The Financial Times has launched The Uber Game, a fully interactive online game that explores the day-to-day challenges faced by an Uber driver. The game accompanies an article published by the newspaper titled Uber: The uncomfortable view from the driving seat, which features interviews with Uber drivers, delving into the realities of the career path. The game tackles the subject in an alternative way, explains Robin Kwong, head of digital delivery for the FT.
“We decided to make it a game because we wanted to find new ways to present our reporting and educate people about aspects of the gig economy,” Robin says. “We’ve written many stories [on the subject] however we wanted to see if we could we help people achieve a better emotional understanding of what’s it like to rely on the gig economy to make a living.”
The Uber Game draws inspiration from narrative games such as Life is Strange and Reigns Robin says, as well as an excerpt of the article by Leslie Hook – a quote from a driver named Herb Coakley. “It becomes almost like a hypnotic experience,” he says in the piece. “You can talk to drivers and you’ll hear them say things like, ‘I just drove a bunch of Uber pools for two hours, I probably picked up 30-40 people and I have no idea where I went’. “In that state, they are literally just listening to the sounds [of the driver’s apps]. Stopping when they said stop, pick up when they say pick up, turn when they say turn. You get into a rhythm of that, and you begin to feel almost like an android.”
Robin explains: “Aesthetically, that was the feeling we were trying to recreate – that it is easy to be lulled into making choices unthinkingly or automatically, but to succeed you actually need to be very strategic and conscious about your choices. If you do that, it is possible to ‘win’ and do well – so far about 15% of players have made more than $1000 after costs on ‘hard’, and a third have done so on ‘easy’.
“Given that this is a news game and is meant to function as a piece of journalism, we needed the artistic style to be neutral. We also wanted it to be quite abstract.” The game was produced in-house by the FT creative team, with illustrations by Rebecca Turner and UX and interactions by Nicolai Knoll.