Ahead of our call on future dev of Witness Games today: A few questions to answer

Later today @matteo_uguzzoni and I are having a call looking at how to move forward based on our experiences with developing witness game so far. The community has been discussing the results from our experiments so far in this discussion thread. Now it is time to translate the insights into actions.

And we start by defining parameters by answering a few questions:

  1. What are the the main goals of Witness (project wise)? And what are Edgeryders goals for it? We summarised it in this document: Witness-Venture_Canvas-V1.pdf My personal goals: I have posted in a comment below

  2. Who is in the design team and with which level of engagement? If you wish to be involved, this is an open invitation. Respond in a comment below telling us: what you would like to work on, how you would like to contribute/be involved, what can you commit to the process (time and attention). We will be filling in this template.

  3. What is/was the Timeline? Where are we right now in it? * We have given ourselves 1 year to develop the value proposition, design and test two versions of the game, secure funds to keep developing it, fundraise for community activities including running more events and commissioning art/ stories and game development. Ideally we would have an annual community event where we come together to co-create immersive experiences in/ around witness.*

  4. How many players? Don’t know

  5. Digital / Non Digital? Both/ different variants adapted to context

  6. IRL or also over calls? Depends on a number of factors, including how we think around securing resources for the work.

  7. Facilitated vs Out of the box? Depends on a number of factors, including how we think around securing resources for the work.

  8. Age restrictions? Depends on a number of factors, including how we think around securing resources for the work.

  9. How does the game interact with the short stories of W? Depends on a number of factors, including how we think around securing resources for the work.

NB: @jean_russell @frankD @IvanV @alberto @yudhanjaya @dkaplan @OmaMorkie @hugi @bojanbobic @ myself @thom_stewart @ChrisFarnell @ialja @iouxo @Alessandro and others have been discussing the different responses in different threads on and offline. Also pinging @lidiazuin and @MariaEuler. I will attempt to synthesise this ahead of the call today, but wanted to make sure everyone knows that we are honouring your contributions and where the work is continuing.


My Answers

  1. Id like to keep working on Witness as I think it has a lot of potential. In some kind of leadership role most likely. In the startup phase I could dedicate around 20% of my time on speculative basis till we secure resources, and actively contribute to raising/ finding the money - but need help with this.
  2. Posted it below at end of this comment as a Q&A with myself
  3. Timeline & Current Status:
    • We have been building up to this over the past three years starting with the work of building witness.
    • So far we have a number of fairly well developed distrikts, and a community coalescing around the project. We have been very mindful of people’s time and have erred on the side of not engaging people in all activities - even though people clearly do like being involved and helping build this.
    • We have tested a first iteration of the game online, as well as an offline version with printed physical cards that was run by someone who is not one of the designers that we gave the pdf and this gameplay guide:**A5-PrintReady_Booklet_Gameplay.pdf.
    • We know there is an interest: There were 250 signups to the online event, and 16 people for the offline event. We have also done a first design for a completely different version of the game for teams and organisations that want to play with a specific purpose in mind/ to get answers to specific questions that matter to them.*
  4. Can be big groups, but split into small groups of players
  5. Digital and physical.
  6. A distributed model: Offline groups playing, connected with online/ digital layer
  7. Out of the box would be nice.
  8. Hmm hadn’t thought about this. Probably mostly adults from 18 up. But @federico_monaco had been making games parents can play with their children which could be fun.
  9. This is a question we have not yet addressed. But I think they could be turned into immersive rabbit holes into the game with a bit of adaptation. To be used same way I did with the audio snippets you heard during the event on 29/1.

What are the the main goals of Witness A Q&A with myself:

Q: what type of dynamic you want to promote and what would be the objective from a player perspective.

