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Albatross Play Test Dice
20 December 2021

Project Albatross Christmas 2021 Update

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With the year coming to a close, we are very glad to provide you with an update of how Project Albatross has evolved the last half year of 2021.

The insightful workshop back in Copenhagen provided us with many hard-earned lessons and leads for us to further develop the project. Looking back at the last half year, we are glad to realize that many of these reflections find an expression in the current minimal viable product we developed and tested this December.

Early concept board from the start of development in September 2021

To translate (systemic) design theory fundamentals into meaningful game mechanics and systems, Carleton University Computer Science & Game Design Graduate, David Nguyen, joined the team back in September. Over the course of the last 3 months, we have been pushing the learning experiences you envisioned and crafted during the workshop through many prototyping driven iterations.

Through this process, the central game design pillars that have emerged draw inspiration across all workshop prototypes: ‘sensemaking and problem framing’, ‘collaboration under conflict of interests’, ‘managing uncertainty’, and ‘game master facilitated play’. All these features are at the front and centre of the current Alpha Prototype “We Did Not Start The Fire(working title).

We Did Not Start The Fire” is a ‘detective genre scenario game’ facilitated by a “Design Master” for four players. The scenario unfolds in the dark future of 2035 and unleashes the multitude of holistic security challenges that development of global trade infrastructure in the Arctic could entail. For the players, this learning situation is wrapped inside an intriguing mystery narrative and will be tackled through the lenses of four clashing perspectives. As the players progress through the narrative by investigating a variety of leads, they will be co-shaping a range of different endings and narrative developments orchestrated by the game master to solidify that their actions have consequences on different levels. Better, the game takes players incrementally and implicitly from single loop learning in the first phase, to double-loop learning in the second phase up to triple loop learning in the last phase.

More concretely, this last phase compels players to reflect on the fundamental beliefs they or their organization hold on Canadian Sovereignty over the North West Passage, Climate change driven policies, reconciliation with first nations and so on.

Furthermore, as part of this development, we are also contracting a concept artist, so hopefully we will soon be able to share the visuals and aesthetics of this playful experience with you!

Play test session December 3 2021 at Ontario College of Art & Design University’s Executive Studios

So far, so good.

We finished the last set of initial play tests last week, concluding with a full day play test with curriculum development officers at Canadian Forces College. So far, feedback is telling us that our craziest dreams are becoming reality: the game-based design learning experience we developed together has now a robust foundation to build on.

In other words, we are very eager to return tinkering with the game system and further polish and improve this experimental dream for early 2022. We expect to have a “beta version” ready during March 2022 and look forward to further test the hopefully improved system! If you could be interested in taking part of this, we would love to hear from you.

Lastly, Christmas has come early this year. We managed to win a recent grant call from the Canadian DND’s MINDS Program this November, which will fund a new Albatross workshop in North America early spring 2022 (COVID-19 situation pending). This workshop will focus on further developing the center piece of our innovative learning system: the game master feature. This will involve experimenting and playtesting how game master systems can best be utilized to enable critical reflection on future security challenges by together exploring a complex scenario and discover emerging opportunities, concepts, and ideas. Just like for our previous workshop, we will be working on improved ways to implement online participation during the workshop, so everyone willing can hop on the majestic bird again despite the ongoing pandemic circumstances.

We look forward to provide you with more information of the workshop by the start of next year and to further continue the project and keep exploring and designing the many paths and ideas we discovered together.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Philippe, Jonas, and David