“The Power Broker”: A Game Design Competition
Adapt a seminal work of urban design literature into game form. Win cash prizes and the coveted Robert Moses Cup!
Clocking in at 1,336 pages, Robert Caro’s The Power Broker is a monumental biography capturing the life and works of Robert Moses (1888–1981), the controversial master urban planner of New York responsible for the construction of many major landmarks including Lincoln Center, the United Nations, and the Triborough Bridge, among many others.
The biography is notable for capturing the complex (and brutal) political, social, economic, and architectural dynamics surrounding Moses’ achievements and the often ambiguous legacy he left on the city. In its length, detail, awesomeness, and difficulty of completion, it is the Infinite Jest of non-fiction.
Today, we are launching a competition that challenges game designers to adapt The Power Broker into a playable, interactive form that preserves the flavor and themes of the written work, while leveraging the unique opportunities the game medium provides.
We are seeking submissions both in a video game category, as well in a separate tabletop game category. Prizes and the structure of the competition are described below. To participate, you must register by filling out this form before midnight PST on April 29.
There will be three prizes up for grabs in this competition:
- Grand Prize: The best game as judged by the Prize Committee will be awarded $2,000, and will take home the coveted Robert Moses Cup.
- Runner Up (Video Game): The best video game runner-up as judged by the Prize Committee will be awarded $500.
- Runner Up (Tabletop): The best tabletop game runner-up as judged by the Prize Committee will be awarded $500.
The Prize Committee judging the competition is currently a group of eight: Allison Arieff (SPUR), Xiaowei R. Wang (Mapbox), Robin Sloan (Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore), Sam Greenspan (99% Invisible), Patrick Ewing (Firewatch), Katherine Lo (UC-Irvine), m@ boch (NYU Game Center), and Frank Lantz (NYU Game Center). Others may be added.
Submissions will be judged on a number of dimensions including success in capturing the themes of The Power Broker in game form, ease of play, design and production quality, and fun.
How To Participate
This competition has three phases — a Registration Phase, a Design Phase, and a Judging Phase.
- Registration Phase: Contestants must register by April 29 by filling out the form located here. This will allow the Prize Committee to track who is competing, and to be able to check in throughout the process. Registration is free, and teams of individuals are permitted to register for the challenge.
- Design Phase: Contestants will have three months — from April 29 to July 29 — to fully complete their game designs. Games may either be in video game form, or in the form of a tabletop or real-world game. On July 29, they will submit their game to the Prize Committee.
- Judging Phase: After the deadline on July 29, the Prize Committee will meet over the course of August to play through all of the submissions and decide on a winner and runners up in both the tabletop and video game categories.
- Winners Announced: The three winners will be announced in early September. They’ll be encouraged to release the game in some publicly accessible / playable format.
IMPORTANT: You DO NOT have to have read the entirety of The Power Broker in order to compete in this game design challenge. However, some basic research about Robert Moses and the reading of some chapters of the book is encouraged. Related reading that may be of interest:
- Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)
- Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language (1977)
- Paul Goldberger, “Robert Moses, Master Builder, is Dead at 92” (1981)
- Spiro Kostof, The City Shaped (1991)
- Kenneth Kolson, “The Politics of SimCity” (1996)
- Lisa Belkin, Show Me A Hero (1999)
- Marcin Wichary, “In the Footsteps of Robert Moses” (2012)
- IDW Games, Machi Koro (2012)
- Ada Calhoun, St. Marks is Dead (2015)
- Alfred Twu, Bay Area Regional Planner (2016)