A: (in the long run): Creating a canvas for futures proofing/ planning. You have the thing you care about, and you have a setting within which you can explore, develop and stress-test it in different systems. The dynamics we want are: people can approach issues from different angles (e.g response to a specific kind of crisis , or a specific topic they want to explore/understand/develop). And see how it connects to other issues/concerns

Q: Do you want to push for collaboration, cooperation, competition, individualism, or continuous engagement?

A: Co-Alignment, cooperation. For example it could be: Seeding and speeding up evolution of networks into clusters. What I mean by this: Long-termism in economic thinking: reflecting on the experience of the Messina advanced cluster

Q: One off or on a continuous basis? The current cards based setup seems oriented towards the single session game mode. But the multiple rounds seems to invite to more complex dynamics. I’d say it can go both ways from here, but you’d still need to pick one.

A: I would see it as a process of a series of events/game play sessions. Almost like a recurring game night.

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Personal point of view: Witness is a lockpick. When I proposed the Worldbuilding Academy, what I wanted is to free our imagination from the set of cultural taboos that make it “more difficult to imagine the end of capitalism than to imagine the end of the world”. This would happen by using narrative consistency: creating worlds coherent and compelling enough to fuel a sort of suspension of disbelief of the current economic narrative. Though, of course, neoclassical econ and this neoliberal crap is also a narrative.

  • What are the the main goals of Witness (project wise)? I saw Witness from the start - and still do- as a way to alter the methods normally used in policy development and scenario design (reacting on current circumstances and linear thinking). By using a more holistic future context beyond the wicked problem addressed one is able to change the context in which a problem occurs, therefor changing the wicked problem itself.
  • Who is in the design team and with which level of engagement? Filled in.
  • How many players? A maximum of 10 players per Distrikt would work nicely. Different roles within a Distrikt could be introduced (lobby-ist, common people, advisors, etc.)
  • Digital / Non Digital? Both/ different variants adapted to context
  • IRL or also over calls? Could be both
  • Facilitated vs Out of the box? Preferably Out of Box
  • Age restrictions? Targetgroup is 16+. It would be great to target the future generations early. I do think that the game demands a certain intrinsic motivation and level of education at this point, which makes it difficult for younger and broader groups.
  • How does the game interact with the short stories of W? The stories provide background and depth, but the game doesn’t have to interact with those stories perse. It could be seen as a spin-off or a game using the context and world build. Known franchises like Games of Thrones, Middle Earth etc. do the same thing.
  1. What are the the main goals of Witness (project wise)? Develop the world and the game further. Further world development is necessary for the impact it can have on imagination, discussions, and broadening understanding of how our world can work in the future. Also, what excites me the most is to make it a ground for deep, interesting and inspiring discussions. From the business perspective, it is an ideal tool to grow our community and attract a pool of smart and intelligent people.
    On the game side, I would like we continue testing in order to come up with a game that can be used as a standalone product to create additional income, but also to be a tool for workshops and events where we collect feedback and apply SSNA on top of it.
  2. Who is in the design team and with which level of engagement? Filled in the document. I am mostly interested into business development of the game itself
  3. What is/was the Timeline? To be discussed once we set clear goals of what we want to do with the game. Each path will have its own timeline
  4. How many players? To be tested more. I like the idea of community playing in one district. 3 players (each playing one district) needs to be tested more, and feedback should be collected on that. Still I wouldn’t abandon it yet.
  5. Digital / Non Digital? We should keep both. As a standalone product to earn money out of it, I think it would be better to focus on physicall game in the beginning
  6. IRL or also over calls? Depends on the game setting. Can be both and we should prepare it in a way to do both
  7. Facilitated vs Out of the box? Not sure at the moment
  8. Age restrictions? Don’t know to be honest. I guess children can/should play it as well. I agree with @FrankD Younger generations should be included. I think it can go down to age 14+, but I am not in touch with reality regarding this. It is just an inner feeling.
  9. How does the game interact with the short stories of W? It doesn’t need to be connected, but to have a richer and immersive experience the stories should be read and part of it. Leave as an option to players. There will be players who will want to read it and know the world very well. For them, the game can be even more interesting. Maybe developing a closed section for them on the platform would be a good thing. They can easily find other players to play with, share the gameplay stories they came with etc.

