Run That Town

Leo Burnett / Australian Bureau of Statistics
Turning complex data into serious fun.
What kind of leader will you be? Run That Town uses real Australian census data to create awareness of the role of the census in shaping the direction of policy and its impacts on daily life.

The brief

We were approached by Leo Burnett Sydney to help deliver a game for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The ABS was aware that the four yearly census, while critically important to the future of our country, was poorly understood by the public. Our task? Give people a way in to engage with the census statistics, and offer some insights into its purpose and how the data is used.

The game

Run That Town is a beautifully polished resource management game with a twist – it lets you take control of any neighbourhood in Australia. Accessing hundreds of millions of dusty data points in an engaging and challenging way, Run That Town teaches users the importance of census data by ‘doing’. Coupled with narration by Shaun Micallef, Run That Town presents a playful, unique take on a complex, data driven environment.

The game allows players to use real census data to discover who’s who in their area, and make decisions that will sway popular opinion, boost or retard growth, and impact their citizens’ quality of life. Will you be celebrated or run out of town by an angry pitchfork-wielding mob? Your interpretation your local census data is the only way you will give your people what they want and need.

The result

The game fulfilled ABS’s aim to visually present complex data in an accessible and engaging way, and to promote better participation in the Census by increasing player understanding of why the data is collected and how it is used.

Run That Town [is] the foundation of a future where technology will play an increasingly critical role in the efficient and effective operations of governments and public services, but also as the next wave of citizen-centric, interactive communication channels.

Michelle Howe, ABS Director of Census Communication and Engagement

Run That Town launched to widespread acclaim from dedicated gamers and the broader public alike, reaching Number 1 in the Entertainment category of the App Store and scooping a panoply of industry awards along the way. In 2015, Run That Town received a Cannes Gold Lion in the inaugural Creative Data category. The game has also been featured positively in mainstream gaming press – a feat unreplicated by an educational app released by the government.

The Bureau of Statistics is the most shit boring stuff you can ever imagine in your life and Run That Town turned it into something so compellingly interesting. The way they used it and the engagement model was so clear, and it was scalable, any bureau or census or government that has boring, miserable data could adopt.

David Sable, Y&R Global CEO

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