Better games through playful design

Politics & Society
re:publica 2015


Games are the most important cultural form of our current century. Games also promise us to help us solve the large problems we are faced with. Why then haven't they done so yet? What are we doing wrong? Or are games not as good as they were promised to be? We think games can help us address the complex issues of our time but to do this they have to be better and different. In this talk I'll explain how.


I am part of Hubbub, a studio for playful design. We have recently published a game called Bycatch that we think is a good example of a different way of doing things. Bycatch is a simple card game about two issues that we think are very important: drone warfare and surveillance.

The game we made, Bycatch, is different in many respects but most importantly:

  1. It does not tell players what is right or wrong. We think this is patronizing and players will directly understand that they aren't being taken seriously. We want people to think about the issues themselves and make up their own minds.
  2. The actions you take in the game and the issues it is about are closely aligned. Games are often reduced to a label to put on something boring to try to make it fun. In Bycatch you surveil other players by taking a picture of their cards with the camera function of your mobile phone.

We call the process how we made Bycatch “playful design” and we think it is the best way to approach games and play as creators. Bycatch was made in an unorthodox process spanning six months and taking place in Berlin, Utrecht, Brooklyn and London. I'll explain how this positively influenced the end result and the lessons we learned in producing an entire physical game remotely.

Over the course of this talk we'll cover the diverse fields of gamification, serious games, newsgames and games for change and try to redeem them. Games can be applied towards issues and games can be fun but above all, games are in the service of play.

Dienstag, 5. Mai 2015 - 13:30 bis 14:00