I’m going to try to give some different responses from what I’ve seen here already, although I find myself in alignment with many of the points made above.

  • What are the the main goals of Witness (project wise)? I would put worldbuilding as a central goal - that means a receptacle for stories, whether they be in the form of short stories, illustrations, music, sounds, or academic essays that then crossover into the game’s underlying universe. This is not an easy goal, but I believe it is an important differentiating factor and a reason to be excited about this project: an imagined universe not defined by the rules of the game (although these are important), but by experimentation.

  • Who is in the design team and with which level of engagement? Filled in.

  • How many players? In its current iteration, I wouldn’t go beyond 8-10 players per match. Considering the important part of the current gameplay involves player discussion, going beyond this number would be cognitively taxing and have a negative impact on match durations. I think it would be wise to (down the road) be open to an iteration of the game involving larger groups & which would be asynchronous. This means no need to wait in real time for each player to give their input on every round, and hence larger groups of players.

  • Digital / Non Digital? Both should be explored and encouraged - there are many use cases that justify a hybrid online/offline model.

  • IRL or also over calls? Same as above

  • Facilitated vs Out of the box? I think the aim of the project should be out of the box. Facilitation is resource consuming & creates a layer of friction into being part of the game - which should be accessible to anyone and at any time, if we want to take it to a broader audience.

  • Age restrictions? No opinion here - although I think making it accessible to all ages would be a good objective to have.

  • How does the game interact with the short stories of W? I don’t agree with the (previously mentioned) idea of Witness stories being a spin off - rather the opposite. I think they should influence and govern the gameplay in different aspects. This is the harder option, sure, but I think a much more rewarding one. Just as Massive Multiplayer Online Games usually take place in evolving worlds, and those evolutions in the story introduce new characters and layers of gameplay - I strongly believe the same should be of Witness. The key difference is unlike those games produced by big studios, where the universe is very much proprietary in thinking and imagination (and dictated by a small creative team) - having an open accessible community behind it is extremely appealing. It aligns with the Edgeryders model of working and thinking, the organisation’s core interest in distributed communities and collective intelligence, open, accessible, ever growing… Further more, it makes the game much more fun knowing it can be influenced by a larger community. In a practical sense, I don’t have all the answers on how to achieve this and it requires some serious thinking and group discussion - but I believe it could begin in basic ways such as:

    • allowing community members to upload graphics that could appear on cards
    • curating short stories that may appear as introductions to a match — influencing the nature and level of the indicators, for example
    • videos, sounds and short stories pertaining to specific events that can accompany key moments of gameplay

    I’m answering very broadly to this question, but I think it is important to look at ways stories and other media can cross over from static artefacts to influencing the game.

@nadia @bojanbobic @ivan


Apologies for the late reply. As of yesterday I’ve re-incorporated Watchdog, gotten our first tranche of funding, hired ten people, left LIRNEasia (will be there as a consultant / research fellow) and finished my health futures work with UNDP, so now I have blocks of time that free up.

  1. What are the the main goals of Witness (project wise)? And what are Edgeryders goals for it?
    Witness for me has been what @alberto described. Public policy has a failure of imagination. I see it as having two main goals overall:
    a) to act a platform for injecting economically solid explorations of alternate social structures into the zeitgeist; essentially, More’s Utopia v2, done not as a parody, but in earnest. It uses storytelling and the canvas of science fiction as a delivery platform for what would otherwise be white-paper-style thinking of 'what if a society was run in x manner? how does it administrate itself? where does power (economical, political) concentrate itself, and who is marginalized? how does this society react to adverse events and get along with other social models (because we are not interested in isolationist models).

    b) to act as a solid demo for the kind of futures work we can do for custom scenarios (if a is the top of the funnel, this is the endpoint, aimed directly at policymakers).

