Tivoli Utopia Discussion Game

This article presents the Tivoli Utopia Discussion Game (henceforth the Tivoli Utopia) which has been created as an iterative and collaborative process by a team of three: futures specialist Jenna Puikkonen, storyteller Ulla Pulkka and I, sustainability oriented visual and service designer, AK Varjus.
Welcome to Tivoli Utopia – a discussion game for envisioning alternative sustainable futures!

Tivoli Utopia takes its players to a future, where humankind has already faced several surprising and disruptive wicked problems from climate change to biodiversity loss and the bouncy end of the fossil-based economy. In other words, the society has jumped out from the growth-oriented capitalistic, economic system – in which people are just trying to succeed and maintain the living standards – to some kind of holistic values and humanity emphasising livelihood system. One could say that it is also a shift from our current information and tech oriented society into a dream society where everything is possible and reachable.

However, the details of the future are to be discussed and decided based on the economical, societal, political and environmental values of the players. The only fact is that everything will be different than now. And as the future happens in an amusement park, don’t forget to enjoy and have fun! Because what’s the point in life without laughter and enjoyment?

Is the game already over?

As we all know, extreme and intense progress has been going on in the Western world for 150 years. To me, as a sustainability driven designer, it looks like the simplified core rules of this “game” or progress goes as follows:

Making fossil-fuelled growth oriented capitalism as the mainstream model of welfare society and measuring the wellbeing with GDP and overlook the immaterial wellbeing and happiness.
Transforming people to producer-consumers who are gently manipulated hoarding money, belongings and unnecessary things, i.e. focusing on buying happiness while losing the connection to the land and nature.
Putting individual interest first, at the cost of the effects to the climate, biodiversity and natural resources.
Ignoring the scientific facts about the future ahead and not caring what kind of heritage and planet we are creating for our future selves and generations to come.
Winner is the one’s have managed to exploit the most at the cost of the others!

It has been a very successful experiment. But only for a few of us. Certainly not for all. In the end, the system has some severe hiccups. It’s made way too easy to buy new materia, instead of cherishing or repairing the existing. Economic inequality lowers the quality of life and sense of happiness. Keeping the eye on short-term success has led to using virgin resources (that aren’t renewing as rapidly as needed to keep up the sustainable equilibrium) and cheap but poor energy solutions (that inevitably lead to pollution and mass distinction of species.

To give some credit to this human created system, it’s true that competitive markets have increased the access to goods and the wealth of most people and the demand for quality workers has led to better wages.

Let’s take a step back and look at the 21st century from a planetary perspective. The planet is currently shifting from the steady epoch of holocene towards the anthropocene; Earth’s most recent geologic time period where us, humans, are the biggest geological force above all the other species (Stoermer & Crutzen, 2000; Rockström et al. 2009; Scranton 2016). This is due to the intense growth without considering the ecological aspects. It’s a simple, but obviously not so well known, fact that infinite growth on a finite planet is an oxymoron. And for this reason, instead of infinite growth we should focus on sustainable, resilient and regenerative futures and aim towards wellbeing and good livelihood for all without exceeding the planetary boundaries.

This change can happen through various, simultaneous and overlapping ways, leading to different alternative futures. These are futures we are envisioning in the Tivoli Utopia.

The game in more detail: What, why and for who?

Looking from a perspective of a game the Tivoli Utopia is a tool for moderating discussion about alternative sustainable futures. It helps to forget the present day’s focus of growth and progress at the expense of the planetary resources and the future generations towards dreaming of better, utopian, futures and cherishing and living in balance with the natural resources.

In practice, this gamified experience gathers together 4-8 players to envision alternative sustainable futures in an utopian amusement park environment. The core audience is the kids, around 7-10 years, and the young, around 10-20 years. The mission is to bring the positive futures thinking and visioning as an incremental part of studying and promote an open discussion culture on practical utopias; the desirable, feasible and societal designs of the future.

The game aims also to strengthen students’ own trust into visionining their own futures. In addition, we wanted to engage the users to reflect the decisions made in the game into their real lives.

The first step of this change happens by understanding that the future doesn’t just happen but is instead something that we all can affect on. The second step is to start acting accordingly.

Why tivoli?

As an environment it is a metaphor of a living lab or a closed ecosystem with its own rules, laws and phenomena that aren’t dependent on the real world.

Why utopia?

Utopia is always positive, better and visionary. In this game it’s closely linked to an ideal society where sustainable development and the desire for a better way of living are at the center.

Why a game?

Because a game as a method embodies a possibility of making the difficult processes, like the futures visioning, approachable and tangible. In addition, a game as an approach there lies a possibility to address alternative sustainable futures related to heavy, complex and frustrating topics like climate change in a safe environment in a safe and positive way. It also encourages the players to get rid of the present day’s human made laws and restrictions.

Looking from a wider societal perspective the Tivoli Utopia responds to the need for the tools to comprehend the science based facts about wicked problems we are facing in the future. The reasoning behind is that a game as a method embodies a possibility of making the serious processes, like the futures visioning, approachable and tangible. This also links to one of the key aims of the transition design, the societal transition towards sustainable futures.

We are continuously iterating the game! Read more and don’t hesitate to contact us!

Tivoli Utopia Discussion Game has been created as an iterative and collaborative process by a team of three: futures specialist Jenna Puikkonen, storyteller Ulla Pulkka and I, sustainability oriented visual and service designer, AK Varjus.

The iterations have been supported by Sitra, Global Education Fund from Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland, Child and Nature Foundation, The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare and Youth Academy.

Got interested? Get in touch and visit  tivoliutopia.fi  for further information.

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