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Games for the Many – a political game jam in Space4

By Polly Robbins, 21 Dec 2017

A game jam with a difference

At the beginning of December we hosted Games for the Many’s 48-hour political game jam in Space4. The purpose of the weekend was to build on the success of Games for the Many’s 2017 general election ‘Corbyn Run’, in which players collect people power to defeat the May-boss. Corbyn Run was a massive hit, going viral in the weeks leading to the election and helping give the 2017 election its reputation as the first one in a generation that young people engaged with.

The weekend kicked off with a rallying speech from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who espoused the groundswell of enthusiasm for a different type of politics (you know, that one that’s for the many not the few and all that) that had propelled so many people to roll out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

Fully motivated, the group of activists, designers and developers quickly split into groups of 3-4 and started dreaming up ideas for their games. What was great was that there was a really wide scope of skills – not everyone was technical, and not everyone was political, but the balance was just right so no one was left out: everyone had something to contribute.

Games for the Many had done a fantastic job of getting some press down, and various journalists popped in throughout the weekend to see what was going on. You can see the BBC’s report of the event here:

Saturday evening finished with drinks and pizza, and despite being invited to kip on the floor, everyone did actually go home to their own beds to catch a few z’s. Not many though as they were raring to go again at about 10am the following day.

Ten prototypes created in just 2 days

By the end of the event at around 4pm on Sunday, prototypes for 10 games had been created. In one game, Cuts: Put the FUN back into underFUNding, that our very own Sam Gluck had participated in, the player acts the part of the Tory cabinet, whose aim is to screw over as many social services as possible and please the Party, but keep things just balanced enough to not provoke an election (or a revolution for that matter).

Another game Gripe or Bait, leads players through typical conversations with people moaning about the state of politics, and encourages constructive arguments to persuade the moaners to vote for left-wing policies. Others focussed on demonstrating gender and wealth inequality, and the impacts of austerity on personal lives. Keep an eye out for some of these games becoming further developed and going public.

Why we loved this project

For us, this weekend really represented what Space4 is all about: having fun, bringing together a broad range of people – techies and non-techies – and uniting creatively in our shared mission to make the world a better place. Like we hope to at Outlandish, people developing indie games take digital tools and exploit them for a political and educational purpose. By traversing disciplines and creating unusual opportunities for new audiences to get engaged in social issues we are hoping to build a strong alternative to the current economic, and digital, status quo.