Holy Budget BALANCE Batman! Open Source Gotham Game

gotham-balanceFeb. 20, 2009 Carping about your local officials? Don’t like the decisions being made? Still a student and can’t vote yet?

Here’s a little micro-level peek into what the feds are dealing with on the larger scale financial fiasco…

Amanda Hickman, the Technical Director of the Gotham Gazette pinged the Games for Change list serve to update their prior version of “Balance!” so that all the smarty pants-econ gurus who think they’ve got all the answers can plug in their own priorities and see where they land in the moshpit of local budgetary expenditures! (btw, the 6th annual G4C fest is May 27-29 2009)

In this newly released game, it’s “mayor vs. player” as you take a whack at New York City’s $4 billion budget gap and slice-n-dice to reallocate spending in alternative areas to suit your own preferences. I love the line in this Fix the Budget article that says,

“With our new budget game, BALANCE, you can bypass the City Council entirely and fix our fiscal woes on your own…Take the reins, but make sure you end balanced or with a surplus. We’re not Washington — we can’t run a deficit.” —Ouch.

gotham2At the very least, it’s a great way to elicit citizen feedback as they’re tracking the solutions that players come up with, and a fresh way to keep newspapers relevant in a Web 2.0 media environment.

At its best, other regions will hop on board and snag the code of this open source Knight News Challenge grant winner to adapt it to their own cities and finite budgets and engage the public in a dialogue once it’s released in an open source software license. (they’re still working on how to distribute)

And yes, they even have a call to action,

“Once you’re done, send us the results and we’ll report back on how Gotham Gazette readers would balance the fiscal year 2010 budget. Keep your home page set here, and we’ll continue to update you on how the city’s real fiscal plan unfolds between now and when our budget must be approved in June.”

budget-heroGreat use of “power to the people” via social issues games to show-n-tell the difficulty of tweaking and juggling to get it juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust right, as Goldilocks would say.

Ready for the next level? Want to tackle the $3.5 trillion national debt over the next decade? American Public Media has the Budget Hero game which we’ll share once I’ve played it and tested it a tad very soon…

In this Budget Hero discussion forum, they ask, “What would you cut from YOUR community’s budget?” And that brings us back to a local level…like the Gotham Gazette…

Check out some of the commentary on sacred cows, politics and cutsbacks impacting youth…No game there for certain.



  1. Thanks for the kind review! Thought your readers might like to know that we’ve published the source code for this game at:


    So now you can create your own local budget game!

  2. Fabulous, Amanda…customizable and open source is a service to all. Will reblog an update blurb on it in fact so any further info including other uses (I’d think this would apply even to schools, financial literacy, etc.) please send along to amy at shapingyouth dot org.

    Appreciate your update! (and your project) We need all the financial literacy tools we can out there. 🙂
    .-= Amy Jussel´s last blog ..Teen Book Publishers Premiere Louder Than Words TV =-.

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