-by Maya and Skip 

On February 18, a brand new experiment for the online game ― team play using Zoom breakout rooms ― took place, facilitated by Aya Matsuyama.

Here are some highlights of what proved to be a very promising experiment, with commentary from Maya on support staff, and Skip as a player.

Eighteen players participated, forming six teams of three players, all of whom were either facilitators or people who had already experienced the game in some form. Players joined from several countries, formed teams speaking 5 languages, resulting in a palpably global experience. 


Because part of the intention for this experiment was to explore ways for digital non-natives to more easily experience the game, team play was designed so that one member of each team would operate the player controls (the ‘operator’), while the other players would participate by advising or directing the operator―and by visiting other teams’ breakout rooms to negotiate with them.

For purposes of this experiment, all of the operators already had online game experience, and were familiar with how to use the game screen functions, such as running projects, chatting with others, and making transactions. This allowed the experiment to focus on the dynamics of game play only. 

The parameters for gameplay were: see how long it takes for the teams to get the three measures of the World Condition Meter all up to 8. Using the Zoom breakout room system, players were first split into rooms named for their team, and then play began. 


First, the goal of Economy 8, Environment 8, and Society 8 was reached in just over 25 minutes. [Number of teams achieving team goals unconfirmed; if this information still exists, will be added here.]

Second, to the delight of the players, the dynamics of gameplay itself were surprisingly close to the in-person game! Despite—or perhaps thanks to—play slowing down somewhat, due to the technical aspects both of traveling from one Zoom breakout room to another, and of often having to wait to perform transactions, there seemed to be much more time for the human interactions, communication, and eventual collaboration that often appear in the in-person game.

Maya’s impressions:

I was helping to run the game, and i occasionally visited breakout rooms to see how it was going; negotiations happened in English, even though some teams spoke a different native language amongst themselves. It truly seemed like a world of people communicating with each other. 

And they seemed to be having a great time! This was the first ever online team trial, but it seemed like it would be an opportunity tohave a different experience from single player games. 

WIth that in mind, it gave me a lot to think about. I personally tend to prefer working with others to accomplish things in the real world, so I felt there was a lot of possibility here. 

Thank you to all who participated and made the trial possible! 

Skip’s impressions:

In the role of Operator, I stayed in my own breakout room while my teammates advised and visited other teams to negotiate. Working with them to achieve our goal and the world we wanted to create was the most fun I have had playing the SDGs game in a very long while.

My strongest impression was that by having teams of 3, with one or two teammates to discuss strategies with at any given time, and occasional visitors, game play was much quieter and more relaxed than when playing the online game with 5-8 players all in the same room and talking at the same time. For me, the separation of teams into different added to the experience of the world being a ‘big place to explore’ and discover, and enhanced the sense of it being like the real world.

On a humorous note, one English speaking player commented that she needed help understanding another player from Australia, suggesting that in addition to Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese, two kinds of English were being spoken, bringing the total number of languages to six!

Those who visited other rooms reported arriving into environments where languages other than their own were being spoken, and while English served as the lingua franca for negotiations, there was truly an international flavor, and a sense that the real world often operates in this way.

Perhaps the most memorable moment was at the very end, after players and facilitators had shared their experience: we all kind of looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, “this is it!”

The feeling that on that day was unmistakeable: it truly felt like we had just opened the door to exciting new possibilities for the online game.

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