Media Design Bingo

Written by on 25th October 2011 in Experiments, Thoughts with Leave a comment

I’ve been reading Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken.I don’t totally agree with some of her ideas but I felt sort of inspired to actually make a real world game because I’ve been talking about doing things that bridge the virtual and physical, but haven’t really done much with the physical side of things. And for all the reading I’ve been doing about collaborative play, I hadn’t really made anything collaborative. I was reading about some of the alternate reality games she’s put together and I remember at some point I jotted down:

“Can I make thesis a game?”

And so I thought about different parts of the process. And the studio environment. And how a large part of the “work” is actually done through the interaction with people who sort of help you push your ideas in whatever direction they need to go in. And then I thought about how I actually still didn’t know most of the new kids’ names’ in the studio… and at some point this turned into bingo.

I’ve been spending the past few days working on making this large scale asynchronous studio bingo game.

I started by sending out a general email to the mdp-students list proposing my idea & preliminary rules for the game. At the first pass on Wednesday I got about 9 takers. Someone emailed to ask a few questions to clarify the game so I sent out a second with more details (and some revised rules) and got about 10 more takers on Thursday. On Friday I set out to ask people who hadn’t responded and got another  10 or so. Some I just didn’t run into or hear from but generally I felt like I had enough people on board to make it something that would be relatively interesting.

A lot of the past few days has been spent tweaking the design of the game and figuring out the actual logistics technically. A big part of it was thinking about what sort of behaviors and values were important. I’m really interested in a game that involves collaboration and sort of rewarding groups as opposed to just focusing on the individual. Plus there’s the theory that expressing gratitude regularly increases happiness. So could I then make the game about gratitude and helping others? And could I do this using something as boring as a shared google doc?

I like these quotes from Reality is Broken:

“Many of us do work that feels more surreal than real. Working in an office, you often find it difficult to see any tangible results from your efforts. What exactly have you accomplished at the of of any given day? Where there chain of cause and effect is opaque and responsibility diffuse, the experience of individual agency can be elusive.. is there a more “real” alternative?” (60)

For the most part, we live in a culture of individual achievement, or what Martin Seligman calls “the waxing of the self” and “the waning of the commons” He explains “the society we live in takes the pleasures and pains, the successes and failures of the individual with unprecedented seriousness” And when we see success or failure as an entirely individual affair, we don’t bother to invest time or resources in someone else’s achievements. (88)

After some fairly tedious production work of getting 44 boards together but some fairly satisfying work of creating badges the game started on Monday at 9am. (Although at 10am I had to go through and update all the boards cause I forgot one square.) I emailed everyone’s individual board in addition to this pdf.


Between my first email and the final rule book I changed the mechanic a little. At first you would mark a square if you helped someone, but after thinking about it more I changed it to marking a square if someone helped you. And then the awarded badge gets given to you and the people who were part of the competed pattern. So there was a little bit of confusion this morning I think, but people seemed to get it after I explained it again. At first it seems the motivation is to put more dots down on your board (get help from others) but as the game goes on you’ll notice it’s actually more beneficial to have your dot marked on more boards cause that earns you more badges in the end.  Several people have badges that haven’t placed any dots, which is particularly interesting to me. I like that even if people aren’t really actively playing as much as others they still get rewarded for their help. The game goes until Friday @ 3 in order to give everyone a chance since schedules are all different, so we’ll see where it goes. But there’s already quite a bit of activity going on…

You can begin to see patterns emerging on the live board

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