Presented to: Justin Longo
Advanced Governance Analysis, Summer 2017
Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy

Smart Citizen – A Gamified Platform for Civic Engagement


Do u feel helpless when elected officials do not perform up to the expectations? Big promises at the time of elections and once they are in power, they do what they want to do and leave citizens helpless. Do you feel that you can do something for a better cause and it can be fun too? Yes, you can. The answer is the Gamified form of Governance – the Smart Citizen.

Key Issue:

As per Robert Putnam’s theory of social capital, civic engagement and trust in the institutions are fundamental elements for the good governance. Civic engagement can be a useful tool to overcome the limitations of public administration. However, increasing civic participation is not easy. Although tremendous efforts have been made to increase civic participation, remarkable success has not been achieved. This clearly indicates that the traditional approach for increasing civilian engagement in governanceis not working.


In the last two decade, the advent of technology and the Internet has provided a critical window of opportunity for increasing civic participation. Technology has abolished traditional barriers like time and location (town hall meetings, posters etc.). Due to the increased connectivity, it is now possible to reach to the citizens at their time and their place of convenience.


Making things looks like a Game or Gamification is an ancient context. Through the advent of the Internet, Big Data, Pluggable frameworks, and graphics better Gamification platforms have emerged.  Governments can use this to increase citizen involvement in decision-making processes.

Social Power of Gamification: In recent years, gaming companies have shifted their strategy from only targeting young boys and teenagers to targeting all individuals like including middle-aged people and seniors by developing games like Farmville and Angry Birds. Gaming industry was successful to do so because of their use of “Human-Focused Design” instead of traditional Function- Focused Design.

In 2013, Gartner identified Gamification as a trend in the Digital Government hype cycle. Gamification is still in the innovation phase, which will soon turn towards the peak.

Proposal: App Smart Citizen

From the lessons of JSGS880 and readings on Gamification in Governance, I have developed this conceptual framework for a mobile and online game to make governance better. This game will provide an opportunity for the citizens to participate in governance and provide guidelines to the decision makers and stakeholders. This will also give insights about citizen’s approach towards current governance issues and projects.

It will also help to curb government’s autocratic power. It will act as an ongoing report card for the government.


Smart Citizen game will be “Explicit Gamification” – Games for Non- Game Purpose. It will involve the Gamification Strategies based on real life data and simulation. The purpose of Smart Citizen is to engage users for the productive mean by the medium of a game.

McDonald’s ‘Monopoly’, FoldIt’s AIDS research, and Autodesk’s ‘Undiscovered Territory’ are the examples of such Explicit Gamification.

Limitation: The Alternative Governance Proposal is a conceptual framework and might have technological limitations to achieve its technological efficiency.

Smart Citizen is a multi-player gaming platform which means Human Vs. Computer or Human Vs. Human. Players can challange other players or a computer at various levels of the game. The game will be based on “Real Time Strategy” instead of “Turn Based Strategy”.

Smart Citizen will be initially for the selected groups and later it will be available to general public. Once downloaded it and will identify player’s motivation based on sign up information like age, location, education level etc.

The game will be a Gamified simulation of current government issues. Citizens will act as a government authority and will have the choices to make decisions.

Real Time Reporting: Citizens can report real-time issues directly to the government website through additional tools provided in the game and can be rewarded by the bonus points.

For an example, if a citizen notices an accident, he or she can notify the authorities and it will be broadcasted as an alert right away! Citizens can win bonus points or level up by doing so within the time.

As per Thiel 2015, civic participation increases when people can track the progress of their inputs. With real-time reporting and monitoring, people can report and monitor the progress of their inputs.

Foundation of Game Strategies:

The game strategies will be designed on Chou,Yu-Kai’s Octalysis that has 8 core drives and will target citizens of all age and group.


Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling: This drive will approach people who believe that they are doing something for a greater cause (Example- Wikipedia Contributors). Game Strategies designed based on this drive will target highly educated and intellectual class of the society.

Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment: This drive is for making progress, developing skills, and eventually overcoming challenges. The word “challenge” in game design will target the accomplishment seeking citizens like student and teenagers. The concepts of Point, Badges, and Leaderboards will be based on this drive.

Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback: This drive will focus on engaging users in creative processes and try different combinations just for fun. The target group will be artists, students, and innovators.

Core Drive 4: Ownership and Possession: This drive will keep users motivated because they will feel that they own or control the game. Game elements like virtual currencies, wealth, and expansion of virtual territory will be based on this drive.

Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness: This drive will be based on social elements like mentorship, social acceptance, social feedback, companionship, competition, and envy that will motivate people to perform in the game. Use of social media and game updates/results- sharing options will add value to this drive.

Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience: This drive will exploit the human tendency to try to achieve that is scarce. Facebook has used this drive as it was initially for the Harvard students only. Google has used it as an initial invitation based Gmail launch. Smart Citizen will be initially for the selected group of citizens like University of Regina Students, and then SIAST and eventually it will be available everyone. Awareness about the game will be promoted through social media that will make people wait for the game launch. The strategy is more people will be attracted to it as previously it was not available to them.

Core Drive 7: Unpredictability and Curiosity: This core drive will be the most crucial drive as it will keep users engaged because they can’t predict what will happen next. Highly complex algorithms and the wide range of selection choices will make the game highly unpredictable. This drive will be also an extension of Drive 2 as elements like “Bonus Points” or “Penalties” will make the game even more interesting. This kind of “Gambling” elements will make the game more addictive.

Core Drive 8: Loss Avoidance: This drive will be responsible for creating motivation to avoid something negative from happening. The elements like Special Stage and limited time only opportunity will exploit the motivation of the players.

