(an experiment from the March workshop)

Hypothesis / Challenge

“When is engaging the public the best way of changing the rules? and how?” https://www.flickr.com/photos/foam/16644385938/in/photostream/

Experiment design

experiment - game on!

full size image

To begin with, collecting examples of previous public engagements where public engagement did or didn't work (e.g. make poverty history, fish fight, whaling moratorium, ozone layer depletion, etc+) in some cases campaigns are not hung on the main issue, but use lateral issues. timing is very important (e.g. elections, public consultations)

As an example or test case to use as the basis for our experiment, we would use the review of the Habitats and Wild birds directive. We will set up a game or simulation of the legislative process to compare different inputs, player engagement and outcomes. By running through several iterations of the game, different modes and timing of public engagment can be compared.

design steps;

  • map existing legislative process into something like a flow-chart
  • survey existing simulations and work related to simulations of EU legislative process
  • design a simulation (based on the results of first step)
  • play simulation (with various strategies, etc) possibly updating the design
  • document analyse games


  • knowledge of legislative process
  • simulation design
  • recruit players
  • players
  • documenting game iterations
  • evaluate strategies


  • SL: analysis
  • SL: knowledge regarding step 1
  • ?: brainstorming
  • MVL: the voting guy - cities
  • MVL: coalition building & outreach
  • ?: recruit potential players
  • ?: oceans world bank as example
  • catarina: help review game desing and rules
  • foam: contact with game designers
  • amy: help find players and be a sounding board


  • 27 Mar - conference call between Louisa, Sandy, Amber, Dave. Sandy to come up with a summary of legal processes in policy decision making.
  • Notes on the EU law-making process if the Habitats Directive is opened up for change can be found at Habitats Directive notes
  • Draft for an EU policy game can be found at EU policy game notes
  • 14 Apr - Mock- up board and potential game-play drafted and sent to Louise and Sandy
  • 30 Apr - phone meeting between Louisa, Sandy, Amber to clarify misunderstandings, options, and possible future approach. Louise and Sandy are now going to re-visit the draft ideas, present ideas at a meeting next week, and try to get a good handle on precisely what outcomes they want. There are a lot of aspects of the draft game plan that could be made flexible - these need to be discussed at the meeting and include - game board design (what is in the flow chart, what extra sections are needed, which parts need to be optional), types of public pressure (what are these? e.g. are they a petition, a media campaign etc? how could they vary e.g. size of petition?), points on the game board at which public pressure could be applied (some parts of the process will be more or less possible to influence), what limits the level of input invested at different points in the game board (money available? time available?). Once these ideas are more established, we can think more about specifics of game play, and how this would vary if we were looking at the habitats directive or something else entirely. We also discussed the idea that the game could either be an accurate simulation of the process that could be used for evidence-based decision making, or it might be just as useful as an eye-opener for players, in which case it might not need to be so complicated.


Lots of examples here: http://boardgames.about.com/od/toppicks/tp/political-games.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_simulation_game

The great historical example of a game that allows you to explore a political situation is the original version of Monopoly made by Elizabeth Magie in 1904: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Landlord%27s_Game

Board games in US government:

“One reason why board games are useful is that you can constantly tweak the rules to take account of new insights, says Timothy Wilkie of the National Defence University in Washington, DC.”

“During official gaming sessions, analysts peer over players’ shoulders and challenge their reasoning. Afterwards, they incorporate the insights gleaned into briefings for superiors.”


'Bumper Crop' is probably the best example that we've worked on. It was made by rural farmers in India about the issues they face, and was designed to tell their stories by putting players into their shoes and making the decisions they have to make day to day. In workshops with them it also triggered a lot of conversation between farmers about how they work and differences with regional variations of crops and taxes etc. The final game consisted of a board you move around with a dice with 60 locations representing events spread out over a growing season.

Here are some examples: http://playtogrow.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Bumper-Crop-Game-Cards-37-42.jpg

Dave was on the advisory panel for the project and at the end we made a mobile version for wider dissemination: https://fo.am/bumper-crop/

'Naked on Pluto' was a political satire we made that explores online privacy via a facebook game. We also used this in lots of workshops with students allowing them to study these issues in depth and it won the 2011 Vida award: https://fo.am/naked-on-pluto/

“Eat It!” was the board game about supermarkets and small local markets by Selena Savic. All I can find online about it now is this photo I took: http://www.pawfal.org/dave/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/DSC00293.jpg

This was a territorial 'capturing space' game, with different rules depending if you were playing the role of a corporation or a small business.

I could see something like this representing the voting intention of members of parliament, perhaps changes driven with a more sequential board representing the progression of the legal process.


concluding notes at policy game development

  • marine_colab/game_on_experiment.txt
  • Last modified: 2017-01-24 11:47
  • by nik