Fields of View conducted the Rubbish! game session for the participants of LP4Y’s (Life Project 4 Youth) Micro Economic Initiative Program (MEIP) that provides professional training to young adults who are socially excluded to acquire skills for them to be employable or create their own micro businesses.
For one of their programs in Bangalore, they are looking to train young adults in developing creative games to generate awareness on solid waste management for which a game session on Rubbish! was included as a part of this course for the participants to get an immersive experience of the system dynamics of solid waste management by playing the role of a Dry Waste Collection Centre (DWCC) manager for different wards in the city of Bangalore.
The participants found the experience very interactive and interesting. Citing their feedback, some said, “We all have learnt many things about how to manage waste and how DWCC work. The Rubbish! game is so fun, we all enjoyed it a lot. For example, we learnt that if we don’t buy the garbage, the landfill is full and after we have a problem so we have to buy the garbage.”
At the end of the session, some of the participants added that “they would like to visit one of this DWCC to know how it is in reality.”
In the year and a half that we have been playing ₹ubbish!, our game on Bangalore’s waste management, a lot of our sessions have been with researchers, field experts, students of sustainability studies, etc. We have had community engagement sessions as well, playing with a varied audience in the Hebbal ward, the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group in Chennai, amongst others. We are keen to have more sessions on the ground, sessions that reach out to neighbourhoods, communities and the general audiences.
On 23rd July, we played ₹ubbish! At Goobe’s, one of Bangalore’s favourite indie bookstores. If you’ve been there, you’d be familiar with the stairs leading you down to the basement space, the corridor walls lined with bookshelves, and the display of compost pots from Daily Dump. Ravi Menezes, the owner of the store, agreed to host the game session in a heartbeat.
Image credit – Goobe’s republic
The game was set up in a cosy corner and we had nine players, some in teams of two. We began with a briefing session, like we always do, where we spoke about the Mavallipura protests, Bangalore’s decentralised waste system, and the idea of a scientific landfill (where the ground water is protected with a layer of concrete and the waste is compressed in layers), source segregation and Dry Waste Collection Centres.
We then started playing, with everyone enthusiastically picking their wards and colours. The players started with buying only part of their waste, but once they saw the landfill filling up with blocks for their wards, they conscientiously started buying all the waste they could. What ensued was whispers of certain strategies, ebbing and flowing depending on how full the landfill box was.
By the seventh round, there was a consistent pattern of most of them buying all the waste their wards generated, irrespective of how much money they were making. However, the landfill was brimming by the eighth round, and we wound up the game by the ninth or tenth.
There was a lot of interesting feedback and insights about the game. We discussed ideas of including the pourakarmikas or waste experts again, adding a personal, human touch to the game. One of the players even spoke of playing the game in housing colonies and apartments, in a championship-style tournament! There was a palpable energy in the air, with all these exciting ideas and there seemed to be a reinforced resolve to segregate waste at the source.
We hope to conduct many more sessions to reach out to Bangalore’s citizens, neighbourhoods and communities. If you’re interested in hosting a session, please contact us by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
So far we have played ₹ubbish! board game with participants from Hasirudala, ELCITA, city planners and researchers. This time we wanted to take this game and play at a ward level, which could give us some valuable feedback.
We chose to play our first game at Hebbal ward, I invited a few students to play this game. Two students from NMIT, two students from M.S.Ramiah, and 1 from Florence High School. The idea was to have a mixed audience from same locality.
As you can see in the picture, the game started with people going after well known wards like Koramangala and Malleshwaram thinking it would generate more waste, but in reality areas like Chikpet, Yeshwanthpur generate more waste. Amount of waste generated is based on real data, which was collected by ₹ubbish! game designers at FoV. The game went on till 14 rounds, the players could only manage to build in 9 out of 18 wards. The game went on for about 40 mins.
Interestingly, the two final semester mechanical students from NMIT, who had opted for solid waste management as their elective were aware of the present situation in Bangalore. In the first 4 rounds they spent most of the money on expensive wards thus making it hard for them to generate money.
At round 8, the landfill started to rise and the game dynamics changed. Players tried their best to adapt to the situation as quickly as possible, but it was too late.
Participants enjoyed the game and it was an exciting end to our first game session at ward level. Some of the participants were not aware about most of the garbage problems and also said it was good to know about landfills and about other garbage related issues.
We look forward to playing the game in more wards, to see what the feedback we get.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
Bangalore is facing a changing environment for the disposal of waste. Waste can no longer be transported to Mandur, as this landfill has been recently closed on court orders. A new, decentralized plan for managing waste is being implemented by the municipal bodies of Bangalore. ₹ubbish! makes the players experience Bangalore’s waste crisis first hand, by dropping them in the middle of this situation. How will the players collectively tackle Bangalore’s waste crisis? And how will the players balance between economic and environmental constraints?
