Kati London is blending the virtual and physical worlds to entertain–and to shape the real-life behavior of players. London, a vice president and senior producer at New York-based game company Area/Code, makes games that incorporate real-world data ranging from the mundane (the locations of players) to the exotic (signals from tracking devices attached to sharks in the Pacific). Many of her games are just for fun, but others are more serious.
For example, the U.K.’s Department for Transport commissioned Area/Code to make an online game for children aged 9 to 13, the group most at risk of being killed or seriously injured while crossing the street. When users reach a road in the fantasy-themed game, they can cross at designated safe spots and must look both ways for monsters. The monsters’ behavior reflects that of vehicles; at some crossings, their speed and number is based directly on traffic data from actual intersections in the U.K. By replicating the unpredictable variations in the appearance, speed, and number of vehicles, London believes, the game teaches skills that children need to handle real traffic. More than 160,000 players have been registered since the game was introduced last year, and an independent evaluation is due out next spring. –Kristina Grifantini
Fail-safe: Schoolchildren playing this game must face monsters when crossing roads; the unpredictable behavior of the monsters is derived from real traffic data.