City of Happiness: Caviar Rouge Game

I wrote about Caviar Rouge Forum, one of the projects by the Caravan Culture agency I was involved (albeit in a minor way, I was just a member of a panel discussing the concept of ‘design-mindedness’). This time it was a much bigger project, a game we designed specially for the project, and played in the premises of Vanabbe Museum in Eindhoven. Instead of just talking about the impact of (national) culture on design, and design – as a discipline and a mindset – on cultures, we suggested to play (with) these ideas and to act them out in a tangible format.

We suggested for the participants (who were both from the Caviar Rouge’s team and the general public; the event was openbaar, public in Dutch) to imagine that they represent different national design team, and from this role to construct a City of Happiness for a imaginary client. We proposed to play with four teams, quite archetypical but also appropriate for the given context: the Chinese, Dutch, Russian, and US ones (we made an effort to not include real Russians in the ‘Russian Team, and likewise, there were no Dutchmen in the “Dutch Team”).

Each team was tasked to design and construct their concept of ‘Happy City” on the given plot of land (we used a beautiful film from the book by Petra Kempf (You Are the City) as a representation of such land). Each team has a set of construction materials (although different for every team, both in quality and quantity), and also some ‘game currency’ to purchase more in due course. Every team has started with heated debates on the meaning of ‘Happiness’ according to the ‘national identity’ which quickly followed with the first sketching/sculpting exercises.

Perhaps, we were to generous game masters, and provided more materials than necessary to the teams, since they didn’t show much interest in the additional supplies and auctions; but there were sporadic exchanges between the teams, including open barters and more hidden appropriations of the poorly overseen resources (e.g., paper cuts).

At the end all the teams presented their ideas, and pretty impressive ones given very limited amount of time they all had (the game lasted just a bit longer than an hour). The ‘Dutch team” (played mostly by Russians) presented their concept of the Soul City, arguing that the key components of happiness is High Spirituality, Natural Beauty, Friendship and Openness (symbolized by various circles, bridges, and flowers).

The “Russian team” (played mostly by Dutch guys) emphasized an importance of History and Roots, and Openness to the Others (you can find a lot of gates and windows in their design).

The ‘Chinese team’ was all about Harmony and Feng-Shui (yet they also accumulated the largest resources of gold in their vault, guarded by the Golden Dragon).

(not so) Surprisingly enough, the winner who took it all was the ‘US team’; not only their concept was seen as the most ‘authentically American’, but they also presented it with wit and self-irony.

The game was concluded with an interesting discussion, and at the end was the best combo of fun and useful learning (as supposed for a ‘serious game’). I plan to make a more detailed presentation, a mini-report of some sort about the game, and will place it later to SlideShare. I also have a few video-clips, to be also incorporated into this report.

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