Gapminder Casino - 2009

Hans Rosling as croupier for Gapminder Casino

Hans Rosling as croupier for Gapminder Casino

 

Working with Thinc Design and closely with the late Hans Rosling, I helped to create the Gapmider Casino for the Gapminder Foundation. We turned global health data into a game of roulette. I designed the general concept, game mechanics, did the player and dealer interaction design, and wrote a significant amount of the software for first version.

The roulette concept was inspired by requirements from the client as well as some self-imposed constraints. It was required that Hans be the star of the game. I considered the context in which the game would be played - busy conferences such as Google I/O, NIH, etc - and believed that a game that would allow people to come and go, play a single round or stay for a while, would serve those who were in a rush as well as those captivated by the experience. Given the context it would also be necessary to create a game that would be very easy to learn. I played Gapminder data visualizations over and over until the rhythm started to feel like roulette, a game that satisfied all of my requirements.

Mr. Rosling controlled the game with a custom designed, wireless RFID-equipped croupier rake, which he used to play, pause, rewind, fast-forward the animations for each round and to advance the game using RFID-tagged question cards. Hans would scan a card to load the next visualization and pose a question to the players related to the question card. For example, "In 1920 China had a birth rate of 5.5 children per woman and an average life expectancy of 32. What is it today?" (See the visualization on gapminder.org) Players placed their chips on the part of the grid where they thought those rates would be today. Then Hans would play the visualization and winners were awarded chips.

I wrote a case study about the experience that can be found here.

Technology 

  • Processing

  • RFID

  • XBee wireless radios

  • Projector

Custom gaming chips used by the players

Custom gaming chips used by the players