During my visit at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) I participated the 48th International Simulation and Gaming Association's conference (ISAGA 2017). Of course, there were a lot of interesting key notes, paper presentations and workshops. All worth to participate. Of course, one personal highlight was my design workshop for inclusive simulation games. What else should I say :-) But let's be serious, now.
The all time favorite at the conference was The Conference Game. And it is no surprise in a mass of crazy gamers. :-)
In The Conference Game we were all invited to play an Alternate Reality Game. The aim of the game is to earn individual points as well as community points for the conference dinner (three or four courses, depending on the points we all get in a sum). To earn individual points we had to look each other up. That means we had to search for our "target" which was given by a photo on our mobile phone. Once the person was identified, we asked for their unique code and started a conversation based on a question given by the game (that gives you 50 points). Additionally, we played minigames together to get additional points (50 points, but if you play several games with one person the points you get decrease). At the end I was on the fifth place (congrats to myself *grin*) and we got the four course conference dinner. It was a real joy to play this game and I am sure that this concept can be adapted to learning surroundings as well.
I enjoyed also the workshop given by Daniel Bartsch, Birgit Zuern and Eric Treske. They introduced GRID, a simulation game for infrastructure management, organizational structure and leadership. We, as a group of four persons, run a company for energy supply. Our task was to modernize the existing supply line in a city infrastructure. Beside us, there was an other group who supervised us (two participants in the role of the middle management) and reported our progress to the top management (two participants). This workshop was very interesting because we had to find optimized solutions how to modernize the infrastructure. The challenge was that the supply line has to be intact without any interruption. This game concept was very inspiring and a good example how to acquire knowledge about processes, organization, management, hierarchies, infrastructure and leadership in a technical area.
The next interesting workshop, "Build, Play, Collaborate", was given by Milena Ivkovic. On the example of the "Delft Living Campus" we got an introduction to the elements of competitiveness and collaboratin and their importance for the making of engaging urban planning simulations. Especially from the perspective of specialized didactics in construction, this concept seemed to be very promissing. And indeed, this multi stakeholder, large-scale board game resp. city simulation was a good example how to use the competitive game mechanics in order to create a specific decision-making experience. We as participants were devided in different groups. Each group was responsible for own facilities that we can build on the Delft campus. My partner and I had the role of investors for new economy businesses and startups. Other roles, which were in opposite of us, were student community, city government, research institutions and so on. During the game play we had to discuss and to argue why it makes sense to build a specific facility at a certain place and why it is necessary in contrast to another facility, that one of the other groups wanted to build there. The haptic experience by using wooden blocks, with which we placed different facilities on a board as well as to grade the placed facilities (+2,+1,-1,-2) was a really good idea for starting the discussion. It was also possible and finally necessary to negotiate about the certain places we wanted to use for our facilities. From this time we realized, how competition changed into collaboration and what the effects are. Milena introduced a really good game concept, that might be adaptable for other contexts, too.
Related to city planning was also the thematic session organized by Thomas Eberle with the topic "Participation in Sustainable Cities and Smart Infrastructures". In the area of construction participation has become a more and more important factor for successful development and maintenance of cities and infrastructures. Based on Thomas' input (partly from research in progress, partly already published) we started to share ideas, findings and experiences in the context of the following key factors for participation: Challenges, intrinsic motivation, positive emotions, autonomy, consequences, team-atmosphere, individual values etc. Afterwards we worked in groups on different topics. My partner and me decided to work on a concept how to increase public participation by using so called new media technologies.
We designed a concept of a shared platform with which the authority and the public can communicate and collaborate in real time during the (re-)development of a city district. Of course, the first concept of such a shared platform has some shortcomings that must be taken into account. For example, strong initiatives against a future urban development plan could occupy such a platform. Or by using multiple accounts they can try to spread their opinion.Therefore, using online based platforms to increase participation must be used with caution. Nonetheless, such technologies will enable authorities to get real time feedback that can be included in a very early stage of the urban development plan. This session was very interesting in that far, that the topic of participation in urban planning could be a good topic for developing a board game that can be played in vocational education and training. Oh my god, ... one more idea for too less time :-) Let us see, when this project will come to life.
If we are talking about designing games I must tell you about the session with Martijn Koops. Martijn is a dutch expert in game didactics and also involved in teacher education. He experienced that an increasing number of teachers acknowledge the added value of game-mechanics and start using games in their lessons. In this session we got valuable advice how we can design gamified and serious games. These kinds of games find more and more their way into classrooms. Even if I made several educational games for my field (card, board, online) and also developed game design frameworks I was surprised about Martijn's method how to gamify existing courses. Martijn pointed out the different game-types and their specific field of use and explained the specific learning goals that fit the different game types. In parallel to his session I started to design an outline of a gamified lesson for my own. Further, I am convinced that it is worth to invest some time to integrate these new experiences into my existing design frameworks which will be available for my students, finally.
Beside the aforementioned highlights, there where more interesting sessions and activities, as like the paper session dealing with games as research instrument (something that I have also discussed in the past, ref. to Solving the Simulation Paradox - How Educational Games can Support Research Efforts). Or the session of Shalini Kurapati, Maria Freese and Ioanna Kourounioti about Simulation Games to Understand Decision Making in Transportation. At the end, the conference triggered a lot of ideas, gave me new insights and valuable advices for both research and teaching.
Last but not least, I participated a really intersting social activity at ISAGA 2017. It was the visit of the Maasvlakte 2 at the Port of Rotterdam which is the biggest civil engineering project in the Netherlands. The terminals are fully electric, from the Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) to the quay cranes. Further, Maasvlakte 2 has terminals which run entirely on power generated by wind turbines. If you ever visit Rotterdam and you are interested in technology and infrastructure, Maasvlakte 2 is a must seen place for you.