How to Space Jam
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How to Space Jam

The Space Jam is a core practice of values-based social design. In a Space Jam, each participant makes a custom game or ritual around the value of someone else in the group. The group then tries out these games or rituals, and evaluates how good they were for the person / value they were made for.

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Why we space jam. We focus on games or rituals because they are the easiest kinds of social designs to make and test out. They can be played quickly among a small group, and iterated quickly. Making games and rituals is the VBSD equivalent of paper prototypes in UX design, or model-making in architecture. Even when your goal is to make something larger, like a social network or organizational process, the VBSD approach is to make many games or rituals along the way, and then bake what you've learned from the games and rituals into the final product.

Throughout Quest 2 we will find many ways to Space Jam, but the structure is always the same: we get together with a group, choose who we'll make a game for, interview them, make a game, try it with the whole group, and see how it worked for the person we made it for.

Step 1 - Choose Who You'll Make a Game for

Sit in a circle (or get on zoom), and go around in the circle, with everyone sharing two things:

  • First, share something you want to practice socially. E.g., maybe you want to practice approaching strangers in a certain way, or giving feedback in a certain way, or showing more of a certain side of yourself.
  • Second, share a broader value about that. What's important to you about practicing this more, or getting better at this?

Based on what people shared, each player should pick one of the others to make a game for. It works best if each person has one other person making a game for them. You make a game that's custom built for your person to practice what they shared.

Step 2 - Interview Your Person

You'll split into pairs twice, to give everyone a chance to be interviewed and be the interviewer. As game-maker, you'll interview your person to get real clear on what they want to practice, what the related value is, and where it's hard for them.

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To get detailed with this, you can try to do

or one of the later Impossibility Map exercises. But for your first Space Jam, just do the interview as you see fit.

Step 3 - Make Your Person a Game or Ritual

To help you make your game, I'll try to give you some clarity about the goal you are reaching for, and how to get there. I'll talk about the goal first, but you might not do very well at on your first few space jams.

You want your games to satisfy three criteria:

  1. First, they should make whatever your person wants to practice easier.
  2. Let's say you are making a game for me, and I want to practice flirting with strangers. DON'T make a game that just pressures me into flirting with strangers. For instance, don't make a game that's just about counting the number of strangers I flirt with within an hour. Your game needs to make it easier for me to flirt with strangers—e.g., by giving me a "flirting coach" who gives me tips, or a group of people to flirt with, or a sexy outfit, or anything that makes it easier for me to flirt.

  3. Second, your games should make room for your person to practice the thing, rather than automating it away.
  4. If your game gives me a flirting coach, the coach probably shouldn't give me exact instructions, because then I may not be practicing the thing that I want to practice. Whatever it is about flirting that I want to practice should be left to me, not automated by the game.

  5. Thirdly, your game (or ritual) should be good as a game (or ritual), standing on its own.
  6. This can mean many things—ideally it should be engaging for the participants, work for many types of players, give space for them to express themselves in unique styles of play, have a nice beginning and end, etc. You can see

    for more on this.

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    8 Ways Your Game Could Suck

If this is your first time making a game or ritual, don't try to achieve all of these goals at once! In fact, the best approach is often to start with a game that fails at criteria #1 and #3 (a shitty game that doesn't make your person's practice easier) and then incrementally improve it so that it does satisfy those criteria.

So, you could start with the kind of game I told you not to make in criteria #1—a game that just counts the number of strangers that I flirt with. Then, ask yourself "What could I add to make this practice easier?" and "How could this be better as a game?"

Step 4 - Play and Evaluate

If you have time, the group can play all of the games. After your person plays the game you made for them, ask them if it succeeded in making this thing easier for them, and made a good practice space for their value. If it didn't, ask them why and try to learn from what you missed.

🥳 That's a Space Jam!