Playing with Systems: Earth Systems and Modern Convenience

Playing with Systems: Earth Systems and Modern Convenience
Presented at the DESFORM 2019, MIT Design Lab

This game serves as a prototype for a hypothetical initiative intended to promote sustainable practices. It utilizes the relationship between gravity and distance from the floor to simulate the ways our planet’s natural and human-systems become more fragile as our population grows. The game, grows more challenging at the later phases. As a prototype, the game will be successful if it can help the designers gain greater confidence in a proposed the direction before committing any more time or money than is necessary.

The game has two key parts, a disc balancing on a thin column and a series of small wooden blocks. The 11” wooden disc represents the Earth. The height of the column on which it rests corresponds to the Earth’s historical (or projected) populations. The tiles each represent mundane elements of modern life such as owning a car, eating non-local food, or utilizing same-day delivery services. The object of the game is to place as many tiles onto the disc without causing it to topple. Through the course of the game, the players are forced to make difficult decisions which reveal a variety of strategies, connections and intentionality about choices that are often unnoticed in daily life. The tactile nature of the game leverages existing systems, (gravity, the player’s nervous system and the uncertainty of the immediate environments) which all become inputs for the game. As an example, a heavy footed pedestrian could throw off a precariously balanced disc.