Note on EU policy game development so far (as concluding notes for the Game On experiment)

Background: The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Branch has established a Marine CoLABoration group with nine UK-based NGOs interested in exploring how to communicate the role/value of the ocean in human prosperity and wellbeing more effectively in order to secure better management and protection of the ocean over the long term.

The initial question: One of the questions which has emerged in the group is - When do we engage the public in changing the rules (this might be legislation or policy) and how best do we do so?

The context: In 2012-13 public campaigns across Europe (e.g. Hugh's Fish Fight and Paint a Fish) were very useful in raising awareness about the Common Fisheries Policy reform and creating public pressure for the progressive measures which were eventually secured. How can NGOs be more nimble and effective at creating and exploiting opportunities to engage the public, especially with EU processes, which can be complex, lengthy, opaque and particularly hard to engage with?

The initial game: Would it be feasible to develop a board and/or digital game to explore this question? Discussion with two game development practitioners led to a concept for a board game in which different stakeholders (e.g. NGOs, business) compete to 'win' MEPs to their cause. [See further details below]. However, further discussion, including with young adults who play digital games often, suggests that a game focused on engaging with the EU legislative process is too narrowly defined and makes too many assumptions about what people [especially the general public] know, need and are interested in.

Revised questions:

What do we want to achieve with the game?

  • Simulation (to help NGOs make decisions)?
  • Advocacy training tool (to help NGOs understand process and negotiation and understanding and addressing other people's views and motivation)?
  • A tool to get the public involved and interested in the value of the oceans and ways to do something to protect it?

Do we think that a game would be a good way to work towards achieving these objectives?

Latest thoughts: We are interested to explore further the idea of either a) an NGO education game on the EU decision-making process or b) a more general ocean education game, which might progress to levels where players develop/identify/choose solutions later in the game. A game which is able to engage a broad audience on critical marine conservation issues would be most challenging, but also most interesting to develop, though research suggests that the creation of a high impact, mainstream digital game needs a clear audience target, close collaboration with the commercial games industry, and significant financial resources to develop.

Next steps:

  • Share note with Marine LAB group
  • Share revised note with SIX (Social Innovation Exchange), FOAM developers, Focus Coop (Italy), Cariplo Fundation (Milan), Games for Good, others?
  • Host half-day workshop with games developers to explore idea further?

The initial game concept:

  • Pick an outcome you want to play for e.g. stronger/weaker legislation
  • Have a finite amount of money [varies according to kind of organization]
  • Start with a board of MEPS of different persuasions - some supportive, some not
  • Aim of the game is to spend your money in ways to influence the maximum number of MEPs to support your cause.
  • At each stage of the process, players make investment decisions simultaneously, which win or lose you points (i.e. MEPs)
  • Decisions are taken simultaneously and secretly and averaged on the board
  • The winner has the most MEPs voting with them