₹ubbish! challenges players to tackle the waste crisis in Bangalore, by playing the role of John, a DWCC manager. The players’ responsibilities include collection and disposal of dry waste and they need to ensure a clean city. Each player runs his own DWCCs, starting with one DWCC in one ward. Every round, waste is generated in all wards, however, the players can only collect the waste that is generated in the wards that have a DWCC. The remaining waste will be dumped in the landfill. Having a certain capacity, when this landfill overflows, all players lose. If the players manage to create a DWCC in every ward, they all win the game.
Every round is consists of four phases. In the first phase, players can choose to invest in buying a new DWCC. This will allow them to collect the waste generated in this ward (and consequently, keep it from being dumped in the landfill) and also provides them with more storage space to store their collected waste. Additionally, the player has the opportunity to work with a waste expert. These waste experts have in-depth knowledge about waste segregation and allow the player therefore to segregate dry waste in order for them to add value to their waste. After having made these decisions, the players will collect the generated garbage in the ward they have a DWCC present.
Three types of garbage are generated every round. Mixed waste consists of dry waste mixed with wet waste, unfortunately this waste can not be recycled and therefore has to be sent to the landfill. Dry waste solely consists of dry waste and can be recycled, but has to be segregated (with the help of the waste expert) before selling to recycling industries. Last, but not least, there is segregated waste. This is waste that is already segregated in different types of waste, for example PET bottles, carton boxes, milk covers etc. This waste does not require any segregation and can be sold immediately. The waste that is not collected at the end of this phase, is dumped in the landfill.
After collecting and segregating the waste, players can sell their waste to recycling industries. To complete one full round, each player takes a chance card. These cards depict an event that mirrors reality in a way that can either affect the individual player, or all players collectively in either a good way, or a bad way. For example:
“Truck strike: Truck drivers are on strike because they didn’t receive their salaries from the contractors for the past 4 months. DWCCs don’t receive waste next round. Keep this card over the board until next Chance Phase”.
A more detailed introduction to the game can be found in the presentation below.
We are in the process of user testing our third prototype of the game. Playing in the game with various experts of different backgrounds, resulted in some very unexpected and interesting observations. Until now, we have had three external game sessions. One with Lukas Schaefer, an urban environmental manager, one with Cisco and the MediaLab Amsterdam and one with visitors of Next Bangalore.
Given that we have had multiple playtests, we can now move away from testing the game mechanics and slowly move towards a focus on gameplay, used strategies and player interactions. Most players experienced during playing, that actually creating a DWCC in every ward, while keeping the landfill from overflowing, was very hard to do. Economic constraints have to be balanced with environmental constraint.
Interestingly, in the Cisco and MediaLab session, Gijs Gootjes (project manager MediaLab) commented on the other players when they kept money, instead of spending it to keep the landfill clean. Encouraging each other to buy more waste, even if this meant economic loss. Other players, did not really seem to mind the landfill, and were less drawn to cooperation with waste expert. They only bought the already segregated waste, and dumped the rest in the landfill. Some other interesting quotes: “Can I make the landfill bigger?”; “We can’t afford to be nice”; “Can I upgrade my DWCC to deal with wet waste?”; “Can I suggest you maybe purchase a DWCC?”. We noticed that having a discussion about the waste management crisis after playing the game becomes an easy transition, as the game provides the players with insights that mirror reality.
The last step in our project now, will consist of playtesting a few more times, including one playtest with Hasirudala. Also, we will move away from the paper prototype and build the final prototype with a little more volume to it.
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.
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.
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.
In ₹ubbish! each ward in Bangalore has a specific waste profile, which means that each ward generates a different amount of waste every round. What also differs from ward to ward is the amount of waste that actually reaches the DWCC. This is a reality in the city of Bangalore, some wards have a higher population, therefore they generate more waste.
After searching for some data we got our hands on detailed information about the amount of waste a group of DWCCs receives daily. This data was given to us by Hasirudala, and it was extremely helpful since now it was possible to make assumptions that were faithful to reality. Hasirudala manages 33 DWCCs in Bangalore, and they maintain information about the incoming and outgoing of waste daily.
From this data, we noticed that just a few wards actually received high amounts of waste daily. From 33 DWCCs, only 2 receive an average higher than 500 kg/day. And more than 50% receive less the 250 kg/day. The rest stays between 250 kg/day and 500 kg/day.
We used this information to create a simplified version of Bangalore. From 198 wards in the city we narrowed down to 18. Since the goal of the game is to build a DWCC in every ward, if the game had 198 wards each session would last a lifetime. Below you can see the current map of the game.
Rubbish! Simplified map of Bangalore
This table shows our model of the wards in Bangalore and how much waste each of them generates every round. We also added how much that would cost to the player each round. The proportion between mixed, dry and segregated waste is something we had to speculate, since none of the DWCC we contacted could provide us with such detailed information.
Needless to say, this was a design decision we took to model this extremely complex context. Everything we designed is based in reality, not an exact representation of it.
