By Meghana Gudluru
Who doesn’t enjoy a good game? And what if the game was a way for everyone, not just to win, but to WIN-WIN-WIN?
Life is exhausting, to the extent that avoiding polarities has become the new normal even in the face of discomfort with situations. Such behaviours may, however, give rise to a feeling of dissatisfaction, perhaps even unhappiness. What if we could dilute that feeling, if not eliminate it altogether, through dialogue? Further, what if we could provide an easy and fun way to experience what it feels like to engage in dialogue, towards creating an entry point into this way of thinking and behaving?
Presenting Dialogue Game Night.
Kshetra held its first Dialogue Game Night on 10th December, 2022. This event was designed to be a light-touch (subtle), yet immersive experience for participants. The broad aim was to indirectly address the hesitation or difficulty in applying the Dialogic Method in day-to-day life, by journeying participants through a relatable situation/story, which involved participants in an explorative choice-making opportunity throughout. Their choices determined their respective outcomes in the game, not unlike real-life situations.
Designed as a light-touch anchor event (A standalone, open-to-all event where there was no requirement of prior knowledge or association with the concept of dialogue), the Game Night was yet another exploratory way of reaching out to those familiar and unfamiliar with the Dialogic Method alike, towards serving as a practical and non-burdensome manner of engaging with a dissonance situation.
Why Game Night?
Almost everyone has, at one point or another, felt that insidious ‘dissatisfaction’ with situations which did not quite turn out the way they had wanted them to. This feeling may possibly arise due to a lack of closure due to avoidance rather than as a dissatisfactory result of the engagement with the situation and the parties to it. That is, while engaging with a situation may or may not yield beneficial outcomes, avoiding the situation almost always leaves one dissatisfied and little better off than before.
Reducing this sense of lack of closure that often arises in the context of problem situations could not only help one tackle the ‘should have, would have, could have’ feeling about it, but it also increases the chance that an individual may work towards a satisfactory, even sustainable outcome to the problem.
Games present a ‘safe’ environment (without the pressure to perform in a perceived ‘ideal’ or altruistic manner). Interactive story-based games, particularly, are considered effective in increasing engagement and motivation for learning in general1
A game-based approach, we therefore believed, could possibly initiate the development and exercise of the ‘Dialogue Muscle’ in participants, towards sustainable behaviour shifts. That is, those playing those games could be inspired to keep engaging and trying to work towards a state better than what exists in their real-life situations in a dialogic manner, with reduced hesitation about the lasting implications and effects of their actions. Also, the evidence of experience that engaging with a situation in a dialogic manner puts one in a better state than the one they were previously in, could reduce the fatigue and tiresomeness most associated with engaging in a situation.
Game Night: A Light-touch way of experiencing the Dialogic Method
The Dialogue Scavenger Hunt, the main activity of the Dialogue Game Night, helped participants to engage with various possibilities and outcomes of Dialogue in a given situation, in an explorative manner. To begin the game, all participants were given a starting chit that described a situation and provided two options, of which participants had to choose one. Once participants chose their course of action, the chit then provided a clue to the place where the next chit was hidden, and so on, until the final outcome of the situation. Each choice made by the ‘players’ had an impact on the final outcome they would arrive at.
As a prelude to the Dialogue Scavenger Hunt, a warm-up activity was conducted which included simple physical activities which the players had to engage in together. This contributed to the sense of reduced hesitation of engaging and sharing with fellow players during the debrief and discussion following the Dialogue Scavenger Hunt game.
A debrief followed the Dialogue Scavenger Hunt game. This involved a reflection by participants (facilitated by Kshetra team members) on the choices made during the game, the outcomes, and their related previous experiences with dialogic engagement as well. As a conclusion to the Dialogue Game Night, participants were requested to engage in a “commitment activity”, where they privately noted down what they would like to do differently after what they had experienced at the event.
Learnings and Observations
It was interesting to note that the explorative practice of the Dialogic Method skills can deliver value to participants even in a one-time, standalone event/anchor event. Particularly, interactive choice-based games could assist greater self-reflection and plausible self-guided behavioural change in participants. This may increase their motivation for further learning and use of the Dialogic Method. Individuals may further be motivated to relate their experience from the game experience to their own personal situation, whether currently ongoing or from the past, driving choices in the future.
The Dialogue Scavenger Hunt game also elicited a great level of sharing of personal experiences, particularly in relation to how individuals engaged with dissonance or problem situations. Participants from across different disciplines/sectors of work reflected on their own actions and behaviors in the past and discussed the possible benefits of using Dialogic Method techniques in future situations.
What stood out for us as a result, is the possibility that at such engagements, the subtle infusion of the Dialogic Method could result not only in the creation of a dialogic space, but also encourage dialogic behaviours amongst participants. That is, a group of participants, who had little to no prior interaction with each other, or with the Dialogic Method before the event, could create and engage in a ‘safe-space’, where they could share varying perceptions, experiences, challenges and aspirations in a particular common thread running through all of their lives.
In addition, a casual debrief space catalysed organic sharing and discussion of experiences, challenges and aspirations beyond the game – plausibly being the first markers of a community of dialogic individuals. We believe it may be possible that immersion in hypothetical, but life-like simulations of choice-based situations could inspire participants to be more aware of the polarities existing in today’s world, and of their own binary approach to situations. This awareness may be the beginning of a new way of engaging with situations in a more dialogic manner.
The Game Night experience, however, was not without limitations – which we also see as questions to be answered through future iterations of the event.
First, the impact of a single, light-touch event remains to be seen. Participants may not have experienced the full range of the Dialogic Method steps/tools. Consequently, light-touch events that offer limited exposure to the Dialogic Method might create only temporary motivations to engage in dialogue, as opposed to creating long-term behavioural change. As a corollary, though, we are keen to explore whether repeated events could drive long-term behavioural change in (repeat) participants.
We also remain aware of the need to assess the dispersibility of the Dialogic Method through such light-touch events. To which end, we wonder what might motivate participants to conduct and run their own such events in the future, and what might serve as a supporting playbook or structure for the same.
Further iterations and versions of the game night offering are essential to identify and recreate the design elements needed to create and conduct such organic gatherings of people. It is also important to see which elements can drive participant-led/hosted events, towards becoming a community of practice of the Dialogic Method.
Immersive experiences may also have a lasting impact on participants who tend to need a high context and high relevance applied mode of learning in order to practise and apply novel concepts in their day-to-day lives. That is, we could possibly better learn how to apply something new by experiencing it in the form of hypothetical, life-like situations. This would then allow us to respond appropriately when each of us experience different situations in different, nuanced ways.
In addition, the perceived sense of community that such gatherings offer, along with the sense of relaxation and enjoyment that such events inspire, may extend a feeling of ‘not being alone’ to participants. Personally, individuals are invited to look at differing perspectives and emotions related to them, not as push-back but as a different life led and a new avenue of thinking. These factors could possibly drive more frequent practice of the Dialogic Method – creating both a critical mass and a societal muscle for dialogue in the longer run.
Our first Dialogue Game Night has left us eager, not only to stay in touch with participants from the first delivery and observe their journey moving forward with the Dialogic Method, but to conduct the next iteration of this event. We look forward to seeing you there!