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Future City Game remix: The game as a part of a larger project

The game was enthusiastically organized by British Council, Riga City Development Department project "Baltic Sea - Asia Agenda for Regions in Globalizing World (BASAAR)", Consultancy firm "Rode&Weiland", and your humble games master, Viesturs Celmins.

The context

It’s a given, all Games played thus far differ and are different. However, there seems to be at least some sort of agreement that there should be some territory in mind and some issues to deal within that territory.  From there on, its all very varied and complex. This is a short recap on yet another way of using and stretching FCG to serve as a platform for creativity in an urban setting. This Game was planned to serve as a larger research project. A project between Riga City Council, Riga Planning region and 14 other partners from Sweden, Finland and Estonia, whose goal is to promote and enhance partnerships between the Central Baltic Sea Region and Asia (China andused as an example for all the partners. At the end of the game, the results would be considered and evaluated by all participating institutions.

The challenge

The first difficulty was the quest – how to structure the game in order to fit the goals of the project, while not losing the global perspective and benefits of unrestrained creativity? In other words, the project already had its global and local challenges and its somewhat desirable urban profile. The focus of the project lies within tourism, logistics and education. Thus, we did not want our participants to start from "a total blank (eg. pollution, climage change)". Rather, we wanted them to make the most of what was already there: test statistics, existing ideas in these spheres and to come up with fresh content and form. Was that even possible? So, we were facing a dilema: By starting from "scratch" we would run the risk of giving up 4 months of focused analysis of quantitative and qualitative data in the aforementioned fields. For instance, people might as well choose other topics and other challenges, and simply bypass education, tourism and logistics as being irrelevant. Thus the game would run its own course, with its own dynamic and its own solely unpredictable outcomes. A king of the castle or a project by itself, if you will. And, on the other hand, we had the risk of focusing the game on 3 fields, irritating and  limiting peoples scope of thinking and "messing with the script" of the FCG methodology. Yet another difficulty arose which has, in fact, been a problem for other projects as well. Namely, it is increasingly difficult to convince people to attend a voluntary event for two full working days. In this case, it was certain, that many of the participants would simply not attend for both of the days. We knew, if you want high profile participation, all you have is 5-6 hours. So, in order for it to work, we had to change both the content (focusing on tourism, logistics and education) and the form (squeeze most of it in the first day).

The change

To keep in line with the project goals, we focused our selection of players, our presentations, our handouts, guidance to the teams, up to the members of the expert panel - to fit the goals of the overall project - the fields of logistics, tourism and education. The form and content was geared towards the focused, rather than a "come what may" approach. However, we did not change the actual methodology, the teams and players still went through the whole process. But, they did it in shorter time span, to make sure we got some ground covered before "the big fish" left. Why would we do that? Well, I believe that the creation of ideas is only one goal of the FCG. The others are to raise awareness, enhance involvement, establish connections and, possibly, initiate social change. And say what you will, if you want social change, or say, institutional change in our case, the last thing you want to do, is miss out on people from ‚power positions‘. After the initial struggle and confusion (everyone must have experienced that) the teams were playing and later on, we even combined two teams into one, since their project ideas were almost identical.

Conclusion

This was the 3rd game I ran within a period of 4 months. I am convinced that it is an excellent tool to initiate urban social change by means of creative thought processes and cooperation. The results thus far have been very good. However, it is not a "game" at all. Everyone who has played it actually knows it. It is a pretty rigid type and follows its own logical course. This is the reason why it delivers outstanding content. That said, it has to be kept in mind that the FCG does permit and even invites changes to be introduced. For instance, like the aforementioned case, focusing on certain ideas, rather than territories, limiting the scope of inquiry, rather starting from a blank, shortening the timeline etc. The most important thing here is to be consequential with the goals in mind (the current game never meant to fit all ends), rethinking and restructuring the flow and of course, keeping it as simple and FUN as possible!

Much anticipated results

The four team competition was won by the team who had an idea for tourism flow from China to Riga by involving and using the existing tourism routes in Northern Europe (The Czar Route: Moscow - St. Petersburg – Helsinki - Riga, The Baltic Route: Copenhagen - Stockholm – Helsinki - Riga). Chinese tourists in Riga should be offered a specially designed program of events and experiences, providing an adequate service to the Chinese tradition. The second placed proposal consisted of offering Chinese language as an optional foreign language in Riga schools (a pilot project setting Riga as the main center for Chinese learning in the Baltics).  The third proposal was a classic: An Asian Center ("China Town") in Riga. The Asian trade and cultural center would encourage not only the development of trade with Asian countries and attract investment, but also create tolerance between different ethnic groups and become a vehicle to introduce the Asian culture to otherwise ignorant Latvian inhabitants. An Asian trade and cultural center should be self-financing facility. Rumbula  was offered as a potential location for such a center. The fourth proposal, utilising a Latvian competitive potential, was the idea of a Latvian film industry and film service export to Asian countries. This would include Baltic Film Days in Asian countries and vice versa, the exchange of experience between Asian visual arts clubs, organizations and institutions, "Master Class" organization of film professionals, etc. It should be noted that the Asian film industry is considered one of the largest in the world, rivaling Bollywood, Lollywood and Bengali. The game results are a part of a study being carried out by INTERREG IVA project "Baltic Sea - Asia Agenda (BASAAR)" to search for ways of cooperation between the Baltic Sea region and Asian countries. The information obtained during the whole game will be reflected in the recommendations section of the study for representatives working in fields such as municipalities, industries, logistics and education. The final study results will be available in 2010.