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2018 Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Large Newsroom winner

The Uber Game

About the Project

The Uber Game is an interactive news game that puts you into the shoes of a full-time Uber driver. Based on real reporting, including dozens of interviews with Uber drivers in San Francisco, it aims to convey an emotional understanding of what it is like to try to make a living in the gig economy.

The game and its accompanying article, The uncomfortable view from the driver’s seat (link 2), shines a spotlight on how Uber left its drivers behind during years of rapid growth.

Since the game was first published in October 2017, Uber and its rival Lyft have both implemented a series of measures (link 3) to improve working conditions of their drivers.

The Uber Game is an innovative attempt to present data reporting in a new, interactive format. It uses structured data compiled from driver interviews to construct an economic model that underpins the game, and anecdotes from drivers’ experience to construct the scenes encountered by the players.

By presenting this reporting in a game format, and by asking players to make meaningful choices as an Uber driver, we attempt to extend the role of journalism beyond just giving people the right answers, to equipping people to ask the right questions and start important conversations.

We scripted the game using Ink, an open-source narrative scripting language made by Inkle Studios, a UK-based game company. This allowed us to create and test an early, barebones version without needing to involve developers, artists or UX designers.

In later stages of development, Ink allowed us to separate the script from other work, meaning that design, development and scripting could be refined in parallel until the last moments before publication.

The Ink script was integrated with the FT’s existing interactive story scaffold using inkjs, which allowed us to implement a basic mechanism for navigating the entire game in less than 90 lines of JavaScript. We used anime.js, a JavaScript animation engine, to write the game’s complex CSS transitions. In total, 700 lines of new SCSS were needed to transform the default FT interactive page into the game’s visually rich, app-like experience.