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Australian Bureau of Statistics releases town management game

A new iOS game launched by the Australian Bureau of Statistics lets you take control of and run any town in Australia.

A new iOS game launched by the Australian Bureau of Statistics lets you take control of and run any town in Australia.

(Credit: Leo Burnett)

So you think your local government can be run better, do you? A new game by the Australian Bureau of Statistics lets you put your money where your mouth is.

Called Run That Town, it lets you take control of any city, town or village in Australia with a postcode. Now, we've all played town management sims before, but this one has a few twists. Based on actual census data from 2011, it requires a little more than just planning out where to put things.

(Credit: Leo Burnett)

The aim of the game is to make your chosen town the best it can be, including happy citizens. When proposals for public works land on your desk, you have to choose whether or not to approve them. Of course, you can just choose arbitrarily on whatever you think sounds good — but the fractious citizens can be hard to please. Their support is actually necessary — each proposal will cost you two kinds of in-game currency, money and clout, and if you don't have enough, you'll find it hard to move ahead.

When deciding on a proposal, therefore, it helps to listen to the citizens as they argue for and against. A zoo, for example, will make children happy, but the older citizens will grumble at the use of land. It seems like an easy decision; but in fact, choosing not to build the zoo in this instance earned a popularity decrease, since families made up a large percentage of the town in question. You can't just take the person speaking into account — you have to also measure their passion about the project (seen on a scale on the screen), as well as census data, such as their demographic and how representative they are of the average resident. You can then track how well each project does by reading newspaper reports.

Even so, perhaps just like real life, you can't predict everything, and keeping your popularity in the majority is a delicate juggling act. You can never keep everyone happy — in fact, it's downright frustrating at times. You think you're building something your townspeople will love — a community centre for the elderly, for instance — and then another group will get up in arms, such as parents complaining that land could have been better put to use as a playground. Everyone hates everyone else, resentful that the rich/unemployed/elderly/children/single people/students are getting their requirements seen to, even though you might have already built three facilities and thrown six events catering to them.

But that unpredictability also makes the game so difficult to tear yourself away from.

Of course, it helps that Run That Town is excellently designed. Produced by Leo Burnett, with narration by Shaun Micallef, writing by Kieran Ots and Ayla Norris-Smith, and development by Millipede Creative (which you might remember from the amusingly potty-humoured Bullistic Unleashed), the game — somewhat surprisingly, in fact, coming as it did from a governmental office — is a fantastic piece of work. Although it seems complicated, its clear tutorial and interface makes it really easy just to pick up and play.

Run That Town is free on the iTunes app store, and we heartily recommend picking it up and giving it a whirl.