Drive 9th and 10th: Proposed by Sam:

Drive 9th Sensation: People make choices based on the feel, look, and style. Advances graphics, amazing sounds, fabulous design, and user interface will make “Smart Citizen” even more appealing. It is the same gaming element that is behind people’s preference of an iPhone over any other phone even though both phones does almost the same job.

Drive 10th: Financial Motivation (Future Prospect): If this proposal is approved by the Government and it’s usefulness is accredited, winners or better performers will get some kind of financial benefits like tuition reimbursement and/or tax rebate. Although this drive sounds a little optimistic, I believe that it has a potential to increase civic engagement.

Use of Black Hat Vs. White Hat Gamification:

Based on player’s performance and sign up information, the algorithms of the Smart Citizen will use either black hat drives, white hat drives or a combination of both to throw more strategies to motivate users. The top core drives in the Octagon are considered to be more positive (White Hat) and bottom core drives are considered to be more negative (Black Hat). White Hat drives make users feel powerful, fullfilled and satisfied. On the other hand, Black Hat drive makes users feel obsessed, anxious, and addicted.

Algorithms will make sure that strategies remain dynamic and can change with the level, performance and competition results.


Direct Communication Surveys:

Each week players will be presented a survey about their opinion on Government’s actions towards a specific issue (Drive 8, 1 and 2). This direct communication will provide the government a platform to present its viewpoint. In response to attending time-sensitive survey, players will get bonus points. Results of the survey will be posted for the general public through Game’s social media handles. In addition, the top contributor’s name and Avatar would be also published.

This survey results will provide a valuable data to the government on how people wants them to act.

Players can use their Smart Citizen ranking on their Linked In, Facebook, Twitter profile. Even they can add their Smart Citizen badge on their profile page.


Smart Citizen Game Framework:

Core Elements:

• Points in Point Bank – Simulation of Government Treasury

• Systematic point gain by marking more territory – Simulation of Tax Revenue

• Compulsory point deduction during playtime (lifeline points) – Simulation of mandatory government expenses.

• Discretionary Points Spending to earn more points and dynamic ROI Points– Simulation of Government spending on Health, Education, Recreation and Infrastructure projects.

Various Non- Related elements of “Implicit Game Elements “ that are created just for fun will also be used to make the game more interesting; however, the core focus of the game will remain on gathering how citizens want the government to act.

Sign Up information:

The first stage in the game is to fill sign up form. Sign up will provide important information for building the initial game strategies based on the computer predicted motivation drives of the player. Motivation drives will be dynamic in nature and will be changed by player’s style; trend and performance just like online chess games.

Initial Start – Discovery & Beginner’s luck:

Each player will start the game with some basic points on his hands. Based on the Geographical location of the player (identified by the phone GPS or IP address), each player will start to mark his territory to govern.

With the increased territory, players will earn points. On the other hand, they will also have to bare mandatory expenses for governing that territory.

Players will be presented with an option to earn more points by doing a smart investment in form of ROI Points. This element will provide players a complete control on the game.

With increased territory in size and efficient governance (Points in Point-Bank and Future ROI Points), players will be moved to next stage. Players will also be assigned as Gold Star, Platinum Star badges (Drive 2).

After achieving certain badge, players can throw a challenge to another player or multiple players with a similar badge to compete. In this completion, a player can upgrade their stage/badge or can face a penalty (Drive 2,7, 8).

The points will be a simulation of real-time government data, it might not have an obvious direct relationship with it, but it will be somewhat related to the real data through algorithms.

ROI Points (Points for investing in Education, Infrastructure etc.) will have a dynamic value. A player can make a good investment and win more points or even loose on his bad investment (Drive 7,8 10). This will add the element of surprise and sensation.

The dynamic value of the ROI points will create an element of sensation. For an example real value of 100 ROI points in Stage 1 can be 20 real points but in stage 4 or 5 it can be 500 real points.

Players can use real points (gained from territory expansion or converting ROI points) to make more ROI points, move to the next level, or challenge competition.

Elite Objects:

The game will have a very limited amount of elite objects (divine sword, super shield etc.) for the advance users. Players can win such elite objects by exceptional performance and can loose it in completion. Players can also display their Smart Citizens objects on their Facebook, Twitter profile picture frame (Drive 6,7,5,4).

One needs a certain type of object to compete with a certain type of challenger. For an example, if one wants to challenge a player with divine shield, he needs to first earn a divine sword. Such elite objects can be earned or can be won through competition. It will also have a symbolic value and status for the gamers.


  • This platform can serve as an ongoing report card for the government and can provide a valuable feedback.
  • Civic Engagement will generate trust between government and citizens.
  • Civic Engagement can generate innovative ideas and difficult problems can be addressed.
  • Such platform can curb the issues like corruption, secrecy, and mismanagement of funds and the competitiveness will force the government to perform better.


The opinion of the majority of the public does not necessarily have to be a right option. People believe in a parliamentarian system and that is why they have voted for their representatives to govern. There are chances that shortsighted majority can suggest unpredicted options.

Every game has a life cycle. Smart Citizen will also have it’s life cycle. Future versions can extend life cycle for a short period of time, but in general, games does not remain for forever.


(1) Coronado Escobar, J. E., & Vasquez Urriago, A. R. (2014, October). Gamification: an effective mechanism to promote civic engagement and generate trust?. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (pp. 514-515). ACM

(2) Thiel, S. K. (2015, September). Gamified participation: investigating the influence of game elements in civic engagement tools. In Adjunct Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing and Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers (pp. 527-532). ACM.

(3) Chou,Yu-Kai Actionable Gamification – Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards 2014- 2015