  2. Who is in the design team and with which level of engagement?

  3. What is/was the Timeline? Where are we right now in it?
    We have a world. We have a game. IMHO the game has potential both as a tool for making people think and for raising funds; we should be marketing it to a general audience as a TCG (trading card game: see Magic the Gathering and Pokemon for how these systems and communities work). We should also be working on making the lore more accessible (for example, pointing out the real-world analogues to the histories, politics and the policies of Witness’s Distrikts, so that whoever comes in at the top of the funnel understands that this is an experiment that draws from and remixes reality instead of being a work of outright fantasy)

  4. How many players? Game is designed to scale to the number of Distrikts in play. Three distrikts, ideal is three players. More distrikts, we can have more players without breaking the mechanics.

  5. Digital / Non Digital? Both/ different variants adapted to context

  6. IRL or also over calls? Depends on a number of factors, including how we think around securing resources for the work.

  7. Facilitated vs Out of the box? IMO, out of the box. Facilitated makes it difficult to scale and should be left for ‘premium’ events (eg: a tournament hosted on behalf of a funder, a tournament at a major policy conference, etc).

  8. Age restrictions? Ages 13 and up.

  9. How does the game interact with the short stories? The TCG model is finicky to balance (I don’t claim we got it right in this first version, there are still ways I can break the game if given any two decks) but is fundamentally designed to let new ‘societies’ emerge as players mix and match cards. If you think of every player with a deck as a part of a Monte Carlo simulation, eventually we will see outcomes that cannot be predicted right now but will yield stable new Distrikts for Witness, written in as offshoots from existing societies that banded together and decided to take the best of x and y and do their own thing (similar to how the software industry forks projects on Github). Of course to do this type of Monte Carlo sim requires us to have a number of players, the larger the better; at minimum the game should be fun enough so that we should be able to play this game among ourselves as constant input for Witness.


A couple of thoughts in the wake of the NGI event and the process of preparing it.

  • A well participated event has shown (once again) the idea has traction.
  • Our community showed up and can be a more valuable resource if better prepared.
  • The discussions were rich and can be used as a showcase for a future product.
  • That said - we arrived late to it, could have brought more people and could have organised the fine details better. To do that we need to prepare better in advance, through definition of the tasks, their preparation and execution. The bumps on the road are always to be expected and should be embedded in the planning process.

1. What are the the main goals of Witness (project wise)? And what are Edgeryders goals for it?

I agree with @alberto and @yudhanjaya here - it can be a versatile tool for brainstorming, stress testing and solution rendering with both smaller and wider scope on specific foucs topics. It can also be a fun game to play and I like to watch it in its artistic evolution.

2. Who is in the design team and with which level of engagement?

3. What is/was the Timeline? Where are we right now in it?

The timeline has a couple of threads connected to the funding:

a. connected to external funding - we need to work in advance to shape it accordingly to the project necessities, so POPREBEL next step - cca 6 months to finish it (at this point). Treasure? Connection to the Long-termism tools within the C-KIC alliance? The next year will shape the timeline. Before it does, we need to continue to actively look for funding. Natural steps that come to mind are philantrophy and artistic funding (like Globus Opstart).

b. direct (sweat) investment into it - development of the zine/scifi + economics magazine. Depends on our agreements and decisions.

4. How many players?

As much as the test sessions show we can handle with no trouble.

5. Digital / Non Digital?

First of all, we have now two verions of the game - one is the card game developed by Yudhanjaya and Navin, which is primarily a physical card game and is ready to go. We should explore distribution channels and see if it can bring some money. It is not very flexible for the engagement tool in the workshops and it can become (functionally) digital only with a serious investment on the interface and UX side, because the combination Notion+Netlify as it is now is way too unstable.

