development, community awareness, Internet access and training, and more.
  • Mission & Objectives - Why we exist and what we hope to accomplish.
  • The Operating Environment - Issuing names, operating the registry, maintaining a directory, and creating a safe communications environment that benefits all New Yorkers is our key mission.
  • The Development Environment - Here we will explore personal, family, civic, community, and business networking applications that might help create a more livable city. Should security and privacy be our highest development priority? Where should education, training, and access be on our priority list? Help decide.
  • Governance - Like the air, water, streets and schools the .nyc TLD is commons and will serve residents best when operated transparently and with the public engaged in its governance.
  • FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions about the .nyc TLD.
  • Connecting.nyc Inc.'s Home Page.
  • Our Blog