Below are some of the cards we made to represent the storage in a DWCC, their waste profile and how much it costs per round.
This week we finally start a new phase in our project: concepting! After more than two months of doing extensive research we’re confident to create ideas for our final prototype. Like we said in earlier blogposts, our focus now is on Dry Waste Collection Centers (DWCCs) and their waste management processes.
Our project kicked off with thoughts of how to use open data in order to promote sustainable citizen engagement to improve the city of Bangalore. This commitment could be changing the city physically, like The Ugly Indian initiative, or by influencing planning and public policy.
We already gathered some bits and pieces of open data regarding DWCCs and Bangalore (the more the better! If you want to contribute in anyway, don’t hesitate in sharing with us ;). Now we’re aiming to generate some information and knowledge with this data. The question that remains is: how to promote some deep kind of engagement about such a complex topic?
Our final decision is this: we’re going to create a serious game about it! Yey! This is basically a game that doesn’t have just entertainment purposes but also can aid in learning and education, participatory planning and decision-making.
We conceived the city, together with the waste management situation, as a complex entity. A serious game is perfect for modeling its current obscure garbage condition, simultaneously providing an immersive way of engaging citizens.
So, we played some games ourselves to get some inspiration. We started with Settlers of Catan, an unusual type of board game, since the board can change in every game session. The main objective of the game is to manage different resources, like brick, wool, ore, grain and lumber, in order to build new roads, settlements and cities. This will lead the players to accumulate victory points, and the one who gets to 10 victory points first, wins.
Playing Settlers of Catan. Photo credits: Tanmayee Narendra
Another game we played is called Power Grid. The setup of this game is different from Settlers of Catan since the board has a fixed format. You role play a company that owns different kind of power plants, from coal to wind generated energy. Your goal is to own and power several cities across the country. In the board you see the country you play in (Germany), a market for the price of raw materials and how many cities each player owns.
Power Grid! Photo credits: Tanmayee Narendra
I loved to play both games, it’s interesting how resource management happens on each of them and makes me think of possibilities for a “waste management” game.
After playing the games we created a preliminary system dynamics model about the DWCC. How the municipality, waste producers/collectors and recycling industries relate to each other and if they have positive or negative connections. This is an interactive process also, since we’re going to select the select a specific portion of this model to actually build a game around it.
Preliminary System Dynamics Model of the DWCCs in Bangalore
We started with some brainstorming sessions about possible audiences for the game and the main objective of the game. Audience can be DWCC managers or children in school, and objective can be something like: experience the consequences of lack of segregation or create awareness about waste responsibility. Like I said, we just started brainstorming, so hopefully next week we’ll have some concrete concepts to share here (:
What does it mean to be “educated”? Does education necessarily mean a more heightened awareness about one’s role in society?
These are some questions that I was forced to ask myself after I met with John, the manager of the Dry Waste Collection Center (DWCC) near the Jayadeva Flyover. Let me tell you more about John. John comes from a family of scrap dealers. While thoughts of garbage generally trigger images of filth and refuse for most of us, the same object is a source of income for him. His grandfather forayed into scrap dealing in 1960, when Bangalore was still relatively small. His grandfather used to go around the city on foot and hand pick valuable trash. His father improved on this and bought himself an auto to collect waste. Now, he has enhanced his situation further by becoming the manager of a DWCC. He has a certificate to say that he has been trained to manage a DWCC, and he only recently passed the SSLC 10th standard exam. He calls himself “uneducated”.
John doesn’t consider himself a businessman, and isn’t in the scrap business for money. He himself admitted that since the DWCC doesn’t receive enough quantities of high value waste, he doesn’t cover the monthly expenses of running it. Curiously, this doesn’t seem to bother him a lot. Instead, John calls himself a social worker and thinks of his work as a service to society.
John was firmly convinced that if every citizen in Bangalore segregated their waste, garbage disposal wouldn’t be the problem that it is. “Today, we send our waste to landfills, dump everything into a hole and cover it up. We don’t deal with it the way we should. Maybe we can continue doing in my lifetime. But what about my children and grandchildren? They won’t have any more places to dump their waste, and they have to bear the brunt of our actions”, he said. A few bulk waste generators give their waste to John, and this waste is not segregated. When he tells them that segregation is very important if waste is to be recycled, they don’t listen to him, because “in their eyes, I’m only just an uneducated waste dealer”.
John believes that DWCC are a great way to make citizens more aware of the waste they generate. The landfill is like a black box – unsegregated waste is dumped there, and everyone except the people who live near the landfill are conveniently unaware of the repercussions of this unsustainable practice. Since DWCCs must be present in every ward, the citizens who live in that ward will be forced to come to terms with waste disposal, and the need to take some pro-active action (segregation, perhaps?) to ensure its sustainability.
After this discussion with John, we started walking on the footpath to catch an auto back. A man in a business suit nonchalantly chucked his used juice carton onto the footpath.