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Posted by on Feb 14, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Board Game Hacks – Big Potential for Cities & Public Involvement

GreaterPlaces and the Local Government Commission hosted Game Lab in a parklet at the 2016 New Partners for Smart Growth conference. It was a big hit, so we want to share highlights.

As background, we laid LOTS of game and craft supplies on a table to investigate game boards and smart growth.  As an example, Sarah Lewis re-imagined Chutes and Ladders as Streetcars and Stroads – a simple game of getting from Point A (in this case work) to Point B (home).  In creating a game for commuters, various squares showed how options and policies help or hinder getting home at night.

We also collected ideas from the crowd for “TOD: the Board Game.” (TOD=Transit Oriented Development)  In this case, we printed blank Trivial Pursuit boards to set up a “race to the center.” We invited passersby to write ideas that advance or hinder TOD for game cards. and got close to 75 ideas.  We hope to repeat game lab in other venues to get a robust collection of ideas – and strategies. Stay tuned.

In creating Game Lab, we reached out to the World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.  They are creating games worldwide: from transportation to neighborhood improvement and more. WRI’s approach is helpful:

  • Before designing any game, they engage the community to identify challenges and opportunities, often with a neighborhood walk.
  • Game strategies are deployed to help with role playing, understanding trade-offs, and creating strategies for solutions
  • In one instance, WRI used games to explain “Safe Access to Transit” manual.  This is a brilliant use of games since most manuals are long, technical and un-engaging.

    Courtesy World Resources Institute

    Courtesy World Resources Institute


At our table, we had insights:

  • Providing a fully-formed, simple game was critical to get visitors in game mode.
  • We bought small game parts from Amazon: spinner kits, dice, tokens, pawns and blank game boards (18X18 folding boards were really good). We also had 18 x 18 print outs of simple board games like Trivial Pursuit. Pinterest is a good source as is this web site.
  • We chose two simple game designs to mimic cities: Point A to Point B (Streetcars and Stroads) and Race to the Center (Trivial Pursuit) since both involved advancing to an end point.  As we go forward, we will need to think about how to weave in strategy.  For example, having players combine funding (common with transit funding) or use mix.

Here is our installation – stay tuned as we further develop the game.  Have ideas?  Use the comment section or @citydesigncards. Special thanks to WRI and Sahana Goswami who is leading efforts in India on game design and civic participation.



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