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.
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.
As the game play unfolded, slowly the ordered sitting arrangements broke up. “Tumhara budget khatam ho gaya kya?” And other such comments floated around.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. A paper on the game can be found here.