Edited by Matthias Ruth and Stefan Goessling-Reisemann
Chapter 20: Playable problems: game-design thinking for civic problem-solving
As interest grows in involving stakeholders in problem-solving around resilience strategies, the biggest hurdle is creating mechanisms through which people can meaningfully contribute. Organizations big and small are calling for increased participation and greater public engagement, but too often the response to this call is another community forum or online poll. While design thinking methods are becoming popular, and can provide useful strategies for simplifying complexity and focusing on outcomes, they often gloss over nuance of culture, power and experience. In this chapter, I advocate for the use of game design as a method of group ideation and problem-solving in the context of social resilience. Specifically, this approach asks participants to identify the ‘playable problem’, or the goal of the game whereby rules and mechanics can be designed to guide players through an experience. In transforming large wicked problems, like lack of community connectedness, into smaller ‘playable problems’, such as not having informal gathering spaces in the community, participants can imagine a balanced system where a player is seeking to forge connections with neighbors and comes up against obstacles in such a way that forces him or her to imagine new paths or tactics. I do not suggest that problems should be solved through game play; rather, through game-design thinking, participants can reframe civic issues around the experience of a player moving through a system. This chapter details the game-design thinking process and provides examples of its use in a youth advocacy project in India.
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