House of Gossip > Open-source game developed by the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology

House of Gossip is an open-source downloadable game (developed by the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology of the HU Berlin) that stages and creates the grounds for reflection on conflicts regarding housing and the different viewpoints in a volatile real estate market.

A first prototype of the game was developed – in collaboration with colleagues at the Zentrum für Kunst und Urbanistik (ZK/U) – in a hackathon together with MA students of the Studienprojekt “The only game in town? Anthropology and the housing markets in Berlin” (2018-2019) at the Institut für Europäische Ethnologie (HU Berlin), and showcased in the “Open Form neu denken” exhibition (organized by Z/KU at the Werkstatt of Haus der Statistik in October 25–27 2019). In the last two years we’ve been working on creating a downloadable and playable version of it.

Image by Vasylysa Shchogoleva

Credits

Game concept (in alphabetical order): Tomás Criado, Ignacio Farías, Lena Heiss, Marie Aline Klinger, Lilian Krischer, Leonie Schipke & Tan Weigand. 

Game art by Vasylysa Shchogoleva

CC BY NC SA 2021 Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology, HU Berlin

Context

Berlin, late 2010s, all across the city real estate is changing hands fast, the market is hot and many are investing, houses are revaluing. As it tends to happen, this situation has at least two different sides:

Scene 1

– “What about this building? Might you have found a good opportunity here?”
– “It indeed looks nice, but have we explored if it’s in good condition?”

– “The architect sent me this report, look, all clear.” – “It certainly looks promising.”
– “It’s time to act fast.”
– “Ok, yes, let’s go for this house!”

Scene 2

– “Hi, how was your day?”
– “Nothing special, yours?”
– “I heard rumours, two neighbours speaking in the corridor: the building is finally going to be bought!” – “Yes, there was a letter in the mail, look”.
– “But… What will happen to us? Will we have to move if they raise the rent?”
– “We have to do something…”
– “But we know nearly no one in the house.”

“When an apartment building is to be sold, every single alarm bell sets off for the residents. In view of the horrendous purchase prices, there is a danger of being displaced by higher rents or even conversion into condominiums.”

Rationale

House of Gossip is  an open-source downloadable game that stages and creates the grounds for reflection on conflicts regarding housing and the different viewpoints in a volatile real estate market. In the game, you will have the opportunity to play either as a resident of the house or as a covert buyer, acting as one of the house’s residents.

In a process where no one can be certain about anything, gossip abounds: In the game you will have to gather information form alliances and find your way to save (as residents) or buy (as the buyer) the house! Think twice about who and when you want to share your information with!

During the course of the game you will repeatedly encounter your neighbours in the stairway to exchange gossip. Your main goal is not just to understand to whom you’re talking to, but also to perform in front of others and form alliances for one of the two competing purposes of the game: Buying or saving the house.

Those who manage to gather the necessary gossips will in the end win the game. Will the house community manage to resist or could the buyer succeed in acquiring the new property?

Download link

The game can be downloaded here.

Playing with method: Game design as ethnographic research

The Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology (HU Berlin) hosts Playing with method: Game design as ethnographic research, a series of live-streamed events on 14.1, 28.1 & 11.2.2021

+info: https://hu.berlin/playingwithmethod

Rationale of the workshop

What if in the face of very serious topics we developed conceptual, speculative and material tools, such as games, to find ways of intervening as ethnographers, social scientists or as activists in current design dynamics? 

The series of talks Playing with method wishes to open up a line of inquiry counting on practical examples (be they card, board, performative or video-games) theoretical repertoires, and speculative visions or positional arguments to address the promises and challenges of the ways in which games might be mobilized for different forms and genres of social intervention. 

In spite, or even because of their ludic dimension, we want to explore to what extent games might be capable of altering how we discuss issues, share knowledge, raise awareness, make problems public, imagine futures, and learn to care. Thus, we would like to collectively discuss critically on the contemporary cultural role of games, with the aspiration to ponder how games could redevelop our repertoires of ethnographic representation and intervention; or what vocabularies and considerations might allow us to unfold their full potential as relevant ethnographic or peri-ethnographic genres. 

What is more, we are particularly interested in how games open up a Spielraum (a degree of play) for transgressing the boundaries of academic disciplines and reinventing what research might mean.

Why this workshop now?

In the last years, members of the Stadtlabor for Multimodal Anthropology have been approaching the potentialities and challenges of games as particular platforms or devices for anthropological research / intervention for the real estate crisis in Berlin. In our work not only we have been inspired by the activist/ pedagogic impetus of the Landlord’s Game (anti-monopolistic predecessor of Monopoly), but also by different works around games by social designers, artists and other anthropologists wishing to expand the reach of forms of urban intervention.

The games we have developed are not final products but open prototypes. They are result and method of our research, and work as devices to intervene in urban development processes. As such, they are open to be transformed and re-versioned, so that their specific languages, logics, gameplay, and effects could be adapted to specific situations and concerns of various urban actors.

In collaboration with ZK/U, we have produced a series of games, most centrally featuring House of Gossip, which re-enacts the threat of displacement of tenants from their homes, plunging us into the rumors circulating in a stairway and their truth effects. 

Drawing from our own work, for this series of talks we would like to gather around inspiring examples so as to discuss and discover together how developing games might also impact how we could do social-cultural research: from describing to intervening, from representing to performing (and breaching) reality, thus experimenting with what politics and critique might mean whenever we prototype and play.

Programme

14.1.2021 5-7pm – Urban matters (FB event)

Claudia Hummel (UdK & Spielclub Oranienstraße 25 / nGbK project group)

Tomás Criado & Ignacio Farías (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)

Chaired by Julia Schröder (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)

28.1.2021 6-8pm – Educational matters (FB event)

Judith Ackermann (Fachhochschule Potsdam)

Joe Dumit (UC Davis)

Chaired by Tomás Criado (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)

11.2.2021 5-7pm – Organizational matters (FB event)

Judith Igelsböck (Institut für Organisation, JKU Linz) & Friedrich Kirschner (HFS ‚Ernst Busch‘, Berlin)

Alberto Vanolo (Università degli Studi di Torino)

Chaired by Ignacio Farías (Urban Anthropology, HU Berlin)

[Updated February 2021]