Games for Conferences

Conference organizers can use in-person games to accomplish a variety of goals including:

  • Icebreakers and networking
  • Explaining complex issues
  • Brainstorming at scale

Games are a broad and diverse medium. Much of the design process is about deciding which approaches and mechanics best align with the organizer's goals. Some of the different dimensions to consider are:

  • Rules: lightweight or complex
  • Duration: as short as a coffee break, as long as a day, or pervasive (happening throughout the conference)
  • Tone: fun or serious
  • Player Activities: negotiating, coalition building, optimizing, speech-giving, brainstorming

Types of Conference Games

Narrative Choice Games

These games are perfect for conveying a complex situation to a large group of participants. A facilitator will introduce a scenario and place the audience in the role of key decision makers. Audience members will then collectively make high level decisions about how to proceed and the facilitator will narrate the consequences and potentially lead a discussion about the various choices

Example: You Make the Call

This game is about the fraught decisions and tradeoffs involved in Trust and Safety teams at social media companies. Players must make hard choices about how to deal with a wide variety of controversial content. We designed the game for the conference COMO: Content Moderation at Scale and you can watch a video of the game being played

Brainstorm Games

Games are great for getting players to rethink assumptions and unleash their creativity. Through play, participants can rethink possible futures and the potential paths for getting there. Storytelling and worldbuilding are two strong tools for exploring the future and games can provide scaffolding to maximize attendee engagement. These games can even create artifacts – short stories, imagined news articles, etc – that can be shared beyond the session and become touchstones for the community.

Networking & Icebreaker Games

Games give players an alibi to start conversations with other attendees and can be a great way to build connections. A lightweight game can be a fun way to kick off an event and get participants comfortable with each other. A pervasive game can take place over an entire conference, with players opting in to playing it in between sessions and over meals – providing an easy way to build realtionships with collegues.

Example: HAL of Justice

This game takes place in the far future, where AI govern the world. Over the course of an hour, players take turns petitioning the AI overlords to amend policies and the audience votes as the AIs. The tone is fun and lighthearted. We ran it at the end of the Internet Policy WIP Conference at Santa Clara Law School as a way for attendees to unwind and have fun at the end of a long day.

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