Serious Board Game Jam 2018 (Kazuhiko Ota, Project Researcher)

FEAST HQ Report, WG2

“Serious Board Game Jam 2018 (hereinafter, SBGJ2018)” was organized at RIHN on November 23rd and 24th. “Serious game” refers to a game focusing on social issues such as healthcare, education, disaster control, public health, business management and “game jam” is an event at which participants are divided into teams and develop a game within a limited timeframe.

SBGJ2018 was planned and organized in a way to achieve three objectives: 1) to make best use of RIHN’s research outcomes to date; 2) to develop “fun” but “serious” board games and make them open access; and 3) to network with various actors relevant to game development. It made this 2-day event quite intensive and challenging in that each team was assigned to make a brand new board game (including card game) under the theme of “What is good food?” in collaboration with researchers and professional game creators at a research institute, which continued for 12hrs (some stayed up all night). It is often the case that serious games are digital. But, we decided to go with board game for this event as it can be developed at relatively low cost and it was easy to reflect and incorporate the outcomes of discussion, which led to many of the participants commenting that they had never taken part in a game jam that required such long discussion process.

A total of 39 people joined the event as the participants, including students from various universities such as Kyoto Seika University, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto University etc, board game fans, and also a Local Revitalization Cooperator (Chiiki Okoshi Kyoryoku Tai), a business owner who hoped to utilize game for business, RIHN researchers and staff members of Skelton Crew Studio, a game production company based in Kyoto. They were divided into nine teams and created nine games, consulting with the advisers.

SBGJ2018 flyer

List of the participants (in Japanese)










◎Schedule of the 2-day SBGJ2018

Here, I would like to introduce the schedule of the event. You can also find more details and photos on FEAST Facebook and TwitCasting by Prof. Kazutoshi Iida of Ritsumeikai University.

=Day 1=

[Short Lecture]

Mr. Kentaro Yoshida from Kyoto Studio of Grounding Inc, which developed a card game masterpiece “Machikoro”, provided a short lecture titled “how to work through game planning”. As this event focused on “good food”-themed serious games, Prof. Steven McGreevy, FEAST Project Leader, also gave a talk on how we can see a society differently through the lenses of food, and Prof. Yasuhisa Kondo, Open Team Science Project Leader, on how we can expand understanding and practices by teaming up and working together with researchers.

[Planning and designing]

Firstly, the “advisers” who work in the game and animation industries introduced themselves to the participants. This was followed by self-introduction among team members and ice breaking, then by planning and designing.

Interestingly enough, every team had different strategies: One team started off by trying out some sample board games, while others by picking up board game materials, making a move to the other room in search of a white board, or brainstorming and writing down ideas on sticky notes and plotting papers etc.

[Presenting the plans]

This process was challenging since each team was given only one minute, to be exact, to present their plans – how they concretize the theme of “What is good food?” and integrate it into the rules of game and provision for winning. Topics ranged from child-rearing to ruralization, eating insects, lifestyles, kodomo-shokudo (children’s cafeteria), different food cultures around the world etc.

It seemed that some teams were struggling with one and only rule in developing a game at this event – “to incorporate ‘a lapse of time’ as a game component”.

[Developing an alpha version and get-together dinner]

Every team then moved on to developing an alpha version by simply repeating the processes of making a prototype, trying it out, discussing and revising.

At the get-together dinner, three different types of curry (chicken, Japanese-style and vegan) and salads prepared by FEAST staff and vegetable pickles etc brought by the participants were lined along the tables. Some of the participants had never tried vegan food before, and I was glad that their first encounter with vegetarianism (veganism) was a positive one through delicious vegan curry!

After the dinner, some went home, while others slept in sleeping bags or stayed at RIHN’s guesthouse (some of them stayed up to play “The Settlers of Catan” or “Machikoro” even after the date changed…).

=Day 2=

[Developing a beta version]

At this point, it turned out that some of the alpha versions were lacking in “seriousness” (not sufficiently focusing on social issues), so Prof. Joost Vervoort and Ms. Astrid Mangnus, researchers on serious games from Utrecht University, the Netherlands, gave these team members consultation and some advice.

Not only the participants, but I also learned a lot from some of the comments made by the advisors: Joost stated that “governance means that other player’s decision making and interactions with fields will put an impact on or reinforce the level of difficulty or rules of game” and “food games without governance is extremely boring ” and Mr. Masahiko Murakami from Skeleton Crew Studio commented that “it makes a game more entertaining by integrating an element of pinpricking on other players” and “an unwelcome interruption or support serve as a good chance to get connected with other players”.

Each team worked hard to develop a beta version by finding a serious drawback in their alpha version, and thereby making a major change, or finding a way to make proper adjustments etc.

[Presenting the beta versions]

Mr. Yoshihiro Kishimoto, the organizer of serious game jams in Tokyo and also known as “the father of Famista (Family Stadium: a baseball video game)”, joined the presentation session of beta versions and provided feedbacks for improvement. Many of his feedbacks evolved around two main points: “to decide and fix an image that works as the axis of game and expand from there” and “to focus on deciding where to be ‘serious’ (to keep a good balance of seriousness and fun)”.

After struggling to wrap up their presentation in three-minute time, they moved on to turn off the final versions.

[Finishing up the final versions]

Last three hours of SBGJ2018! Every team was working hard to finishing up making cards, game boards and adjusting rules etc. SBGJ2018 Working Committee was also inspired by enthusiasm filling up the venue, which led Prof. Yukihiro Tsujita of Kyoto Seika University and I to working on some plans for food-themed serious games and engaging in a discussion on how we can make best use of the outcomes or board games of this event.

[Presenting the final versions]

All of nine teams managed to complete their serious games and presented how we could play with them within three minutes under the spotlight. Everyone contributed to cleaning the dining hall, tried out the final versions, filled in the survey and some participated in an interview. SBGJ2018 successfully completed after taking a group photo altogether.

◎Review of SBGJ2018

As mentioned in the very beginning, we had three objectives of SBGJ2018: 1) to make best use of RIHN’s research outcomes to date; 2) to develop “fun” but “serious” board games and make them open access; and 3) to network with various actors relevant to game development. After reviewing the results of survey and interview, it seems that all of these objectives were to some extent achieved.

With regard to the second objective, the final versions of nine board games will be made open access on RIHN’s website on a later date. Moreover, we are planning to collaborate with a university cafeteria for exhibition, organize a trial session of these games during RIHN’s Open House next year among many others.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the participants for joining this 2-day long event! Last but not least, I also would like to thank Prof. Yukihiro Tsujita of Kyoto Seika University, Prof. Kazutoshi Iida, Prof. Akinori Nakamra and Mr. Koichiro Kinoshita of Ritsumeikan University, Mr. Masahiko Murakami and Mr. Takeshi Ishikawa of Skelton Crew Studio, Mr. Toshifumi Nakabayashi of Cyberz Inc, Prof. Joost Vervoort and Ms. Astrid Mangnus of Utrecht University and Prof. Gordon Calleja of University of Malta for their amazing supports. Thank you once again.

We hope to organize SBGJ2019, and look forward to welcoming more of you to join!

(Translated by Yuko K.)

Short Lecture (Photo: FEAST)

Each team working on planning and designing (Photo: FEAST)

Joost and Astrid giving some advice (Photo: FEAST)

Beta version! (Photo: FEAST)

Amazing two days, everyone! (Photo: FEAST)