A human centric look at electricity consumption and design towards a “Smart Campus”

It was almost a year ago when we concluded a project named “The Smart Campus Simulation Tool”. We are looking to release the simulation tool to open source. In this post, we wanted to explore the problem context which informed our design.

To us a Smart Campus represented a socio-technical system that would be “malleable” enough for us to achieve our objectives. We approached it to be a socio-technical system, the technology (the adaptive sensor based control system) has to work with the social context of an academic institute. At the end of the day, people have to accept and be willing to make changes to their lifestyles.

We wanted to look at the issue of electricity consumption for the IIIT-Bangalore. The institute had invested in a fair amount of energy saving equipment such as solar panels and more efficient water heating systems. But, they were not clear about the eventual savings in energy, the electricity consumption patterns or if there was a strategy to reduce the overall consumption in the campus.

An overview of campus simulation model.
An overview of campus simulation model.

Consumption of electricity is a difficult notion to comprehend and convey. For example, when a switch is thrown, does one wonder where the electricity is generated from? It may so happen that a forest is being cleared in Chattisgarh so that you may be able to spend an extra hour on Xbox. Furthermore, we have an inherent expectation (if you grow up with some privilege,) that electricity “has” to flow if a switch is turned on. People who have no access to electricity are vulnerable in many ways to the extent that their social mobility may suffer due to lack of electricity. People who have intermittent access or pay huge bills are also cautions about consumption. Nevertheless, we seldom question the source of generation. 

Causal relationships like the one above between your consumption and environmental degradation are common and are uncomfortable (but true). Such examples try to guilt you into changing your consumption behaviour. However, it is not an easy to make lifestyle changes nor is it easy to ponder on the utility before doing everyday mundane tasks. Responsible use of electricity requires changes to behavioural and cultural practices as well as upgrades to the technical systems around us. Looking at both social and technological aspects was the cornerstone of our approach. 

We tried to look at the campus as a location which enables different people to achieve their academic goals. People in the campus perform various activities that allow them to achieve this goal. We looked at activities that consumed electricity. We then developed a simulation tool that assumed the use of sensor -based control and behavioural modification to try and check if a technology-assisted behavioural change was possible. The results of the simulation would be the base to design a serious game. The game in conjunction with sensor-based control systems would address both social and technological aspects of the issue.

Our simulation mainly consists of:

  1. a model for generating activities (explanation for what this activity means below) for various actors present on the campus,
  2. an agent based model for minimising electricity usage while keeping the comfort level of individuals at an acceptable level.

We define an activity as any action that an individual takes during the course of one’s day in the campus. A good way to model an activity is to collect detailed information using “energy dairies”. As a small academic institute, the campus had limited types of actors. We therefore chose to use a survey-based approach to collect information on daily routines. We conducted a survey to understand various daily routines for all the individuals on the campus. We also conducted interviews with some of the administrative and housekeeping staff.  We used this information to create a model for the generation of activities for various actors on the campus.

The smart campus simulation setup.
The smart campus simulation setup.

To model the “smart” systems of the campus, we created a control mechanism based on autonomous agents trying to collectively bring down the electricity consumption of the campus while keeping track of inhabitant’s comfort levels. We modelled the rooms and work areas as the autonomous agents. Each such agent was responsible for the operation of various devices that would consume electricity. It was then tasked with the objectives of minimising usage of certain devices by:

  1. negotiating the electricity consumption with other rooms (agents).
  2. Directing uses to use more common areas.
  3. Restricting when possible, the use of high power consumption devices such as air-conditioners and elevators.

In all of the above cases the it is assumed that the individual can override the agents, thus, keeping the human at the centre of the system.  (This also allows us to collect information on what sort of activities will not be compromised in the name of energy savings. ) However, a denial from the system to allow the operation of devices resulted in a decrease in the satisfaction of the inhabitants. The agents were asked to minimise the use of electricity with as little discomfort as possible for the inhabitants.

