Is Building Inspector an example of “good” digital history?

Building Inspector asks the player to enter the address of the outlined structure on each map.

Building Inspector asks the player to enter the address of the outlined structure on each map.

We played the game Building Inspector by NYPL Labs, tweeted by Ed Summers on Professor Shawn Graham’s twitter feed. We were analyzing whether the game provides a good history of city planning in New York City. We played ‘enter address’ mode. The game takes you through various fire maps, and allows you to label the maps.

Even though we played together, we both have vastly contrasting opinions of the game. Jessica Kenny enjoyed it; Patara McKeen did not.

Jessica thinks the game is interactive and educational. The game lets the player gain insight into the process of map digitization. For every address entered correctly, the player gets a point added to their score; this is good motivation for the player to continue through the game and learn more about city maps as a result. The game also lets the player analyze buildings that no longer stand in New York City, which teaches the player more about the history of the area.

Patara thinks that although the game is educational, it does not keep the players attention long enough. The game is repetitive and the score does not seem to reward the player. Instead, it just keeps track of how many addresses that you’ve entered. It’s more relevant to people that live in New York City. It doesn’t seem to get more difficult, as every stage is essentially the same level. It would be interesting if Ottawa did something similar.

Why add this to our own blog? Well, it gives us more experience analyzing fire maps, which is something we are doing to help us build Ottawa in Minecraft.

In conclusion, does this game make good history? Jessica: thumbs up. Patara: thumbs down.

Here is a link to Building Inspector: http://buildinginspector.nypl.org