Does play placate?

When people are asked to play a game to address a civic or social problem, are they purposely being distanced from the problem? Games, when they work, put players into a space of play, a space that is outside of everyday life, often independent of the barriers and consequences that comprise the everyday. So, when people play a game to open dialogue about corruption in Moldova, or play a game to facilitate cooperation on peace building efforts in Cyprus, the question is not simply “what is the experience of playing,” but also “what are the reasons for making or deploying the game and creating the social position of ‘player'”? Students at the Salzburg Academy for Media and Global Change design and playtest a game about corruption in Moldova. Game Efforts Determine Play Placate Over the last several years, I have been involved in many game efforts with development and humanitarian organizations, working to develop games for collaboration, understanding, and dialogue all over the world. At the end of the month, I will be leading game design workshops in Egypt and in the Kingdom of Bhutan,…

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Games in Egypt

During the week of the UN’s General Assembly meeting, the UNDP innovation team organized a series of workshops throughout the world as part of a networked event called Shift Week (with the implied meaning of shifting thinking in a range of sectors). Twenty-one workshops were put together on a range of topics from big data to crowdfunding, and took place in a range of countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America and Asia. Poster for public event in Cairo I was invited to give a talk and facilitate a workshop on “games and gamification” in Cairo, Egypt. The goals, at first, were fairly clear: work with Egyptians and a few people from select UNDP country offices (including Cyprus, Macedonia, and Bhutan) to explore how games and game design could impact the work of development. Together with my colleague Steve Walter, managing director of the Engagement Lab, I headed to Cairo. During our four days in the city, we met with several organizations devoted to ITC and entrepreneurship (including TIEC and ITI), gave a talk to the local UNDP staff, presented a public…

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Games and Risk Management

The game consists of a total of six 3-minute levels, each getting progressively more difficult. The game takes place on a fictional planet named Alora, one that is constantly threatened by incoming comets. The player tries to develop their city on Alora within this context of risk and they need to make decisions about when to invest finite resources in development while managing protection, research and insurance. The game encourages players to invest in all three modes of risk management, but is open to user discretion and the critical assessment of individual risks or circumstance. For example, in the first level where threats from comets are less substantial, there is less need for insurance. But it would be near impossible to pass the fourth level without insurance. When the World Bank Institutemade plans for a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) about the 2014 World Development Report, they decided to include an online game to explicate and frame the course content, believing that risk management is a very playable, highly complex system of decision-making introduced or amplified by climate change. The Development Report itself served…

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