Game Training Report 1:
Play Oosterwold

On the 21st of May 2015 Play the City hosted a training session for familiarizing the City Gaming method with a variety of experts.

For participants this translated to a demanding but fun challenge of exercising new urban rules of Plan Oosterwold –currently formalised-, governing own living expectations, while interacting with interests of surrounding players as well as managing their resources. As in many Play the City games, the experience was not centred around winners or losers, but creating meaningful individual as well as collective urban adventures while building the Almere’s new urban-rural expansion.

The workshop was hosted by the Game Master Ekim Tan at Pakhuis De Zwijger. This report captures the key outcomes of the game and provides and overview of the game’s events.


The Players


A diverse group of guests joined the game ranging from international institutions, local organisations, architects, scientists to legal practitioners, business owners and potential land developers of Oosterwold. All participants played the investor-developer in the game, and their resources were randomly assigned by the game.

An ‘area manager’ was required to indirectly coordinate the players’ actions. Mark Schmeink from Grontmij, as the expert, volunteered to activate this role in the game. On behalf of the City of Almere, Schmeink is responsible for translating the principles of Plan Oosterwold into a legal plan document -Omgevingsplan Ooosterwold-.

Janine Loubser and Tanya Chandra played collecting players’ investments and allocating loans. Nicolas Klaus presented the day and kept the minutes of the game, also for digital media. Di Fang coordinated all visual media; photography and video.

 

The Play Process


Entering the stimulation room players could choose available land identified by the plan rules as 3 types: Standard, Agriculture or Landscape. After conscious choice of land type, the financial budget of players were defined randomly. The game provided initial prices for land, building development, energy and other infrastructure, while further pricing of transactions between players in the game were left free.


The game played out on a 36ha portion of 4300ha of Oosterwold and was structured into 5 phases. Below we share some of the highlight from these stages:


Phase 1: Buy land and settle


Players placed their plots sequentially in the location of their choice on the board. Area manager clarified that building in the forest area was not allowed.


Phase 2: Connect to the local road network


In this phase, We observed players to initiate collective access roads and shared payments. Certain rules were clarifies here e.g. future reservation for local roads at the edges of private plots land.


Phase 3: Build your dream


During this phase investors built their individual dreams based on the building percentage allowance of their plots and the budget they had available.


Clashes emerged between players wanting to maintain exclusivity versus players who wanted to invest in affordable housing or more social-orientated facilities. While some of the players developed housing for Syrian refugees or a centre for disabled residents, others imagined isolated villas or the ‘Oosterwater’ - a holiday retreat with expensive units situated on the existing canal. While a player proposed a small business as a coffee shop for expected neo-hippie communities in Oosterwold, Schmeink had to warn that such commercial activities might be restricted in Oosterwold.


Phase 4: Choose your energy source


Oosterwold wants to become an off-the-grid city. After building their dream developments players had to decide on how to provide energy. Game provided different options and the costs involved in building as an individual versus making shared cooperatives. Big players built community-scaled plants, such as a biomass boiler plant in which smaller players could invest and connect to.


Phase 5: Build your green and blue infrastructure


Developing agriculture, public green and water infrastructure formed the last phase. The area manager confirmed that public green such as golf courses or parks must be open to the public (i.e. no entry control) but investors can make money through membership for example. Players with landscape plots thus realised that expensive costs for developing public parks had to be counteracted through suiting commercial buildings.

 

Evaluation


Rule Adaptations


As players were interacting with rules, some incidents occurred that triggered Mark Schmeink to take note for his real function, namely scripting Omgevingsplan Oosterwold. The first rule that Plan Oosterwold stipulates is about centring construction on your plot. This rule is made to secure the continuity of road networks as well as green structures between neighbouring plots. When Player 3 purchased a piece of land along an existing canal, the debate started whether she could build along the canal. While the existing rules wont allow this, players questioned whether this rule could be adjusted in such a way that building activities on water edges become possible.


A second rule that was debated in the game was aggregating all built programs rather than building scattered on a plot. An interesting dilemma occurred when Player 14, an entrepreneur who invested in a biodiesel complex that would power 10 surrounding households, divided his building activities as energy building on one edge and housing on the other for controlling smell pollution. Current rules force such buildings to gather. The only way to resolve the situation was either discarding the energy enterprise or outsourcing it to another plot in the game. Both solutions conflict with the principles of the original plan, which proposes an off-the-grid city generated by its very residents.


Alliances


Play Oosterwold have been built to simulate an interdependent community rather than a plan allocating only individual dreams of single land owners. Thus beyond the existing building rules some of the game phases encouraged collective decision making when creating energy, food and water networks. Managing such interdepencies for the real development process has been accepted as a real need by the players. 


Risk Assessment


Risk assessment was another aspect of the game that was highlighted by the players themselves. “Now that I am informed about the concerns of other players, I can strategise my investment better in the future” concluded Marco de Goede.


We plan to run longer sessions on Play Oosterwold in the future where players could simulate their return on investments, a desire that was pronounced by multiple players who joined the game.


Players List


1. Karel Sant / Concise en Partners

2. Lilian Kusters Freelance / Oude Kerk Amsterdam

3. Lisa ten Brug / TU Delft

4. Marco de Goede / DDS

5. Frederik Groos / Groos & Co.

6. Ray Goodsir /B.T.C.

7. Eric Treske / Intrestik

8. Michelle Provoost / INTI

9. Frank Vonk / AM Concepts

10. Jorien van Santen / leukehuizen.nl

11. Joost Mulder / Vastgoed Advies

12. Cornelia Dinca / University of Amsterdam & Sustainable Amsterdam

13. Martijn de Waal / Mobile City/UvA

14. Evert Verhagen / Creative Cities

15. Richard Pelgrim / Utrecht University