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Planning Commission utilizes gaming as public outreach tool

For those anxiously awaiting the new SimCity's March release, Philadelphia city planners have an alternate fix. As part of a broad effort to engage more Philadelphians, the Planning Commission has adopted a fun, easy, interactive way to solicit public feedback for their ongoing district plans. Dubbed Philadelphia2035: The Game, the new tool is being used in conjunction with the ongoing University/Southwest District Plan.
By utilizing these new web tools, planners can reach a much bigger audience than with public meetings alone. So far it looks like efforts are paying off -- according to the Planning Commission's Clint Randall, 650 to 700 people have already registered to play. "The high interest hopefully means people are learning more about planning and projects coming to their neighborhood," says Randall.

The structure is simple: Players register online and then complete challenges featuring questions such as "What is Beautiful?" and "What Doesn’t Work?" In addition, players can post ideas for making their neighborhood a better version of its current self. Participants can also drop pins on a Google map, identifying what type of new development they’d like to see and where. 
Those without Internet access can play the game from any of the city's KEYSPOTs, free computing centers that are now up and running in the district.
The game also has an off-line impact. "As players earn coins for correct answers during the game, they can donate them to real-life causes, all based within the University/Southwest planning district," explains Randall. 
With seven causes currently under consideration, a donation toward the greening of the Lea Elementary School is the early frontrunner.
But not to fret, there’s still time to sign up and fight for some coin for a cause you care about. Players have the opportunity to donate their coins at the end of each of the three week-long missions. At the close of the game (February 18), the top three causes will each receive a $500 donation. 

Source:  Clint Randall, City Planning Commission
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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