Once the models were ready we created a simulation tool and calibrated it based on the data collected by the campus for over a year on a daily basis. We could then play out scenarios such as:

  • What happens when we want to aggressively minimise consumption
  • or, what happens when the comfort for the inhabitant is paramount and
  • finally, what happens when we set a electricity consumption target for ourselves?
Calibration of the simulation, Real Data: Red, Simulated Data: Blue
Calibration of the simulation, Real Data: Red, Simulated Data: Blue

 

Results from using a aggressive savings scenario.
Results from using an aggressive savings scenario

 

Results from allowing a maximum savings scenario.
Results from allowing a maximum savings scenario
Results from using a popular choice for devices, scenario.
Results from using a popular choice for devices, scenario

It was very interesting for us to see the results and present it to the inhabitants of the campus. We are now trying to work with students to create and deploy the sensor systems at the campus. We see a potential for extending this tool to include larger spatial/network levels such as a neighbourhood or a set of neighbourhoods as opposed to a campus. We are also looking at including multiple sources of electricity, given that decentralised power and micro-grids can become popular. Furthermore, we are also exploring the possibility to include other resources such as water consumption and sewage as well into the analysis. For a more detailed description to the tool and to some other people doing similar work please refer to our paper “Krishna, Harsha, Onkar Hoysala, Krishna G. Murali, Bharath M. Palavalli, and Eswaran Subrahmanian. “Modelling technology, policy and behaviour to manage electricity consumption.” In Humanitarian Technology Conference (R10-HTC), 2014 IEEE Region 10, pp. 40-45. IEEE, 2014.”. We hope to produce and publish more results soon. In the meantime please free to check our tool at:The Smart Campus Simulation Tool

Indian Energy Game session at IIIT-B

Does the length of your laptop cord matter for how you experience a game? It was one of the many questions that cropped up as I watched the most recent session of the Indian Energy Game we played with students of the Digital Society course at IIIT-B on 29 July, 2015.

The Indian Energy Game is designed to help you learn about how decisions in energy policy are made in India. The participants were divided into two teams – Team 1 and 2. Each team had three groups who represented three Ministries: Ministry of Power; Ministry of New and Renewable Energy; and Department of Atomic Energy. The Ministries have to design the energy mixture for the 12th and the 13th Five-Year plans.

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On your left, is Team 1 and on the right is Team 2. The one standing is Onkar from FoV who is facilitating the game. Photo Credit: FoV

The first part of the game went on for around 30 minutes. As participants began planning, there were messages handed around signifying certain public announcements or policy changes.

The Indian Energy game is a computer-assisted game – as you see in the photograph, each Ministry is peering into their respective laptops.

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As the game play unfolded, slowly the ordered sitting arrangements broke up. “Tumhara budget khatam ho gaya kya?” And other such comments floated around.

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Discussions underway.

 

As people started discussing and conversing, minor things such as the length of the laptop cord too seem to matter – how far can I slide across the table without switching power sources. All of it, as trivial as it seems now, when the clock was ticking down seemed to influence the participants and the choices they made.

The materiality of the setting matters to the game play, as much as the game mechanics and the participants. A game session is by nature ephemeral, and that ephemerality or transience poses challenges to evolve theories around it.

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Eventually, Team 2 won.

During the debrief the participants shared what they experienced during the game. Describing how excited he was during the game, one of the participants said, that the game “teaches you a lot of things,” and you can “change something and see its repercussions.” He added,”I have never spent lakhs and crores of rupees!”

We had a short discussion after that talking about the use of games and simulations in public policy planning.

If you are interested in playing the Indian Energy Game, please mail us at info@fieldsofview.in. A paper on the game can be found here.

Fields of View at Anthill Hacks 2015

Anthill Hacks was one of the first open events I attended where we were free to propose and conduct sessions to a diverse set of audiences, with very few rules. The location of the event was extremely inviting too. We were going to play our games and hack on the picturesque and peaceful hills of Devarayanadurga. (This was also the first time I was going to drive on a highway – the fancy Bangalore – Tumkur connector.)

Kshiraja and I managed to reach the location by 10:30 in the morning while driving through peaceful state forests. It was a sunny but cool morning and the conference hall of the event overlooked the hills.

Anthill Hacks Event Location
Anthill Hacks Event Location
Conference room overlooking the hills
Conference room overlooking the hills

Dinesh (from Servelots) was our host and was there to greet us. He explained the events planned for the day and the overall objectives for the events.

The village we were at, and the surrounding villages are in a fairly remote location with very little digital communication to the outside world except for an occasional signal from a BSNL tower. Dinesh and his team have been studying methods and history of community content generation and dissemination as part of their research, including oral transfer of information, folk art and music, etc. He stated that these art forms and traditions served a similar purpose as the Internet in spreading information and local community and cultural development.

At the event Dinesh explained next to an exhibit of a colourful print from West Bengal, the tradition employed for content delivery in the form of prints and folk songs. He explained that it was common in small communities in West Bengal for local artists and folk singers to be employed to create prints and come up with songs to best convey everyday events, news and information to individual families. These songs would differ depending on information and intended audience and was ideal for the differently literate audience. Not everyone could read and write. We then discussed at what point we arrive at a definition of “literate” in a country where we had traditions for oral transfer of knowledge from one generation to another.

