CEO Futures Briefing: Playing Games to Design Futures
In this occasional newsletter Nikolas Badminton curates a list of insights and learnings for progressive executives, world leaders and foresight practitioners
This week we look at how we can employ games to design our futures. We look at Polak Game, Sarkar Game, and 2x2 Scenario Exploration System, The Thing From The Future, Designing a speculative design game, and wargame design.
Also featured is an insightful interview on the Exponential Minds Podcast with creative whisperer Natalie Nixon.
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If you have questions about these things we’re sharing, or a challenge with seeing the futures for you and your organization? Reach out to speak with Nikolas today to arrange a time to talk.
Five articles to read
Polak Game, Sarkar Game, and 2x2 Scenario Exploration System: Top Three Futures Games Explained, Critiqued, and Compared
Following the “experiential turn” in futures studies , many futures & foresight researchers and practitioners are using serious games in their foresight interventions. And for good reasons. Serious games leverage amusement, although not primarily intended for amusement  to substantially facilitate learning from and engagement with future scenarios. They are a form of “edutainment” . Serious games in the context of futures studies and foresight are often colloquially referred to as “futures games”. In this article, I will explain, critique and compare three futures games: the Polak game, the Sarkar game, and the 2x2 Scenario Exploration System (2x2 SES). I have chosen these futures games because they are not only the most frequently used, but also arguably the most powerful, because they are highly participatory, and because they are easily replicable in workshop settings, in person and online alike. In short, these three games can be readily and fruitfully used in organizational foresight.
Read more at Medium
The Thing From The Future
The Thing From The Future is an award-winning imagination game that challenges players to collaboratively and competitively describe objects from a range of alternative futures.
The object of the game is to come up with the most entertaining and thought-provoking descriptions of hypothetical objects from different near-, medium-, and long-term futures. Each round, players collectively generate a creative prompt by playing a card game. This prompt outlines the kind of future that the thing-to-be-imagined comes from, specifies what part of society or culture it belongs to, describes the type of object that it is, and suggests an emotional reaction that it might spark in an observer from the present. Players must then each write a short description of an object that fits the constraints of the prompt. These descriptions are then read aloud (without attribution), and players vote on which description they find the most interesting, provocative, or funny. The winner of each round keeps the cards put into play for that round, and whoever has the most cards when the game ends is declared the overall winner.
Check out the free, downloadable Print-and-Play edition.
Read more at Situation Lab
Designing a speculative design game
After months of trawling the web for speculative design tools and methods during the early pandemic lockdown of 2020, I struggled to find a simplified, detailed, end-to-end speculative design method that was as succinct as the double-diamond framework for innovation.
There were complete methods, for sure, (and more coming through since—see 13:10 on Phil Balagtas’ Speculative Design, Strategic Foresight & Futurism video), but they were either locked behind costly courses or bloated with academic language that weighed on my brain like textbooks.
Read more at UX Design
Games as Speculative Design: Allowing Players to Consider Alternate Presents and Plausible Futures
As games are inherently about exploring alternative worlds this paper proposes the utilization of games as a medium for speculative design through which players can explore scenarios that represent plausible alternative presents and speculative futures The paper reviews futures oriented design practices such as Design Fiction, Speculative Design, and Critical Design alongside complementary research areas in games studies such as Critical Play, Persuasive Games, and Procedural Rhetoric to create a frame for using games as speculative design practice. The aim of this design frame is to create debate and facilitate productive future practice through which designers can develop games that encourage user reflection by enabling players to reflect upon the complex challenges the world now faces.
