Fields of View is an Indian not-for-profit research organisation, based in Bangalore. It specialises in developing games for policy, focusing on the intersection of culture, technology and social sciences to design new tools for policymakers and people.

Gamifying the Bangalore waste crisis to better understand it

In 2015, Fields of View collaborated with MediaLAB Amsterdam to develop ₹ubbish!, a board game addressing the waste crisis in Bangalore. In recent years, Bangalore’s nickname has shifted from ‘Garden City’ to ‘Garbage City’, with over 3,500 tonnes of waste produced every day and increasing negative socio-economic and environmental impact. The game was inspired by the then-new waste management decentralisation policy, which was failing to be profitable as citizens were either unaware of the existence of new waste collection centres, or simply not using them. The first prototype of the game took about six months to be developed, after the team extensively researched the stakeholders involved in waste management ecosystems and the political background at play.

The game is modelled on real world data, and the mechanics are simple - to provide a powerful lesson to players

In ₹ubbish!, participants play the role of a dry waste collection centre (DWCC) manager, whose mission is to collect and dispose of dry waste and keep the city clean. The waste not collected by players is shipped to landfill. But the landfill site has a limited capacity, and when it becomes full, all players lose the game. If players decide to collaborate and collectively create a DWCC in every city ward, keeping the city clean and controlling the landfill, they all win. The game is modelled on real world data, and the mechanics are simple - to provide a powerful lesson to players. The game gives players - often citizens or policymakers - the opportunity to look at their city’s waste management ecosystem from the point of view of waste collection centre managers and better understand the constraints under which they work, highlighting the importance of cross-stakeholder collaboration to solve the waste crisis.

How games can improve policymaking

₹ubbish! is not Fields of View’s first attempt at using simulation and serious games to solve policy challenges in India. Simulations form an integral part of the agency’s philosophy. There are definitely challenges in developing such approaches in the Indian context, for example, around the collection of good and reliable data to model systems on, but benefits outweigh them. In the Bangalore context, using a game like ₹ubbish! enabled different stakeholder groups to understand each other’s perspectives, eliciting preferences or choices, ultimately facilitating conversations that might not have happened otherwise.What Fields of View hopes to achieve through games like ₹ubbish! is to improve policymaking in India: making it more rapid and flexible, more relevant and linked to the lives of people it affects, and more responsive to the country’s large scale and fast social and economic changes.

Thanks to Sruthi Krishnan from Fields of View for taking the time to speak with us.

Photo: Dry waste collection centre managers from Hasirudala playing Rubbish! Fields of View.​