The blurring of work and play, or of work and art, is a recurring utopian motif. But the blurring of work and play also describes a relatively new regime of precarious work, whose management includes an increased intensity of automated processes.
Against such algorithmic governmentality, I'm interested in rehabilitating the critical and utopian possibilities of gamification, embracing the potential for any situation to absorb and to be transformed by play. Gamification need not be merely about driving engagement, but about the broadest possible range of potential affective and cognitive alchemy.
How do we imagine the future? How do we imagine transition to a net zero global economy? Might storytelling and play be ways of addressing the deep uncertainties associated with climate change, helping us to expand how we take decisions beyond traditional risk management frameworks? When we are given space to imagine our "own" stories, how might the building blocks we reach for already come with their own assumptions? What competing claims do development and post-development discourse make on our collective imaginaries?
Kampala Yénkya is a storytelling game developed in collaboration with science fiction writer Dilman Dila, along with Polina Levontin, Maurice Ssebisubi, Jana Kleineberg, Bright Nkrumah and others. It aims to hold open a space for exploring climate uncertainty, and imagining a plurality of different future paths for Kampala, Uganda, and the world.
Connections (2018) is a storytelling game and scenario exploration tool, aimed to facilitate transdisciplinary understanding. It was initially developed for a day-long workshop bringing together scientists, fiction writers, and humanities scholars. Connections offers a framework for collaborative, narrative exploration of emerging risks and opportunities associated with technological, ecological, and social change in a complex, interconnected world, where information is often limited and uncertain.
Connections can also be focused on specific problems. The key component of the game is a set of prompts in four categories, which is currently available as a Google sheet; to adapt the game to tell stories about particular scenarios, actors, or technological issues or innovations, make a copy of the sheet and populate it with your own relevant prompts. Please feel free to download and use the Connections rules; I would also be interested in opportunities to continue to iterate and develop it in research, innovation, and grassroots contexts.
The Shrike & The Ink is a collaborative multimedia work-in-progress exploring utopias, dreams, sparks, viruses, glimpses, morphologies and procedural generation. It includes the tabletop roleplaying game The Shrike, the digital game Strange Cities, and the music project THE INK, a collaboration with Holly Taymar, Zoe Wynns, and other musicians, writers, artists and producers.
The Sputnik Award (2016) used procedurally-generated storytelling to think through the form and function of literary prizes, and reimagine the role of the ludic and the agonistic in digital democracy.
Procedural generation, chance procedures, and theatrical improvisation are at the heart of tabletop roleplaying games. What happens when you use them reflexively, to generate new games? RPG generator (2020) is a prototype, made in Twine, which explores just this question.