Hubbub has gone into hibernation.

Game design vs. natural networking


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.


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.


  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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