Grassroots Media Conference Wrap Up


This weekend’s Grassroots Media Conference was a big success, with over 900 registrants and a solid turnout for the VAP Grow A Game workshop. Dr. Mary Flanagan began the session with a brief presentation on why activists would want to express their messages through games, and what some of the challenges to doing so are. There is a common misconception among people outside the gaming field that technical hurdles are the biggest barriers to developing activist games. Mary stressed that creating a great design that is on message is far more difficult than finding a programmer. It’s because of this belief that Values At Play team’s work is focused on creating design tools, not technical tools. The Grow A Game cards are the most recent asset released by Values At Play, and we’ve found them to be a great help during brainstorming sessions. After Mary concluded her introduction, it was time to get down to business.

The workshop broke into three groups of three to four people and a VAP team member. In the span of 45 minutes every group progressed from doing a simple one-card analysis exercise, to crafting three card values games. One group drew the value of democracy, the Super Mario Brothers game card, and deceiving as a verb. The developed a multiplayer Mario Brothers game where players vote to choose the weapons of each level’s boss, but a subversive Diebold move that can overrule everyone’s vote. The second group drew generosity, Age of Empires, and repairing. Their game involved conquering with kindness. Gaining influence by repairing people’s problems and building an empire of solidarity. The final group had Loyalty, Scrabble, and deceiving. Scrabbaliance was a team game of Scrabble where players formed alliances to complete words, but there was always the danger of player betraying each other for personal glory.

All the ideas were really interesting and weird and showed just how confident and creative non-designers can get with some help from the right tools. Our newest iteration of the Grow A Game cards has more cards in every category, and the addition of “negative” verbs has helped produce more varied designs. Overall, the workshop was a great success and we’re looking forward to being a part of many more Grassroots Media Conferences in the future.


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