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.