Dinesh’s team is involved in leveraging technology for mass communication and community development while promoting the use of open-source and freely accessible communication. His team is building a mesh network in the location to connect the remote village at the foot of the hill with other villages in the area and to the Internet itself using a gateway. Due to the remoteness of the villages and a small customer base, not all telecom companies provide coverage in the area.  It is interesting that Dinesh and his team are promoting open-source decentralised methods for connecting the last mile when there is a bitter argument going on nationally about Net-Neutrality in India.

Apart from the mesh network, he explained the use of community radio. He said that the challenge for community radio operators was the ability to respond to the overwhelming amount of participation. One of the tasks for the team is to develop possible apps to handle this process and open up community radio at the location.

Community Radio Setup
Dinesh explains the community radio setup

What is further interesting is how he intends to use all of this art and technology to demonstrate community action. He led us to a location where he had laid out various maps of the region on the floor. The current Open Street Map (OSM) of the area shows very little information except for the major roads. He contrasted that with an extremely old map of the area that was prepared to map the sources of tax collection. He now intends to use a group of a hundred school children, scheduled to arrive very soon, to map out the surroundings to make the area visible on an open platform.

Local Maps
Local Maps
Old Tax Map
Old Tax Map

On to our game sessions. Kshiraja and I proceeded to have some locally prepared poha and managed to get an audience to play a session of our “Rubbish! Kaasu Kasa” game based on the garbage situation in Bangalore. The audience included a mix of artists, open technology hackers, engineers, musicians, sculptors and researchers from around India. We had an interesting session of the game where the participants were involved in heated strategic discussions to do something about Bangalore’s garbage problem.

After the game session we were able to spend some time with Renu Mukunda, a veteran researcher in the area of Urban Poverty. We compared notes and discussed at length about each others’ research and notes.  We had a quick, simple and a delicious lunch of palav (not pulav!), before it was time to play again.

Kshiraja and I managed to rally another group of players to play a session of our City Game. This was definitely one of the most interesting sessions we have had. First and foremost we were playing a game session on the face of a gentle slope of a hill, under an open sky, overlooking all the hills and villages in the area. Second, we had an interesting mix of audience from researchers, artists to kids. And finally this was one of the first sessions that I had to do the briefing and de-briefing sessions in three languages, English, Kannada and Hindi. (Although I wish I could speak Bangla and Tamil in order to have communicated better with the audience).

City Game on a hill
City Game on a hill
City Game on a hill 2
City Game on a hill

It was an interesting city with fish markers, art institutes, schools and low income housing. It was agreed that it is somewhat a small city to live in. Dinesh was enthusiastically building garbage dumps, breweries and canteens all over the city.

We managed to complete the game just before the evening showers hit. It was time to get back to my thesis and Monday Morning Meeting in Bangalore. We thanked Dinesh and promised that we would return to the beautiful venue again very soon.

And finally, the frustration of Bangalore traffic hit us as it took more time for us to get home from the border of Bangalore than it took for us to travel to Bangalore from a different city! But at least we got to get away from the city and play at a beautiful session at the event.

Our game session with Hasirudala

We played our game ₹ubbish! with people from Hasirudala, an organisation seeks to improve the condition of waste pickers in the city. This was a litmus test of sorts – ₹ubbish! was to be played by people whose lives the game tries to simulate. How would they react?

 

 

 

Each game session that we have played so far has been unique in its own way. The game session with Hasirudala was different because the players were already well informed about the waste situation in Bangalore. Even the initial conversations that took place were tinged with responsibility and ownership – One player repeatedly said that “We must not let the landfill get filled!” right from the beginning of the game. When one player decided to throw his mixed waste into the landfill, there was a general outburst of anger and many players loudly reprimanded him.

first
Picture Credits: Sandro Miccoli

 

Another feature that made this game session unique was the high degree of interaction that the players had among themselves. Players brought in their own personal experiences into the game. Many moves were done after thought and deliberation. Also, since the players were intimately connected with the situation that our game tries to model, they were intensely involved and passionate in their play.

 

The players managed to establish a Dry Waste Collection Center in each of the eighteen wards in the beginning of the fifth round – and in doing so, they became the first set of people to actually ensure a clean city and win the game!

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Picture Credits: Sandro Miccoli

 

We were given some valuable suggestions and feedback during the debrief session after the game play. Most importantly, everyone told us that they enjoyed playing our game, and that it does indeed give a good sense of reality.