Read more at Research Gate
Reflections on teaching wargame design
Disaster loomed for the hard-pressed U.S. Strategic Command team and the nascent U.S. Space Force. Negotiators toiled to maintain an international coalition against Iran’s accelerating nuclear program while under U.S. Strategic Command’s inscrutable stares, as the National Reconnaissance Office winced as space debris thwarted Space Force ground station communications. Both teams, however, finished the day on the cusp of victory — and with two pleased sponsors. While fictitious, this scenario represents two plausible wargames designed by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets. I had the honor and privilege of teaching such cadets during the U.S. Air Force Academy’s undergraduate wargame design course in fall 2018, titled Wargaming Air, Space, and Cyber Power. Offered by the Military and Strategic Studies Department, this course affords structured, entry-level wargame design training to roughly fifteen cadets annually.
Read more at War on the Rocks
BONUS: Here are even more toolkits and games you can consider using - link.
Three videos to watch
Surveillance Tech's Infinite Loop of Harms, with Chris Gilliard
Every time a new technology that collects, stores, and analyzes our data is released to the world or permitted a new role, we are promised that it will work as intended and won’t cause undue harm. But writer, professor, and speaker Dr. Chris Gilliard has found that this is rarely how these stories actually end.
Jaron Lanier: Virtual Reality, Social Media & the Future of Humans and AI
Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, artist, author, and founder of the field of virtual reality.
FACING OUR FUTURES - Nikolas Badminton, Chief Futurist
Civilization is gaining pace, yet it feels we are becoming less civilized. We celebrate our progress, yet we are caught in a failing Industrial Complex. Our world is strained by unsustainable practices inherited from the last 300 years of capitalism, greed, and conflict. And, while we should be collectively looking for solutions to avoid collapse, we’re distracted by luxury, convenience, game play and media noise.
We have forgotten that our actions today resonate through the annals of time. We must reconnect with our dreams, our people, our planet, and our futures. I believe our hope, unity, and our joint resolve will disrupt the noise of the industrial complex. I believe we can set the right course for the next thousand years and beyond.
And, we start that journey today…
A conversation that counts
Each week we dig into the archives of all of the interviews Nikolas has undertaken with the insightful and entertaining Exponential Minds Podcast. This week we feature a chat with Natalie Nixon who works to change lives through ideas. She is a creativity strategist who happily integrates wonder and rigor into her life and work. And, in her work she emboldens leaders and organizations to apply creativity & foresight for transformative business results. Here she talks about finding power in being a clumsy student.
The last word...
Marathon running, like golf, is a game for players, not winners. That is why Callaway sells golf clubs and Nike sells running shoes. But running is unique in that the world's best racers are on the same course, at the same time, as amateurs, who have as much chance of winning as your average weekend warrior would scoring a touchdown in the NFL.
Hunter S. Thompson
About Nikolas Badminton
Nikolas Badminton is the Chief Futurist at futurist.com and a world-renowned futurist speaker, consultant, researcher, and media producer. He helps trillion-dollar companies, progressive governments and the media shift their mindset from “what is” to “WHAT IF…” The result is empowered employees, new innovative products and incredible growth that leads to more revenues and a more resilient future.
Nikolas advised Robert Downey Jr.’s team for the ‘Age of A.I.’ documentary series, starred in ‘SMART DRUGS – a Futurist’s journey into biohacking’, and features on CTV, Global News, Sirius XM regularly. His mind-expanding research and opinion can be found on BBC, VICE, The Atlantic, Fast Company, Techcrunch, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Forbes, Sputnik and Venturebeat.
Nikolas provides the opening chapter - ‘Start with Dystopia’ in a new book - ‘The Future Starts Now: Expert Insights into the Future of Business, Technology and Society’ on Bloomsbury. His new book ‘Facing Our Futures’ is due out in 2022 on Bloomsbury and equips executives and world leaders with insights and foresight tools to imagine disruption, strengthen strategic planning, and see unforeseen risks.
Nikolas is a Fellow of The Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce - The RSA. The organization has been at the forefront of significant social impact for over 260 years with notable past fellows including Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Hawking, Nelson Mandela, and Tim Berners-Lee.
You can also read more about futurist speaker Nikolas Badminton and read over 750 articles at nikolasbadminton.com.