Kop­pelkiek pro­mo­tional artwork

Kop­pelkiek — ‘cou­ple snap­shot’ in Dutch — is a social photo game designed for the Hoograven area of Utrecht. Play­ers shoot pho­tos of them­selves with friends, fam­ily or com­plete strangers and upload them to a web­site for points.


This project was com­mis­sioned by Dutch Design Dou­ble, Utrecht Man­i­fest 2009 and the city of Utrecht. It was designed for and played in the Hoograven area of Utrecht. When the project started, Hoograven was one of the more prob­lem­atic areas of the city, with high unem­ploy­ment and crime rates, and a large num­ber of peo­ple with low income. In short, it was not one of the most-loved areas of the city. Utrecht Man­i­fest is the bien­nial for social design. Part of the 2009 edi­tion took place in Hoograven, where res­i­dents were invited to join in think­ing about social design and urban plan­ning. Dutch Design Dou­ble is a mar­ket­ing pro­gram for over 20 design events in Ams­ter­dam and Utrecht. The Utrecht pro­gram focused on social design, young tal­ent and new media.


We wanted to exam­ine what func­tion game design as a dis­ci­pline can have for soci­ety. We chal­lenged our­selves to design a game for the area of Hoograven which would func­tion as an inter­ven­tion of sorts. The game would be a short-term event that would hope­fully have a pos­i­tive effect on the neigh­bor­hood on the longer term. We aimed to con­nect res­i­dents through light-weight, casual play.


We had lit­tle over four weeks to develop Kop­pelkiek from first con­cept to run­ning game. We started with gen­er­at­ing a large num­ber of options, and selected sev­eral for quick tests. Most of these tests were exe­cuted in the streets of Utrecht, to gauge pub­lic response as early as pos­si­ble. At the same time, we per­formed field research in Hoograven, to get a feel for the ter­rain and dis­cover poten­tially use­ful places. We also inter­viewed expert res­i­dents to learn more about how the neigh­bor­hood worked on a social level, who the influ­en­tial fig­ures were and so on. This would come in handy later, when we sat down to develop the game’s challenges.

An agent of Hub­bub per­form­ing field research in Hoograven

Once we had set­tled on a con­cept, we started play­ing ver­sions of the rule­set in between work and over the week­ends. We did this to make sure we were com­ing up with some­thing that was fun and worked in a per­va­sive man­ner. Towards the end of the project we pro­duced a game web­site with a back­end that included a scor­ing algo­rithm and a man­age­ment inter­face to review player submissions.


We kicked off the game with a com­bined final play-test and press event. After this, we were present in the neigh­bor­hood over a period of three weeks on wednes­days and sat­ur­days at an old shop. Inter­ested res­i­dents could come in, learn about the game and get help with get­ting started. We wrapped up the game with a party and a award ceremony.

An arti­cle on Kop­pelkiek in a regional newspaper

Over the period of three weeks, play­ers signed up for the game on our web site. They could read about the basic rules and the var­i­ous chal­lenges we had cre­ated for them. For exam­ple: “Take a photo of your­self with some­one else in front of his or her front door.” Play­ers could take pho­tos when­ever they encoun­tered a sit­u­a­tion that fit the descrip­tion of a chal­lenge. They could upload them at any time too. We eval­u­ated each sub­mis­sion and assigned points depend­ing on a challenge’s dif­fi­culty rating.

A selec­tion of pho­tos taken by play­ers for the “front door” challenge

Because we felt the game needed to be vis­i­ble to non-playing res­i­dents too, we exhib­ited all pho­tos in the win­dow of an old shop on Hoograven’s busiest street. The pho­tos were also part of an exhi­bi­tion at Utrecht Man­i­fest 2009.

An agent of Hub­bub hav­ing a chat with res­i­dents at the Kop­pelkiek shop window

The end result was a game that was very easy to get into by peo­ple who would oth­er­wise not con­sider them­selves to be gamers. We received pos­i­tive feed­back from all par­tic­i­pants, many of whom com­mented that they were very happy to see some­thing as nice as our game be orga­nized in their neigh­bor­hood, which oth­er­wise received only atten­tion for its troubles.

  • Project credits

    Kop­pelkiek was made by Kars Alfrink and Tij­men Schep.

    The game was part of Dutch Design Dou­ble, cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Utrecht Man­i­fest and with sup­port from the city of Utrecht.

    With thanks to Willem van Zee­land for his sup­port through­out the game’s production.

  • Best Practice

    Virtueel Platform—the sec­tor insti­tute for Dutch e-culture—has cho­sen Kop­pelkiek for its Best Prac­tice selec­tion, which rep­re­sents the best and most notable e-culture projects from the Netherlands.