DIYSPY – Care Testimony

On your clothes there is a tag that gives you care instructions, such as how to wash your garment. A Care Testimony gives you information on the efforts taken in the making of a project to nurture humans, nonhumans, and the environment.

I developed this method in the Telematic Studio I was commissioned to run for CEMENTA. It is to help me be accountable, to help players make informed decisions, to share knowledge about responsible design, and to learn from feedback on the approaches taken. It is the opposite of a disclaimer.

Design Care

I love action films, I love spy films. I want a game that gives me the feeling of ingenuity, of smarts and action, without the sexism and belligerent attitudes to other people, places, objects, and the planet. For DIYSPY, I’ve done my best to make the underlying design one that highlights the former and thwarts the latter of these behaviours.

I employ a “Many-Worlds Design” approach, which I talk about in my forthcoming book on redesigning narrative design, and which is following on from the work of, among others, Arturo Escobar’s Designs for the Pluriverse; Dorinne Kondo’s Worldmaking; and Marisol De La Cadena & Mario Blaser’s (Eds) A World of Many Worlds.

Many-Worlds Design: DIYSPY has been retroactively designed for a “many-worlds” approach. That is: I didn’t start this way, I redesigned the game with a many-world design pass. This includes:

  • Thwarting Colonialist & Settler Thinking: No colonialist and settler verbs (such as extract, take, break-in…). Host decides what areas of their house players are welcome to play in. All Objects are returned after use, with an optional thank you ritual.
  • Thwarting Gender-Defined Roles: There is a range of Spy Types to choose from. Originally the gameplay involved having one Spy Type represented per game. This has changed, because people can be the same Spy Type with their own way of being that role. The Spy Type art depicts diverse people in each role. The next art iteration will be pluralist: there will be multiple depictions per Spy Type — so there are no single person attempting to be representative.
  • Environmental Care Behaviours: Game premise is based on the reuse of existing materials rather than the unthinking production of new technologies. All Objects chosen during play are to be used. The Greenpeace report on Resource Consumption & Production for electronics provides some guidelines on thwarting the “take-make-waste” cycle. Nonhuman beings are represented as having their own agency.
  • Thwarts Inevitability, Fatalism, Forced Change & Facilitates Optional-Thinking: Rounds come to a “close” rather than “end” to recognise that some things can still change. Players are given a choice of Turning Points to close with. Turning Points are prompts that the player enacts in their own way. Turning Points are temporary obstacles that the player responds to rather than externally-defined endings. To facilitate the experience of agency in the world, players have the ability to design their own experience and create new variations.
  • Thwarting Dominance & Competition, Facilitate Cooperation & Mutual Respect: Players have shared goals. Players have shared improvisation tasks to help support each other in their moments of need, and build from their combined efforts. Mission scenarios are not based on conflict with people.
  • Thwarting Unconscious Bias and Facilitating Agency & Consent: I have taken out time-limits, as I find that is when your mind reaches for unprocessed worldviews. This hasn’t been issue with testing so far, but I am figuring out a way non-experienced improvisors can recognise another’s story contribution without taking on the underlying reality of it. This is related: while the design aims to facilitate non-stereotypical story ideas, I also want to make it easy to manage consent. At present I’m using an improv method, but I’m testing other methods highlighted in the “TTRPG Safety Toolkit“, the “The Consent in Gaming” guide, and the Safety Jam.
  • Non-Ableist: The core game is played with objects within reach without the need for moving around. And if there are players that can walk to rooms for you, they can collect on your behalf (and with videochat to involve you). Character art also includes a range of The App version may also have a narration option, for reading out rules.
  • Colour-Blind Accessible: The game does not rely on colour to indicate categories or any other key elements. The accessibility of the fonts will be tested.
  • Supports Different Play Styles: The game addresses the four experience preferences (Ian Zang’s IPOT model, based on the I.P.OP. model). It also speaks to Petter Bøckman’s three-way model of play styles, though the immersionist approach I’m still testing. And the game is built to have ways of generating ideas allowing for a storytelling modes, group improvisation structures, and physical improvisation, but does not require expertise in any of these.
  • Polymorphic Practice: This game was made in different game forms for different experience scenarios (card game, boardgame, festival play, and an App for remote play). This has been crucial in helping me move beyond my own internalised design schemas/design blindspots. This approach was not informed by, but follows on from Jakob Nielsen et al.’s work on diversified parallel design.

Team & Testers Care

Artists: To the best of my knowledge, the Artists involved with the making of this game share similar impetuses towards care. All Artists are contracted freelancers, given reasonable (but sometimes could-be-longer) time to work on the briefs, and paid an hourly rate. Collaborators are not punished in any way for communicating if they’re keen or able to do a task. Communication about needs is encouraged. Collaborators are welcome to post about the game in their own social media and website during any part of the process.

Testers: Private session testers will be offered a copy of the game as further appreciation for their time and effort.

No Ambient Endorsement: Due to their reported behaviour towards women, I have removed a name from the playtesters list. (“Ambient Endorsement” is my own term. Let me know if there is another I may employ.)

Funding Support: I have self-funded the time, contractor, and production costs of the project over the past five years. I did receive a small commission fee from Pop Up Playground in 2013, and exhibit costs were in part reimbursed for CHIPlay 2018 from the SIGCHI Executive Committee Development Funds.

Production Care

Acknowledgement of Country: The making of this game has taken place on unceded land, where there are no formally recognised Traditional Owners. I grew up learning the history of early settlers, and the longer history of England, not the history of the land now called Australia and how it was forcefully taken over in our recent history. I therefore acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which I make my creative projects. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present. I am also currently investigating, with the help of Clare Land’s resources and book, how I can request residency, and pay rent.

Flights: I have flown interstate to showcase and playtest the game, and have tested it during international trips. None of these flights were carbon-offset. I am investigating carbon-offsetting programs, such as Project Wren and GreenPop, that have planting of trees in Australia.

Home Printing: Any home printing has been done with J.Burrows 100% White Copy Paper, bought from OfficeWorks. I print on my HP OfficeJet printer, which uses Original Ink produced from water bottles recycled in Haiti.

Prototype cards: A demo set has been printed by Print & Play, and their interactions so far have been super helpful and cheerful. Print & Play is owned by Ad Magic. Ad Magic seems to have a large women-identifying proportion of staff. They work out of China, and I am unaware of their employee relations there and of any environmental efforts being made by this company.

Final card production: I am still investigating where the final production of my game will be printed, to take into account the environment and the workers involved. MPC are reducing their use of plastic wrap, but that is all I have found so far.

Posters: A previous poster has been printed at OfficeWorks, Brisbane. Promotional posters be printed with Print Together in Australia, who buy recycled paper, use Vegetone inks and toner.

Kickstarter: I am considering running a crowd-funding campaign, but will be keeping an eye on the union discussions around Kickstarter to see how I can support the staff’s rights to organise. At present there is the option to put a Kickstarter United badge on our campaigns.

Publicity Care

Mitigating Ambient Endorsement: I have included statements about my concerns regarding the design of other games I mention, and events this game is involved with. This is informed by George Lakoff’s “Truth Sandwich” method.

Anti-Lone-Genius & Promoting Community: I have listed some of my inspirations and influences rather than pretending that everything I do is solely my own conception, to give credit where it is due, and to support a community of fellow thinkers.

Please let me know if you have found this helpful, and any recommendations you have that may help with my and others’ goals around responsible design. Thank you!