 

For our next steps, we will try to formulate some questions that we can research through future game sessions; Some possible questions could be – “Is cooperation required to win the game?”, “Does the degree of acquaintance between players influence winning?”. By answering these questions, we hope to provide insights into the waste management situation in Bangalore.

 

Game session at Nextbangalore

Let’s play ₹ubbish!

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Understanding a problem as complex as garbage with a game? No awareness drives, no lengthy speeches? Is that even possible? The feedback we received from a play-test session at Nextbangalore gave us some assurance that we were on the right track.

 

Nextbangalore is an effort to crowdsource ideas to think about Bangalore’s future, organized by Bangalore-based MOD Institute and Nexthamburg from Germany. And at this event, we tested our third prototype of our game ₹ubbish!.

 

We were joined by a group of inquisitive children from a nearby school who were curious how our game could help explain waste management in their city. Once the players got a hang of how the game worked, they had some very interesting insights of their own. It was fun to see them juggling between economic and environmental constraints in the game.

DCIM103GOPRO 

In the game, the players assume the role of a DWCC (Dry Waste Collection Center) manager. They initially bought just the segregated waste from their wards in order to maximize their profits. They commented that they planned to pool up their money initially so that they could in their own words, “Do some good later on.” Some players reprimanded the others about their actions and how it was affecting Mandur, but most of them admitted that that they simply could not afford to care about the landfill.

DCIM103GOPRO

 

However, mid-game, they realized the environmental repercussions in Mandur could no longer be ignored and rushed to rectify their actions. As the game progressed, they came up with some innovative ideas like buying all the waste from their ward so that none of it went to the landfill. Even if they got economically worse off by doing that, they said that they were happy that at the very least, they were not contributing to the impossibly growing pile of garbage in Mandur.

 

What was more interesting, was to listen in on their conversations. When one of the players apologized for getting all the players to move their waste a step back by getting the unlucky chance card, one of the other players in turn apologized back for keeping the mixed waste in her DWCC.

 

In our discussion after the game, we noticed that it was much easier to talk to the players about the waste crisis as they were now exposed to problems in the game that very much mirrored reality. The players observed that playing the game, they realized that segregated waste has more value and was less polluting. They said that that in the end, it really boils down to every individual segregating their waste, which is precisely what we actually wanted to convey through the game in the first place.

 

After the game session, we had a chance to talk to a few citizens who had missed the session. Talking to them and the players about the game and the garbage situation of Bangalore, we felt our game had the potential to make some inroads.

 

 

Game-elements and hacking board games

We were testing a prototype Android application, developed by our interns, Rufael and Mosa from Malmo, to help facilitate future City Game sessions. The application allows the facilitator to track game progress and visualise the session for the participants. The application is designed to be used with large groups and in game sessions where parameters such as natural resources are in play.

 

We had a session of the City Game to test the application, where the discussion revolved around facilitator and player interaction through game artefacts. During our post-game analysis, we discussed the importance of the intended ‘game-play‘ and how it is necessary to test each game-element. The Android application was introduced as a new game-element. We observed that due to the addition of this new game-element, the flow of the game was altered.

 

A ‘game-element‘ can be a physical item or a rule that helps us construct and propagate the game without disturbing the element of play. For example, in a board game pawns, tokens, game money, etc are game-elements. Similarly, in a virtual game, health indicators, waypoint markers, etc are game-elements. A game can make use of any number of game-elements in a given session but, it is critical to ensure that the given set of game-elements create meaningful ‘play‘. Too many elements and the game becomes too complex to follow while too little elements may result in loss of player interest. Therefore, each modification (addition/deletion) to game-elements has to be rigorously tested for consistency of game-play.

 

The Android application presents players of City Game with additional information. We have modified the City Game rules which incorporates this information to create a different style of play than the plain vanilla version.

 

We wanted to demonstrate this effect in a more practical manner. We created an impromptu game design session. We divided ourselves into teams of 2 and gave ourselves the following task:
Each team will choose a well known game and modify its elements. The modifications have to create a change in the game-play and the team needs to convince the others that the modified game would still be fun to play.

 

We came up with 4 modified games. I present my team’s entry below:

I worked with Mosa to create “Board Game Mutation – 0x1”. The basic idea was to make use of standard board games that is found in most households and modify the game rules to create a new game. The following items are required to play our mutated game:

No of players: 3 – 4 players

Game Elements

  1. A ‘Snakes (or chutes) and ladders’ board
  2. A deck of UNO card game
  3. Pawns from any of the above games, 4 pawns per player.

