Wednesday, August 19

Jogger, The New Jacksonville Video Game

Jacksonville street
I can remember heading over to the Radio Shack on North Avenue in Milwaukee back in the 80s and seeing the new Tandy home computer, which was so much cooler than the Commodore VIC-20 we had at home. The display model even had a video game for me to play: Frogger. Forty years later, I read an article about the guy who created Prince of Persia, and the article must have mentioned Frogger, which I had on my mind as I drove down Beach Boulevard. After I nearly hit a homeless guy who had jumped out of the way of a bicycle (going the wrong direction) and into my lane, I thought that a version of Frogger called Jogger would be pretty awesome with Jacksonville as the setting.

With one of the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities, my goal wouldn't be to make fun of the situation. Rather (like the anti-drunk transportation game Grogger from Australia), I'd see Jogger as a public service message to citizens of Jacksonville to use the damn crosswalk, follow rules of the road, and be safe out there. Which means stay at home.

I think the game play would be similar to Frogger, in that you avoid getting hit by obstacles while using other objects to help you cross the road or river or park. And the tasks could be based on real-life, too, like the jogger has to get some money at Advance America, then lunch at Whataburger across Beach, and then cross the street again to get some smokes at Circle K, before crossing halfway to panhandle for money in the median. Once you get $3 without getting bitten by a snake or goose, then you head over to Walgreens for some Carmex.

The main character would probably be a human, or maybe even a frog dressed up in a jogging outfit. Or at least a shirtless guy with lots of tattoos wearing jogging pants. Actually, that's a cool idea: you get a new tattoo for every level you pass. And maybe the tattoos that you receive offer some kind of new power, just like real tattoos.

I just saw a very heavy woman with a cane crossing Merrill while not using a crosswalk, and that gave me the idea of being able to choose Jogger characters based on criteria like speed, strength, and agility, sort of like how you choose fighters or vehicles in other games. For example, the woman I saw would have no problem plowing over a bicyclist, and she could thwart off muggers with her cane, while a bone-thin man might be able to outrun police or speeding cars more effectively.

The vehicles are an important part of Jogger Jax, and you'll have the typical speeding and erratic pickup trucks, along with the speeding police cars, but Jacksonville also mixes in superheroes on motorcycles, ancient grandparents doing 10 under the limit, bicycles going the wrong way in the bike lane (trending), and tiny scooters just scrapping by. Since the Jogger character also has to cross sidewalks, there will be bikes there, as well as golf carts, and various motorized stand-on vehicles. I've even seen lawnmowers on both the road and sidewalk, so watch out. We can include pushy homeless folks and Karens protesting vaccinations on the sidewalk, too. Oh, and we can't forget buses that stop anywhere along the road.

Other levels might include flooded-out streets with alligators, water snakes, and giant pickup trucks plowing through the water. Or a train that, like city buses, will just stop in the middle of the road. The Beaches on another level would be bikes and drunks with fireworks, with an occasional car speeding through. I'd also add a driving level wherein you try to avoid hitting all the pedestrians, bicyclists, and crazy fellow drivers. And there must be a bridge level, where you try to walk across the Matthews Bridge while avoiding vehicles and the debris that falls from them as they cross (I've seen two people do it). Probably a level where you're being chased by police officers and K-9 units for matching the description of someone who defaced a Confederate monument or progressive mural; maybe both. Oh, and a level where you have to jog through Moncrief Park area with a clear backpack full of cash and a Make America Great Again hat.

The game would have to have rain storms that bring winds that might take out street lights or uproot trees in the jogger's path. Rain that just happens at any time on any level. The wind can probably get all the abandoned grocery carts to roll willy-nilly across parking lots, sidewalks, and streets. And some puddles are just masking larger sinkholes. Food trucks or news weather vans tipping over might be interesting, too.

The crazy part is that I know I'm forgetting some of what I've seen on the roads of Jacksonville, but this ought to give the video game developers a good start. It will be a fun game to play, but it's just unfortunate the concept is so realistic.

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