Framing through gaming

By Maha Attia, Sander Lenferink & Vincent Marchau, Radboud University

Triple Access Planning (TAP) for uncertain futures requires practitioners to rethink their approaches to planning. We apply the Framing, Exploring, Choosing framework (Marchau et al. 2019) to help the practitioners in a step-by-step redesign of their planning to urban accessibility. For the Framing phase, two gaming workshops were held in the cities of Utrecht and Nijmegen.

Figure 1: Elements of the DMDU approach (Adapted by (Malekpour et al., 2020) from (Marchau et al., 2019).

The game simulated decisionmaking within two departments (mobility and land use) in  how they choose their individual and, subsequently, collective package of policy options for urban accessibility. The game has two distinct lines through which it aims to contribute to practice, a collective aim and an individual aim.

Collective aim

The game simulates and stimulates interorganizational collaboration on policy options. Two municipal departments discover to what extent their thoughts on a TAP policy package align. The participants express a couple of experiences:

  • “The game showed how our mobility plans must explore future spatial developments and vice versa. This is not done sufficiently in practice.”
  • “Negotiating the different policy measures was interesting, especially looking into the synergies and working together was fun and helped create a good discussion.”
  • “It was good to discuss green spaces and energy efficiency, rather than merely focusing on more housing and transport connectivity”

During the gameplay the participants were able to formulate common goals and an approach to come to a selection of policy options. Most participants note that their trust in cooperation with the other department has increased through the game. They indicate a better feeling of the other departments interests, and more confidence that they can come to an integrated policy package for their cities.

Individual aim

The game was also used to test whether individual knowledge (framing) of the Triple Access System (TAS) has improved. Participants are asked to draw a mental model of their understanding of the TAS before and after playing the game. The image below shows two of these mind maps.

Preliminary conclusions that can be drawn from the mental maps are that after playing the games session planners added more digital connectivity factors and connections in their systems view. Also more indirect relations and additional land use and mobility factors were drawn. This seems to indicate that their system understanding has been broadened to include digital accessibility. During the debrief this was acknowledged by the participants:

  • Taking a step back to look at the whole system is not usually done in practice; it was a good exercise. We usually think of the system in our minds and have different assumptions about it, but putting it on paper is different.”
  • “It helped me develop an overarching thinking of the three different levels of accessibility, starting from each system’s internal dimensions/specifics and moving towards thinking in terms of a system of systems.
  • “It amplified the thinking about how the interdependencies can be positive and negative (e.g. adverse effects). There has to be a balance, also with allowing more digital connectivity, as this can negatively influence other parts of the system.”

Next steps

All participants indicated that the game was fun to interact with. It facilitated open discussions on accessibility and urban planning and it added new perspectives. As a consequence, every participant expressed a desire to be involved in the next game, which concerns the next step in the DMDU approach: exploring. To be continued …