The Game

The snakes and ladder board is the main game board. Each player places 4 of their pawns on the board at start point. Each player must move all their pawns to the final goal. The first player to move all the pawns wins. Each player throws a standard six-sided die and picks a card from a shuffled UNO deck and places it on its face for all players to see. The player moves a pawn of his choice (one that has not reached its destination) on the board corresponding to the number indicated by the die.

The board is said to have two states. The default state in which all the snakes causes a pawn to demote to lower levels and all the ladders promote a pawn to higher levels, nearer to the goal. A second state called the compliment state can be triggered by a player who places a wild-card from the UNO deck. In a compliment state the snakes promote pawns and the ladders demote them. This state exists till another player finds a wild card from the deck.

 

Snakes and Ladders is a pure dice game and winning completely depends on chance. Our objective of the modification of the game-elements was to introduce a sense of strategy into the standard game-play of snakes and ladders. We added a new game-element, the chance for other players to sabotage the lead player by reversing the roles of how snakes and ladder behave. We also wanted to increase the time for which the new game would be played and hence we introduced four pawns per player.

 

During our discussions we argued that the introduction of sabotage changes the standard game of snakes and ladders from a chance based self-serving game to a more interactive one. However, there were concerns raised on the number of pawns, as it could possibly increase the game time by a large amount. There was also more practical concerns that two game kits were required to play this version of the game. A more rigorously rule system needs to be developed such as when can you display the card, immediately or latter, should the cards be resolved first or the board? In the end we decided that the changes required player testing for at least the game-length.

City game with Urban Design Collective

On April 20 2014, we played the city game with participants from Urban Design Collective, Chennai. It is a non-profit organization that works as a collaborative platform for professionals from the fields of architecture, urban design/ planning to promote liveable and sustainable cities through community engagement.



We began by informing the players about the game, game rules and asked them to build the city in turns by placing blocks that were abstract representation of various elements of a city. Some of the modifications we introduced in the game play were:

 

  • Role play: We asked the players to choose the undisclosed roles in a random fashion. The roles used were governors/administrators, builders and inhabitants.

  • Endorsement cards: Players were given 20 endorsement cards at the beginning of the game. After each round, players could endorse the actions of other players by giving away one or more endorsement cards they possessed. However, players can’t be part of the city building process if they run out of the endorsement cards.

Along with the core objective of eliciting players’ preferences, and their perception of a city in a bottom up manner, we wanted to observe and document the preferences and decisions of players that got attention of other players. In order to meet this objective, we introduced the endorsement cards.

Artefacts representing green bodies and lakes were spread across the area to build the city.

 

After round 1, players discussed if they should lay the roads first and then place the facilities in the city or vice versa. At the end of 4th round in the game, we observed that the players seemed to ignore their roles. The city had bus terminals, restaurants, play grounds, housing, sewage treatment, university, zoo, airport, urban farm, planetarium, public library, solar farm, cycle trek, high-way, petrol-pumps, recycling centre, theatre, food processing & cold storage, railway, assembly and a stock exchange.

 

It was interesting to observe the importance given to connectivity and green layouts in the city that was built. Most of the roads laid were followed by green stretches along them. Through out the game session, we observed active discussions and debates, which we could observe in few of the game sessions we had conducted so far. The discussions were focused on location of the blocks, connectivity to them from other parts, and greenery in the city.

 

Facilities such as sewage treatment plant, water front, green belt, solar farm, and public library received endorsements from all the players. Players described the city as a small city with global aspirations and identified that it has no slums.

During the debrief, we discussed with the players about the usefulness of such games in encouraging participation, and eliciting an individuals’ views, biasses and requirements.

 

Here is a snapshot of the city at various stages of the game –

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Report on Gaming Jam at Swissnex

On September 1st 2013, Swissnex India conducted a gaming jam event at their office in Bangalore. Fields of View co-facilitated the gaming jam along with Collaborative Community and IGDA Bangalore. Participant space comprised individuals from diverse backgrounds from different nations. Self-organised teams were asked to develop a physical prototype of a game on Indian culture. Apart from facilitating, participants from Fields of View were part of different teams at the event.
We will discuss the prototypes of games developed by teams which included participants from Fields of View.

 

Glutton

In team ‘Starks’, Murali and Rufael from Fields of View teamed with designers Simon, Kenneth and Debhasish.  Challenges with traffic jams set the base for initial discussion. However, participants felt that the theme was too serious for a game and decided to shelve the idea.
Rufael and Simon suggested a game on Indian gods and food respectively. They mentioned that lack of easy ways of getting information and knowledge motivated them to propose a game on gods and food. Considering the time constraints, and other challenges such as lack of expertise and chances of controversy involved in developing a game on gods,  the team moved ahead to develop a game on Indian food and etiquette.

