Guardians of the city Game structure and Scavenger Hunt

On August 16, 2012 by maisonrose

Guardians of the City is a street art project by Elizabeth Belfer and Lea Faminiano  where they hold workshops with kids and they design superheroes to protect the neighborhood.  They ask the kids to pick a place they love or one that needs the protection of a superhero.  They draw their Guardian on this card, give it a name and superpowers that protect their location.

For example Garbage Dude cleans up garbage and turns on fire whenever he sees it. You can find him on mta trashcans.

ADHD girl fights multiple villains with her ADHD powers.  She is in Times Square because that is a place we feel everyone experiences attention deficiency.

As part of the same team with Elizabeth Belfer we thought we might expand the project by creating a game concept that would involve everyone, from children to adults as part of our streetmeat studio Class at Parsons.

At the beginning of the project we were asked to expand the creation of superheroes digitally.  We chose to use Twitter because it is a platform that many people already use and allows them to upload images.

Since this was to be a real life project We wanted to test this with a local neighborhood and chose Bergen, Brooklyn because it is a diverse area with lots of traffic.

We put posters all around, concentrating on playgrounds and community billboards.

From this playtest we learned that we were not matching the right technology with the right user group, kids don’t use twitter.  However it was not a complete fail as our posters attracted the attention of a reporter and we got our first press!

We realized that its hard to ask kids to do everything on their own, and facilitating our activity through a workshop experience is best.

We had a pop up workshop in Union Square and it was a big success!


Union SQ Pop up Workshop

However, we still wanted to see if we could get the project to live on its own and solve connecting its digital component to the physical world.  To do this we designed the:

The key components of the game are the alliance of Guardians, where each gets to make their unique profile, and complete heart challenges or good deeds facilitated through organizations that relate to that Guardian.  Proof of actions completed is through image or video documentation.   Guardians can be collected through QR codes for smart phone users and a unique secret password for non-smart phone users.

The game begins when you join the Guardians of the City alliance, registering with your name, age, superpowers, location, email address and secret password.

This will lead you to your profile page, which is presented as a Superhero ID Card.

You can then complete individual challenges such as creating your own Guardian and installing it in public space, finding stuffed Guardians which could travel from person to person and participating in the Guardian Scavenger Hunt.  When enough actions have been completed and points gained, you can win individual prizes like an official superhero ID card, a customized comic strip or for the most points a stuffed Guardian.

On the next level there are neighborhood challenges which you complete with others, like making up a secret handshake or completing good deeds through volunteer programs and group actions.  The more players that get together, the more points everyone gets.  When a neighborhood collectively gets enough points they can win a workshop installation party!

We had a playtest of the scavenger hunt experience here at school, attaching both a QR code and secret password to each Guardian.   

On the scavenger hunt website players can enter in passwords to receive a message of which Guardian they have found and how many points have been collected.  Then they are invited to create their own Guardian by registering to join the Alliance, which will allow them to keep their points.  For smart phone users the QR code will lead them through the same landing pages.

We took the Guardians out to the streets but unfortunately the second we started to tape anything up the park officials told us to take it down.  And it seems someone literally threw Garbage Dude in the garbage.  However this was actually a stroke of luck because it pushed us to think of creative ways within the rules.  We realized we could leave the pieces with situated groups of people, like this jazz trio, we gave Stareosaur to the Hari Krishnas, and some we left to chance, like Hawkeye on this bench, everyone just sat around him.

We got a group of teenagers to play the game for candy and they were very excited, running around the park.  They tried to bribe me for clues.  They took photos with their phones to collect the Guardians, informing us they do not scan QR codes.  They had a lot of fun and they found them all.

In the future we’d like to have a map on the website to show where all the Guardians are located, so people can go and try to find them, and follow the paths of the traveling ones.

We hope that one day you might see a Guardian as you turn the corner,


In conclusion, we would like to expand beyond this with the digital and explore ways the project could become more interactive and perpetuate itself.  The workshop or scavenger hunt facilitation works best and its strength is being a simple instructable which can be repeated by leaders in other communities.   We need to package the project material specifically for this purpose, creating an easy to understand packet that can be sent out.  Hopefully our initial playtests will help to kickstart and grow the content and userbase.

At our final presentation of our project we got many great suggestions and comments from the industry critics.  In reflection, we wish we had done user playtests earlier so that we could have more quickly pinpointed the inadequacy of targeting smart phones.  We also would like to take a step back now that we have a more finalized interface design and brand everything more cohesively, down to the fine details.  And of course we would have loved for the Guardian Scavenger Hunt to be fully functional with the official website, but we are definitely going to make that happen for the future :)

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