Hubbub has gone into hibernation.


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.