Le Grand Jeu is a hands-on tool to co-design sustainable micro-economies empowered by crypto-currency. The aim of the Game is to develop narratives about the society of the future nurturing and raising this answer from a collective, playful and creative consciousness. In particular we use the tool to facilitate the development of a shared vision for “glocal” communities willing to find new forms of organization, to discover new ways to create value and “a new type of abundance centered around the wealth of the Commons”.

After 3 years of co-design of the game our goal is to use it to open our mind to the concept of crypto businesses: what kind of organizations can they enable? How can we use it to create a different kind of economy: fairer, transparent, sustainable on the long run? In an interesting post M.Maples stated “blockchains and crypto businesses can drive the standard of living forward even faster, by creating a new type of abundance centered around the wealth of the Commons. But we have to think bigger, beyond traditional corporate structures. We need 21st Century JP Morgans, Rockefellers, and Carnegies”. When we started to design the game we were following the illustrious example of Elisabeth Phillips that actually designed Landlord’s Game, aka Monopoli, as a protest against the big monopolists of her time — people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

I find these names and the strong feelings around them inspiring! For sure we need great people and to think outside the box but what I actually hope and work for is to develop collective consciousnesses able to create their participated economy incorporating their values, their rules and the long-term vision they want and they set up together.

In our latest playful experience in Helsinki, we called it “the black-box”. We decided to deal with policies and taxation outside this black-box. The community needs to grow stronger not to get hindered by local governments as it happened for example with the many attempts to set up timebanks. We are therefore protecting our micro-economy, keeping it into the black-box and focusing on co-designing currencies, smart-contracts and game rules that make sense for that specific community. Once the micro-economy will be explained to ourselves it will be easier to show it to the rest of the world and deal with the many constraints and barriers that the status-quo will present.

Main steps of Le Grand Jeu:

3 years ago I started a long conversation with Federico Bonelli, an artivist of dyne.org, a Foundation of hackers creating FreeSoftware to empower communities. Federico was also the artistic director of Trasformatorio.net, a site specific performance research lab, where he had been exploring with local communities permaculture practices and art-driven social innovation, sometimes also supported by technology. Me, instead, I was coming from my engineering background on circular economy in urban and industrial contexts and from my current experience at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design where I was exploring co-design and rapid prototyping. We were talking about entropy and democracy, social engagement and sustainability…when suddenly Federico’s friends at Dyne asked him to find a way to explain cryptocurrency and how it could change the face of economy. And this is how it all began!

#1.Milan — 10–14 July 2016. Macao, a beautiful squat house in Milan, hosted our artist residency. We worked with them 5 days to co-design a game that could support communities to talk about micro-economies, develop positive narratives and even design their own system. We reached Macao with just few ideas and inspirations:

  • the genesis of Monopoli: a game originally developed to demonstrate the feasibility of socialist and progressive doctrines of Tureau by Elisabeth Phillips that patented it in 1903. The monopolist version of the game was eventually claimed by Charles Darrow as his own and sold to Parker Brothers. Understanding the importance of such a tool to collectively create, digest and communicate new knowledge we decided to keep the entire process open, participative and, in the end, we released the game as Creative Common, we shared it on GitHub and we encourage forks!
  • The name of the game: Le Grand Jeu. It refers to the tongue in cheek name given to diplomacy in the 19th century. The secret treaties and aggressive colonialistic policies that brought the world to WWI. The table of the “great games¨ that We are in no way able to touch.
  • looking for a positive, constructive narrative based on the concept “Think global, act local” but also willing to foster a high degree of freedom considering “democracy rightly conceived is not so much a goal as it is a process” (J.Dewey).
  • 2 coins: black and white. To incorporate externalities.

In 4 days we designed and played 6 different iterations. Finally the game was easy enough, it was fun and running smoothly: we were ready with Iteration #6 for a big tournament. That night was a big success: 3 tables playing for more than 3 hours creating completely different narratives, dynamics and ideas.

#2.Venice — May 1017. S.A.L.E. DOKS invited us to be part of Dark Matter Games, site to the Biennial of Art 2017. We spent 2 days playing with random people visiting the Biennial and collecting feedback. In the end the last day we played with a community of people living in a popular area that they were managing as a cooperative. We were keep adjusting and improving details but the game was very intuitive at that point, it run smoothly enabling people to create and see the behaviour of almost anything from agriculture, to industry, from finance, to social politics.

#3. Taipei and Huanzhou — November 2018. Dyne was part of the Conference “Urban Fabric”. Federico run several workshops. In the game there is no cultural gap. Players got the logic and started to play, they set up their rules, they spoke their language and they thought the game is a great tool to design bottom-up technology and systems.

#4.Helsinki — December 2018. The EU project Commonfare adopted the game as a design and communication tool. They asked us to bring the project around Northern Europe by means of 6 workshops using the game as a tool to talk about micro-economies and crypto-currency and how to use this latter to create something new, something fair and not just to reproduce the global capitalist economy on a small scale. And here we are with many more workshops to run around Europe!