Can playing a boardgame help solve Bangalore’s transport and rubbish problems? Yes!
Remember the glee of joy when you solved jigsaw puzzles or scored double points in a round of Scrabble? Weren’t boardgames the best way to unwind? Well, who would have thought that one day games could be used as tools to solve real life problems?
Meet Fields Of View (FOV), a nonprofit research group, that has taken solving problems to a whole new level of fun, by building games and simulations that address issues in policy.
FOV believes a person’s field of view is influenced by their perspectives, biases, opinions and knowledge based on their past experiences. Therefore, the organization provides a common fun platform to initiate debate and open dialogue, trying to help all participants better understand and consider differing perspectives and the relationships between those involved.
How did Fields Of View come up with their name?
In game terminology, a ‘field of view’ refers to the extent of the observable world visible to the player. Because FOV tries to bring different groups of people with varied perspectives together using tools such as games and simulations as the common ground, ‘fields of view’ was an obvious choice.
What exactly does Fields Of View do?
FOV creates different types of games, from tabletop to virtual games and simulations for policy makers, civil society groups and even the government.
In a candid interview, Surthi Krishnan, writer and researcher at Fields of View comments, “Our broad focus is on problems related to public policy. We have in-house expertise in the following domains: transportation, disaster management, energy, and waste.” She adds, “We have begun working on water too. Therefore, problems in these areas are a natural fit. In addition, we work with different groups who bring in specific expertise, therefore, the areas we work on are varied.”
Some of their previous work includes the City Game in which players can build their city, experiment with different policies and rules, observe various patterns that emerge and contrast different emerging scenarios, as well as the The Indian Energy Game, in which participants assume roles of different ministries of the Indian Government that build energy capacity in the country, and by doing so become more aware of the various constraints that arise when planning for energy, such as social costs, environmental costs, fuel shortages and technology barriers.
Building tools for policy making is not an easy task. As an organization, funding is a constant challenge. Surthi adds, “In India, we have a long way to go to before there are steady funding avenues to support independent, interdisciplinary non-profit research.”
How are FOV games making a change?
FOV’s tools have played an important role in helping the government, academia, and civil society make better policy. They have undertaken research documenting public transport needs and challenges faced by marginalized communities such as garment workers.
And they have also built a game centered on an inclusive wealth index in collaboration with UNESCO-MGIEP for masters' level students of economics and sustainability studies, and mid-career policymakers. It will be played in universities worldwide.
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Who are the game-makers?
The FOV team is a mixed bag of people – with people whose backgrounds range from technology, social sciences, qualitative and quantitative research, art and design, and media. "Therefore" says Surthi, "you are continuously challenged to explain what you may consider as a given in your discipline. There are a lot of heated debates - all in the spirit of curiosity and learning."
What’s next for FOV?
Over the next five years, the organization aims to make policymaking in the areas of transportation, urban poverty issues, and energy more responsive to the changing socio-political-economic-environmental context, and more relevant to the lives of people affected by these policies. Some of their current projects include Cantor’s World and Joint Road Forward.
Fields of View has definitely found a creative approach to addressing difficult issues and more importantly opened a much needed platform for dialogue between all the stakeholders of policy making. Head over to their website for more information, give their games a try and see real issues with a new perspective yourself!
Written by Shreya Shashank
Featured image source: Fields Of View