The other is the elaboration done through the workshops with Vraiment Vraiment, which is a storytelling and imaginative group exercise, very flexible and good for the workshops but still in its conceptual phase. It is very promising because it provides a solid, yet versatile setting for the climate and not only, discussions. Needs design, testing and a serious reasoning on how to render it digitally.

6. IRL or also over calls?


7. Facilitated vs Out of the box?

Well, out of the box some time needs facilitation otherwise it just spills out :-). For the card game -1st version - the manual is enough because the game system is quite clear. The workshop version, most of all in our engagement events, needs facilitators.

8. Age restrictions? 13+.

9. How does the game interact with the short stories?

I don’t think the interaction should be mandatory. But we can connect some of the short stories to the events/workshops we will be organising. For example, in the NGI event which was tech-driven - we introduced the tech argument through disasters that happened in the districts which introduced the inherent tech reasoning and backgrounds. If timely presented we could have connected to the elements of the short stories as discussion clues. Owen has a fair point on MMORPG environment, but at the same time, this kind of investment would require quite some working hours on our side.
Anyway, the stories are stories and they live their own life, create a lore and add to a deeper dimension of the experience, providing subjective points of view and unexpected perspectives on various topics. We should nurture & cherish them because in the long run, the lore will become an important factor of Witness. A very representative tool and a trailblazer for imagination.

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@ivan @IvanV @jean_russell @alberto @bojanbobic @FrankD @owen @thom_stewart @matteo_uguzzoni @yudhanjaya - Chris has written a thorough account of the test event they ran in Berlin using the physical printed cards version of the first game: Developing the game design: Results of closed test session 1 - #81 by mrchrisadams


Hello everyone, thanks for sharing this and replying to the questions, it’s really helpful now to understand everyone’s vision.

In a chat with @nadia I offered to run a series of game nights to play together some games on the LARP/light RPG side so we can explore if there is something in that space that we like, I have always being interested on exploring that world more in deep and I think it could be interesting as a way to create a shared vocabulary and alignment.

I really like the potential for a lot of development that Witness is naturally opening, as @owen shared.

In the spirit of testing out more ideas I Imagine the sessions to be 45 minutes to 1 hour followed by a post in here about the game session (I’ll write the beginning of it and who attended can jump in with their comments and thoughts).

I was thinking about hosting the session at 5PM CET time, which is a good time if we want to have someone in the West Coast (it’s 8AM there) and at the same time someone in Eastern Europe or further East is not too late, what are people thoughts about that?

So far I got 4 games in pipeline, see below.
If we are more then what the games need to run, I’ll run multiple session or we run multiple table at the same time.

Feel free to invite others, but I think the ideal will be to have 4/6 people every session, again this is not a public event but more R&D.

Dec 22nd -
The Quiet Year (mod version) (gameplay) [REGISTER HERE]

Dec 29th -
Fiasco (short version) [REGISTER HERE]

Jan 5th -
Pandemic HotZone North America (Tabletop) (GamePlay) [REGISTER HERE]

Jan 12th -
#feminism - nanolarps [REGISTER HERE]

ping @ivan @yudhanjaya @bojanbobic @alberto @FrankD


ping @jean_russell @OmaMorkie @thom_stewart @Alessandro @hugi


super! I registered! looking forward to it :slight_smile:


Matteo, how much time should we allocate for each session?

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Oh yes, 45/60 minutes, thanks @alberto

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I intend to live time- and calendar less over the winter solstice, so hesitant to sign up for anything, as I will certainly forget…

Sorry, late reply. I’ll answer with my take without reading other replies first.

Well if you are dealing with minors it places extra requirements on community management/ content moderation (@johncoate has extensive experience around this).

Here a question is if we are able to do this without monetary prizes. If not, we would need to fundraise for that somehow…

The big cutoff age is 13. If you allow under 13 kids to use your site you have to do things to protect them.

Note: the whole calendar is in flux as someone close to Matteo got COVID. New dates to be proposed by @matteo_uguzzoni.