Ad Patrol

As a former resident of New York City, seeing advertisements plastered on anything and everything was an everyday experience. In 2012, Jason Eppink approached me and Jordan Seiler with an idea to make a game that could crowd source the reporting of illegal advertisements. It was then that I learned many of the advertisements in New York City are technically illegal. Even more confounding was that illegal ads could be fined up to $25,000 a day.

For me, creating something that could raise money for a city while empowering citizens to report illegal activity was a no brainer. The three of us worked together off and on for a year. Jordan has spent a long time fighting against illegal ads, and thus provided a wealth of knowledge for what kind of data would be useful to have. Jason and I split up the design work, with me focusing on the game development side.

I imported the existing building permit data from the NYC Department of Buildings into a MySQL database. From there, I built a simple application programming interface (API) that allowed us to log new reports with timestamps, GPS coordinates, a photo, address, and a company name. Combined, we could use the existing permits to map out legal advertising spaces as well as document places where ads existed but had no data.

Through multiple iterations, we went back and forth on how much of a game Ad Patrol should be. Ultimately, we ended up with something very simple: time-based territorial acquisition. A player would claim an ad location by taking a photo. Another player could claim the same location after 24 hours had passed. Existing permit locations were used to create a game map that were worth more points initially. Our hope was that by setting an expiration time on locations that players would continue their documentation. This would create a timeline to be used as evidence.

The game was published after I had moved to Miami and I believe it didn’t get the critical mass of players because I wasn’t able to promote it properly from a distance. I still think the idea of time based geo-locative documentation has promise, if not for illegal ads, something else.