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Critical Gamification

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. 

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 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.