Can you park in Boston after a snowstorm? How graphics, journalism and old-school Nintendo can lead to a fun time.

If you are pretty much anywhere above the Mason-Dixon Line this week, you are buried in snow. (If you are in Florida or somewhere else in which 55 degrees is considered an “arctic chill,” kindly keep your thoughts to yourself.) Between school closings, massive plows and the fairly frequent multi-vehicle crashes on the highway because SOME IDIOTS don’t know how to FRICKIN’ DRIVE… (sorry)…,  it become pretty obvious why many of us consider “snow” a true four-letter word.

However, guest blogger, founder of the LGBTQ+ Experiment and graphics guru Pat Garvin found a way to make snow emergencies fun for readers of the Boston Globe. A few years back, Garvin built an old-school Nintendo-style game for the Globe’s website that allows users to “hustle” for a street parking spot during a snow emergency.



A screen shot of Pat’s fantastic game.

“For years, I had wanted to make some sort of game for,” Garvin said. “I renewed my interest after some Globe colleagues and I checked out an arcade bar that had recently opened. As we played these vintage 1980s games with their unmistakable look and feel, I got the idea that I wanted to make something that recreated that feel with that same quick visual shorthand that comes from those blocky visuals. What it would be, I don’t know.”

Garvin noticed something interesting about Boston: The way in which people deal with parking in a snow emergency.

“I went to work the next day and found inspiration from a pending snowstorm,” he said. “Boston is unlike anywhere else I have lived in that many in the city use household objects to save parking spaces after a snowstorm. They can — and will — use anything: a lawn chair, a traffic cone, old tables, etc. People take the practice with a religious seriousness, and people who take parking spots that had a space saver have returned to their car to find nasty notes and in come cases, their cars vandalized. I decided to make a game allowing users to hunt for parking spots after a snowstorm, knowing they might risk the chance that if they take a spot that has been saved with a space saver, they might get their tires slashed or their window broken.”

Garvin used the names of his colleagues as inspiration for the buildings (a music critic was the namesake of a record store while a movie house was named for a movie critic.) as he used Java Script and jQuery to create the game. The purpose, he said, was to have fun and yet focus on something truly associated with Boston.

“Projects that allow me to mimic a style that I know readers and users will recognize is fun because it gives me both structure to follow and creative license to convey something in a different way,” he said. “The hidden jokes in the background are fun because they will reward the people who pay attention to detail. This is not a traditional project per se, as there are no maps, charts, or information graphics. There are few words here other than the intro and kill screens. But this project is informed by the same news judgment that would inspire a react story or a features story.”

The game borders on the ridiculously impossible, which pretty much sums up how hard it is to get a space on the streets of Boston after a snowstorm. Every time a blizzard whips up some chaos out there, Garvin’s work becomes a welcome distraction for the folks in that area.

“A lot of the stories and interviews I had seen about parking space savers was from the perspective of Bostonians who felt a right to a spot because they had shoveled the spot and felt a sense of ownership,” he said. “The reasoning and justification seemed to begin and end there. But if you have to drive through the streets and need to park, what then? What if you’re a working parent and you need to drop your child off with a relative? Or what if you are a medical professional coming to visit a diabetic patient in his home? By taking the shovelers out of the game and focusing only on the cars and the spots, I hope I got people to think about space savers from a slightly different angle.”

Think you have what it takes to get a spot? Click here to play the Globe’s snowstorm parking game.

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