Brainstorming on the game centred on Indian food, participants discussed below ideas:

  • A game to conquer a city based on regional knowledge of food,
  • A check list based game for food etiquette,
  • A card game for creating and enhancing knowledge on Indian food.

Unsure whether a physical prototype for the first two ideas was possible in the limited time, the team decided to proceed with the third idea.

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Quick prototyping and test plays helped the team to gain further insights into game mechanics and game theme. After few iterations, the team designed the physical prototype of the game.

A set of cards were designed for the game with 2-4 players. Initially it was advised to have at least one Indian player to help facilitating the game. Each card represented an Indian food item from breakfast, lunch and dinner and contained different scores based on the type of food, calorific values etc. Also, few cards represented common food such as  curd which could be taken along with food during breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Goal and game play

In the game, players would be given 9 cards which would form their ‘plate’. Objective for the players in the game is to maximize their score by making  3 ‘3 card’ sequences out of the 9 cards. Each of this 3 ‘3 card’ sequence represents a combination of food items for breakfast, lunch and dinner respectively. In turns, players either decide to pick a new card or drop a existing card. The game ends when all the cards in the set of cards are used or all players decide to end it. Scores of all players are tallied to decide the winner. Card categories based on calorific values, vitamins etc. are used to decide a winner in cases where two or more players get same score.

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Participants believe that the full version of the game would help foreigners gain knowledge of Indian food. With proper modifications, this game could be tailored for kids in India.

 

मुझसे शादी करोगे ?

Team ‘Bangsterdam’ was a combination of Bangaloreans and one Amsterdammer. Together they looked at what caught their attention. It also had to have fun game-play. They chose marriage, seeing big differences in the marriage culture between India and Europe. They brought each other up to speed about the differences in each of their countries and began to think about how this broad idea can be changed into something real.

First up they started by making a mind map of already existing games, shows etcetera, about marriage and the ‘game of love’. Then they discussed on how to make a multi-player board game that captured the procedure of getting married in India. The team figured all the criteria that were before two persons, or a family, got married. Five main categories in this game we named as: Family approval, education, looks, personality and career.

Board layout and beginning

The core of the game was to fit the profile of the bride. The bride would be the game master, decided by a dice roll at the start of the game. The game master, or bride, sets up a profile of his or her perfect man of wife. He has 100 tokens to divide in these 5 main categories. He keeps his/her profile of his/her perfect man/wife secret.
The board’s core is shaped as a circle, divided in squares. Around this circle there are arcs, also divided in squares. There are 5 arcs, corresponding with the 5 main categories of the perfect profile of the game master. Some of the outer circles overlap. When you are in the education’s arc, half way you can ‘drop out of school’ and go on with your career. (See image)

Goal and game play

The objective of the game is for the players to correspond to the game master his/her perfect profile. The players don’t know this profile but during the play there are ways to find out.
The players begin in the core of the board. Rolling the dice decides how much squares he/she can move. The player can choose which arc he/she is going to follow. Do you think education would be an important categorie for the GM? If you already have a lot of career-points, then you might choose another category. The arcs overlap somewhat. So, during the arc you can choose to step over to another overlapping arc.

Half-way through there is a shortcut. A player landing on this one can take a risk. He/she can answer a question (Like: What’s the minimum age for marriage in India?) If one answers right, he get to skip the rest of the arc and receive all the points. In case he/she gives the wrong answer, his turn is over and needs to wait.
By passing over the ‘date-squares on the bord, player gets the chance to ask the gamemaster the value of one of his 5 categories. This information will remain restricted. Metaphorically the player gets to have a ‘date with his/her potential lover, and gets to know what their interests are. This information will remain classified.
By landing on a danger-square the player falls prey to a bad habit, like alcohol use, smoking, using drugs or stealing. This will give the player negative points. A player can have 3 negative points. The fourth one is the fatal one, the player is out. There is also a cleansing arc. This you can use to get rid of your bad habits by finishing this arch.
Then there are chance-arcs. These give you random points on one of the 5 categories. Easy score!

marriagegame1

The players get to know more and more about the interests of the Game master. When they feel they correspond (have equal or more points than tha Game master demands) they go to the core and propose. The Game Master can choose to say yes and mary, or to say no and end the game for the player.

This game is as much an understanding in how the ‘game’ of marriage in real life goes, as it is a fun game to play with a group of people. It shows you the power one has to ‘create’ the profile they want to be. It also lets the player know that one can change for another and there is noting like a destined one, people transform and are fluid.

