I have so incredibly much to share from the week of playing The World Peace Game that I’m thinking it may just have to come in installments. I think I will try to break it down to three parts.
Part 1: My overall impression of what The World Peace Game is
Part 2: The beautiful people that I got to play with and how their unique minds and hearts contributed to a mind blowing experience.
Part 3: My thoughts on how the game can exist without it’s founding father.
Ok – I’ll admit it. I was absolutely star struck by John Hunter. I’m not even sure if star struck is the right word. For me it felt like a truly spiritual experience being in the presence of such an incredibly peaceful, calm and brilliant man. There’s definitely something very guruesque about Mr. Hunter and you feel ready to follow him to the end of the world if he asked you. You may laugh – but I’m guessing if you’ve met him, you’re probably nodding. He is no preacher, though. John Hunter is a very humble man and I suspect he’s rather embarrassed while reading these words of complete adoration for him. The man and his soul are very essential to the game and already after 2 minutes of meeting Mr. Hunter, we were talking about how it can survive without him. It does not surprise me that such a great man would become a teacher and extremely pleased that he would use a game as a medium/tool for his teaching practices. The game has been built and written the last 20 years or so – let us never forget what an awesome achievement it is.
We were so incredibly privileged to get to use the facilities of the youth club organisation Ungdomshuset 1880. The other organisers were familier with the incredibly majestic room/concert hall we set the game up in, but I had a complete surprise. Naturally the game construction got the “spotlight” under the incredible chandelier.
It was fascinating watching John set the board up. He was cutting the countries to size and placing lots of little trucks, torpedos and various other nifty little gaming artifacts tactfully without any written instructions. I was very impressed by how he laid it all out from memory. I was given the task of cutting out some rivers from blue cardboard. It was all very fun and magical.
The very first order of business on Monday was delegating teams and occupations. John usually does this with kids that he knows very well so our little gathering of 22 players that he did not know was a challenge. We decided to try out volunteerism on the four Prime Ministers, The UN, The World Bank and The Arms Dealers. After this the Prime Ministers had to pick out their cabinet. I volunteered as a Prime Minister of a country that Mr. Hunter described as “hippies with guns”. I’ll get back to the teams more thoroughly when I describe the wonderful group of players we had the privilege of playing with. I’ll just point out now that there was a wonderful array of coincidences and some fairly obvious alliances. This is another problematic layer of making the game accessible beyond John Hunter’s class room, but I’m confident that a few “get to know the room” roleplaying activities could identify the leaders and classes of communicators in the room. That said – one of the most beautiful things about the game is how it’s designed to just dive straight into. I often find that if there is too much bahumbug in the beginning of such activities my eyes tend to roll in the back of my head and my eagerness wavers. We’ll figure it out.
Now – this is the set-up. Basically there are four countries with completely different resources,
culture and peoples. One country is artic with limited resources, one is desert-like with massive amounts of oil, one was rich in minerals and military and my country had a lot of clean energy technology. We were then given 24 crisis between the countries, cultures and environments that needed to be solved. So you start out on the brink of war and the goal is to solve the crisis together to create world peace while still protecting your country and your people.
John walked around the board as he explained each crisis. By the 10th crisis my mind was already confused and spinning so we were all rather overwhelmed by the end of the run through. I felt optimistic that we could figure it out, though – and I believe that comes from the way we all had to agree on the value of each board piece. We – the players -defined the value of things. There’s keys in the game and a value sheet for each gaming piece, but there ar
e holes along the way. We found a purple marker in our country that we couldn’t figure out what was, but through a few discussions and declarations we managed to agree on it.
A game day
Each game day would start with a reading from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. It was a very ceremonial quiet contemplation time in the game – the only quiet contemplation time, in fact. The words became very powerful in such a ceremonial setting while adrenaline levels are very high and wanting to get in to action.
For each gaming day each country gets to make a decleration. This will the country presenting it’s gaming moves, signed treaties, trade agreements, declarations of war, disarmament, coin tosses to see if battles were won or if oil clean-ups were successful a.s.o. Each country also got a declaration from the weather goddess on the weather and the stock market. And for each turn the country got a random card which could be anything from a volcano erupting or cloning technology. The UN was given 2 declarations per gaming day and I think the World Bank and The Arms Dealers could declare anything whenever they wanted, it at least seemed that
Inbetween each declaration was a very limited deliberation time. This was the time we used to make trade agreements, arms deals a.s.o. The limited time made it all so incredibly intense and adrenaline levels were so high that you just couldn’t help but have fun. It was all terribly confusing but an intriguing creative process and we literally felt like we were making magic happen. Being forced with time limitations, having several things to figure out at the same time and having lots of people you did not know made for many exciting challenges.
Why it works so well
It’s all about the communication. I’ll get more into the communication of it all when discussing the players in part 2 – but let me just point out a how incredibly well designed the game is for communication skills. The games I enjoy the very most are the ones that demand creativity from me and that I can jump straight into without having to read several pages of gaming rules. When rules become to complicated and require books to explain them, I have a tendency to faze out of the enthusiasm. Which is why I enjoy computer games so much compared to table top games. Domputer games design the narrative and rules into the game – well – most at least.
This game goes straight into communication mode from the very first minute. Firstly we have a game master (John Hunter) who talks to you as an equal, as if you and he are about to create this game together and solve these problems together. He shows no sign of superiority or that he has all the answers – the ball is in everyone’s court. John functions as a mentor, an advisor and as a participant. In fact, I would say that the weather goddess had more power than the game master – at least visibly. ;)
The game is also very dependent on the players’ creativity, which I suspect is John Hunter’s intention. Another thing that I found fascinating was that everyone seemed to feel somewhat comfortable. At least to my observations, it seemed like no one was too shy and getting secluded into a corner. To my eye it seemed that everyone was 100% involved from day 1. And that’s unique for a game that has players from all ages, walks of life and nationalities. John, the game and the board made that atmosphere – and it truly was magical.