Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Biodiversity Game 15 Feb

The second session of the development of the sustainability game focussed on the biodiversity game based on Monopoly. We brought a couple of old Monopoly games and started to list what the chance cards, jail, community chest, hotels etc would represent.

Claire cutting and pasting a new board...

We decided to stick as closely as possible to the game mechanics of Monopoly for now, with some possible amendments later:

1. The game board design

Last week Susanne suggested that we could use something from nature to represent the board, such as a snail. We decided to keep the circular player movement of Monopoly for now, but used some images to inspire potential future designs.

The spiral pattern could for example be applied for another type of game objective, where rather than playing until someone "wins" as in Monopoly, the game could end itself when the first player reaches the centre of the spiral. This could for instance indicate irreversible climate change tipping points and the end of the planet...

2. Roles

We discussed whether introducing roles (such as the hunter, the farmer, the logger, the politician and the musician) would make the game more exciting.

A tally of not only money but also fame, knowledge, power etc could then be used. This would however make the game more complex and possibly confusing.

3. Loops

The loops we considered incorporating last session from the game Careers, might come back into our design later. The loops in Career could possibly function as roles in our game.

Positive loops would make players who enter them gain more animals for themselves (more biodiversity) and negative loops would make the other players lose animals (less biodiversity).

For the chance cards we came up with events (looking at Wikipeida's 100 most threatened animals) caused by both nature and humans.

For the biospheres we agreed on testing out eight and came up with three animals for each ranging from common through to endangered.

A question I thought about during the session:

What would this game look like in an online version?

Perhaps something like the game EVOKE, but where you could travel virtually between the various biospheres to tackle environmental problems and save animals...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Board Game Hacking Session 1 Feb 2013

The idea to develop a game for sustainability or "thrivability" came last year after seeing two friends and fellow hubbers present cool symbol based frameworks for systems thinking. In September, Tim Winton ran a workshop of his Pattern Dynamics framework, and later in the year Andrew Suttar showed the "the nine archetypal ecologies" at Melbourne's CPX Meetup. Both are elegant ways of presenting complex things in a simple way. A call for interest to develop a game around symbols, sustainability and systems thinking was put out on Yammer last year.

The board game hacking session was promoted to the Hub Melbourne community on Yammer, on Twitter and with a poster in the kitchen a few weeks before the event. A couple of encouraging tweets and yammer posts were taken on board.

The session started with a check-in among participants where we talked about existing games we play, that have inspired us, why they were fun, not fun, and some key words emerged...

"If it ain't fun it ain't a game" was one of the key learnings from the game we developed last year (aim: creating winning pitches to solve problems in co-working spaces). And we agreed that most games and gamification initiatives around sustainability are pretty boring. Badges and leaderboards for those who can recycle most, or save most water aren't that exciting.

Other topics during this brainstorming session were the strategy game Blokus, biomimicry, re- cycle/use/create and interconnected systems in games like Jenga.

We later moved into the Hub kitchen where we put out some books, board games, pens, papers and other arts and crafts stuff. Realizing that a logical approach to a sustainability game would take forever, we instead went for an intuitive approach and grabbed random things from the table and went into another room.

At this point - about an hour into the session, we were sort of stuck and didn't really know where to take the idea generation process. On the table there were quite a few animals (plastic dolphins, cards with fish, cats etc), and this triggered an idea to hack Monopoly and turn it into a biodiversity game. But instead of collecting money and property, as in Monopoly, we would collect animals. 

We devised a scale of animals from low (pests) to high (extinct) and played with what the cards, dices, and board would represent.100s of games use the game mechanics of Monopoly. but with amendments to board layout, cards etc.

An hour later (and with a couple of other hubbers joining the session) another game idea emerged on the whiteboard. This game, using the mechanics of the game Careers, would look at different biosystems or geographic regions across the planet. Four different factors (population, global warming, biodiversity and sea level) would go up and down depending on the the players' luck and strategic skill.

One of the questions we left with on Friday night is whether Parker Brothers would send their lawyers if we continue on this pathway...

To be continued.