Towards the end, each team presented the prototypes and invited other teams to play. On a whole, the gaming jam resulted in developing diverse prototypes of games by the participants.

 

Report on the SprintCity game session at FoV

We played a session of the game SprintCity on the 20th of July 2013. This session of the game was facilitated by Merten Nefs remotely, who also played the Zuid Kennemerland municipality. From FoV, Murali played the Alkmaar municipality, Harsha played the Zaanstad municipality, Vardhan played the Amsterdam municipality and Onkar played The Province. Namrata Mehta from Centre for Knowledge Societies, Delhi. This blogpost is a report of the game session, written by Merten Nefs.’

About SprintCity

SprintCity is a planning support tool which simulates urban growth and train frequencies along a rail corridor, over a period of 20 years. The purpose of the tool is to give decision-makers insight into the relationship of spatial development and infrastructure, competition between municipalities and the specific qualities and opportunities of each stations on the corridor.It is an initiative of the Deltametropolis Association, in collaboration with Delft University of Technology CPS and Movares. In its prototype phase it was partially funded by the Next Generation Infrastructure foundation. Today, the development of SprintCity is paid fully by the users of the tool, in most cases a Provincial government.

In order to include human decision making in the simulation, SprintCity has the format of a role playing game (ideally played by the real stakeholders), supported by a computer model with realistic data input. It features three types of players: The Province-player controls the overall development of the corridor, and needs to find an optimal location for regional functions, such as a hospital or educational facility. The Transport-player controls the time table of the rail services on the corridor, and aims to increase ridership while running a profitable service. The Municipality-players control the land use plans of each station area, and have the goal to develop these areas according to previously chosen ambitions and a master plan.

 

Participants
Bangalore: Onkar Hoysala (Province), Murali Krishna Ganji (Alkmaar), Harsha Krishna (Zaanstad), Vardhan Varma (Amsterdam)
New Delhi: Namrata Mehta (Rail Transport)
Rotterdam: Merten Nefs (Zuid Kennemerland)

Remote Game session of SprintCity
Remote Game session of SprintCity
merten
Remote Game session of SprintCity

Report of the game session at FoV

In the first rounds, municipalities competed severely over urban developments. In later rounds this problem was in part solved by communicating. However, Heerhugowaard and Sloterdijk kept having trouble to fill the extensive development areas until 2030.

 

The Municipality-players initally did not realise that they could zone areas by density as well. After this was clarified in the second round, the municipalities began adding varying densities of zoning in their regions. This added another dynamic to the game: the municipalities began communicating with the province and the Transport player about the sort of plan they had made, and what they would require for such a plan from the Province and Transport. For example, Zaandam player said he would need more train stations along all his stations as he had planned a very high density residential zone at Krommenie, Wormerveer, Koog Zandijk, Koog Bloemwijk and Zaandam. Similarly, Amsterdam player said since he had zoned Amsterdam Sloterdijk as high density commerical area, he would require hotels there.

stationareaplanning
Station area planning screen: current situation (left side bar) versus future situation (right)
traintimetable2030
Train time table screen (2030)
corridor
Corridor overview screen (2030)

Even though the session was held online, at three different locations, communication on the Google+ platform was fruitful, especially between Province and Transport players (concerning placement of new facilities and adjustment of time table).

 

Session results
The teams were able to accommodate 76% of the demand for urban functions along the corridor, hereby performing better than the Business as Usual scenario (56%) and slightly worse than the real stakeholders did at the Zaancorridor (86%).
These spatial developments resulted in the following increase in inhabitants, jobs (including visitors of facilities) and ridership. It must be noted that a great deal of the increase in jobs, visitors and ridership can be explained by the extraordinary building activities of the Province player. He built two education centers, two furniture retail centers, three hotel + conference centers, four hospitals and three recreation facilities, while in reality only one of each functions is needed in the area.

 

Future

We are trying to organise more game sessions of SprintCity in India, and we will be working on an English version of the game. With FoV, we are also planning to implement a version of this game for Bangalore.

Understanding the complexity of energy systems with a simulation game

This post is by Dr. Émile Chappin, Assistant Professor of Energy & Industry, Delft University of Technology, and a Visiting Researcher at Fields of View. Dr. Chappin worked with us on developing a simulation game to understand to complexity of energy systems. These are his thoughts about the complexity of the sector and how a simulation game helps in understanding it.

