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Game design vs. natural networking

Workspace

So there we were, plunged head-first into the project, standing in the forest of Drenthe with a 4 by 2 pin-up board and a Bassie & Adriaan caravan. We had arrived at the Natural Networking Festival.

Bassie & Adriaan

The NNF is a community based, crowd-sourced festival focused on making positive change happen for society. Our task as game designer was to make a game that would let the students focus their attention on opening up to the world, recognizing where they wanted to be and what their role could be in society. Quite the assignment, indeed.

And so we decided to make a 2 by 4 pin-up facebooktwitterprofile wall, print about 250 empty profile-assignment cards that said “philosopher”, “artist” etc, buy a thousand pins, 12 balls of wool and one massive phat marker. The idea was that the students would follow the cards, find their philosophers, entrepreneurs and whatnot, write down their experiences and inspirations, pin them all on the wall, look at their own life, make their own profile, pin it up, look at all the lives pinned up on the wall, recognize the patterns, connect the dots with wool and pins, reflect, win.

Board

All of this would result in one massive wall of awesomeness, set to inspire all those that participated in co-creating it.

And so did the wall result in this awesomeness? Nossir. Although the assignments were clear to the students, they felt restricted by them. They felt that because they had a very clear idea of what they were “obliged” to find out, it was harder to truly connect to the people, and to listen to their life stories. They felt more like interviewers than the bare footed, wood chopping, world changing pioneers the festival was asking them to be.1

We wouldn’t say the board was still empty at the end of the festival, but calling it a successfully filled board would most definitely be an overstatement.

So am I telling you that the game failed? Nossir! The game most definitely steered the students in a different direction than they would have normally chosen to go. We’ve seen students speaking with people they would normally never be seen with, discovering what drives these people and getting inspired by all kinds of things.

Probably what failed was translating these things into the concrete words on the cards and putting them on a big board. Lack of motivation, lack of fun, perhaps? All things to think about, food for the brain for future games in this big long learning lab that is still ahead of us. Either way we’re excited!

We’ll keep them blogs coming, until then:

Sylvan & Wieger out.

Tree

  1. Over the weekend of the festival, a complete tree was chopped into tiny bits of wood for the campfire. This chopping was done by whoever wanted to feel like a jolly old lumberjack, resulting in at least 3 students chopping for hours. []
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