 

Vibrant Electronics City sets the scene for three weeks of intensive research on serious gaming. We are driven by the need for stability and affordability of our energy supply – they are essential for flourishing societies. That’s the reason to deal with the nitty-gritty of typical European electricity markets in which billions of Rupees or Euros are at stake but where megawatts and megawatthours are easily mixed up. The key is not only in the details: electricity markets are complex systems, of which the performance is the result of the transactions in the market, the responses to the influences from outside, such as (proposed) policies, the evolving institutions and rational or irrational expectations.

 

This is where we start: how can we really learn to understand the essential workings of this system? The pure nature of complexity tells us that we can’t, really. But that’s not a satisfactory answer. We should do something that helps us – students, researchers, policy makers and companies – to gain better understanding of these systems. We need to start learning how we can somehow manage the system as a whole throughout the coming decades. Not in the classical sense of management, which presumes that some form of direct control is possible. We need to find new ways of shaping the system in a (more) desired direction. How? Join us in the world of simulation games!

We would like to share four insights we learnt from complexity and developing and using simulation games and models:

  1. The notion of optimality is void. There is no perfect outcome of this system/problem. Such judgments of the system state are observer-dependent, time-dependent and cannot be predicted. One can only speak of trajectories that appear desirable or not, given a set of strong assumptions, a time-frame, a set of objectives and a delineated system.

  2. Simulation and gaming should be used as tools for discussion. Because the system we’re observing is complex, any model we make and any simulation we run is definitively wrong. That, however, does not make them useless: they can be used as a digital laboratory, our laboratory in silico. By applying many modeling and simulation techniques capturing parts of the real-world system and its problems, and using those in a variety of relevant contexts, we may get a glimpse of understanding what patterns may emerge and how we can contribute in shaping the system [1]. That is the approach for TU Delft’s Energy Modeling Laboratory [2].

  3. Experience and involvement leads to deeper understanding. The complexity in the real-world system works in counterintuitive mechanisms and leads to patterns that are hard to really understand. Our experience shows that grasping some of these patterns by experiencing them in a serious game really helps to build an intuition for the consequences of the system’s complexity [1]. That in itself implies that lessons learnt – or patterns observed – may well contribute to understanding the complexity of the real world system and any effort in shaping the system accordingly. An example in our game is the understanding that ‘simple’ economic laws such as the notion of marginal cost bidding really work (at least to a certain extent). Other examples are the irrational response to soft information of future developments, the almost unbelievable developments on world markets for fuels, the wicked trade-offs between short-term profit, market share and the reliability and affordability of energy supply in the long run.

  4. Managing is the art to use the mechanisms that drive change. Understanding and exploring what the mechanisms are that drive our societal system is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Let’s consider this management that, making use of that, an art, an “attempt to bring order out of chaos” [3]. How to know what decisions matter, what actors matter and what outcomes matter? How to measure performance? How to measure change? To answer such questions, we need to bring together theory from various fields (history, engineering, multi-actor systems, complexity, economics, policy, design, etc.) and knowledge from application domains (energy, water, transport, IT).
    We hope that simulation and gaming contributes to this process. By doing so, we make the theory operational in specific domains: we ask questions such as how we can develop and maintain an affordable electricity sector which is both decarbonized and in which supply is secured. It helps us to define what change and stability really means and how we can measure it. That way we hope to find out how we may bring about changes that put our systems on a more desired trajectory. If we can manage our precious infrastructures – the backbones of our society – that may be how.

How can a three week trip to Bangalore help gaining insight in the Dutch electricity sector? Which countries – including their energy sectors – are more different than the Netherlands and India? Well… despite the fact that the Indian and the Dutch culture are fundamentally different, both societies show many communalities. Both India and the Netherlands are quite busy: at least traffic is a pain. The fraction of the Indian population that resides in Holland may not be so far apart from the fraction of Dutch people that are in India. What Indian food is, is impossible to define, as it is for Dutch food (although for different reasons). It is easy to complain about the weather – umbrellas are a requisite in your backpack. Dutch and Indians can express themselves in peculiar ways in English. Indians like chocolate and ‘stroopwafels’ as least as well as the Dutch. And… more often than not, we can meet each other in humor.

These commonalities show that the complexity of our societies does not mean we cannot try to understand and improve them. It means we need to find new ways of doing so. The mechanisms and laws probably do not work as we expect them to! There is only one way forward: dive in the deep, experience new things, debate with an open mind, challenge all assumptions, indulge in to cultural diversity, and… embrace complexity!

 

Literature

[1] Chappin, E. J. L. (2011). Simulating Energy Transitions, PhD thesis, TU Delft, the Netherlands. http://chappin.com/thesis

[2] Energy Modeling Laboratory, TU Delft. http://emlab.tudelft.nl

[3] Stephen Sondheim, composor and lyricist, 2005.