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How to play the Game of Global Futures

In this video, Eben Kirksey and Karin Bolender introduce The Game of Global Futures.
The Game of Global Futures invites you to imagine coalescences, that is, the coming together of unexpected connections. What I want you to do is tell a story that’s both imaginative and plausible, and also search through the offerings from your colleagues and find the very best stories that are being told. And I want you to post these stories to our Facebook page– Environmental Humanities at UNSW. So I’m going to give you a secret mission, and it could be anything from “create a revolution with the coalition of at least two unlikely allies,” or it could be “force the scattering of a group, human or otherwise, that already has health and autonomy in its own territory.”
In addition to the mission, I’m going to give you some image cards, and you can interpret those however you like. So what you’ve got here is a foetus, a tree, and Fidel Castro. What I’ve got is what looks like poppies, a Bible, and a frog. So my mission here is force the scattering of a group, human or otherwise. So what you want to do is of these three images you’ve got, pick one to discard. So in my case, I’m going to discard the poppies. I’ve got a Holy Bible here. I’ve got a frog. I could tell a story that’s way too plausible, like something that’s already happening.
You might also tell a more imaginative story, that’s not about what’s already happening, but a coalescence that could become in the future. So if we were telling these stories amongst ourselves with friends at home, we would be building on your story and creating a shared world. What we’re going to do for this gameplay, though, since you’re uploading videos from your computers, I want you to be listening to other people’s games and building on their worlds, and trying to figure out what their secret missions are. What you want to be doing is creating this shared universe of basically plausible coalescences that are imaginative and that are pushing the bounds of realism and realistic possibility.
Now, let’s try our hands at some storytelling of our own.
In this step, Eben Kirksey and Karin Bolender introduce the Game of Global Futures, an imaginative storytelling exercise that explores the power of connections and coalescences.
The purpose of the game, in the words of game authors Anna Tsing and Elizabeth Pollman, is to explore how “unexpected connections can make new things come into being…Futures of all sorts are forged in the contingencies of strange connections.” Central to gameplay is the creation of what Tsing and Pollman refer to as a “coalescence” — “the historical force that arises from a transformative coming together of disparate groups, institutions, or things” [1]. Consider that a true coalescence or coming together of two elements should leave both elements transformed.
We invite you to play the game to practice your storytelling skills and create imaginative narratives to help rethink our collective global futures.
To play the game, you will first be given a secret mission, such as: “Create a revolution with a coalition of at least two unlikely allies” or “Force the scattering of a group (human or otherwise) that currently has health and autonomy in its own territory.” Then you will be asked to tell stories — pushing the bounds of realism and realistic possibility — that accomplish the goal.

Some examples

For an example of a story in the Game of Global Futures, watch this video uploaded by Anne Maree Kreller, an Environmental Humanities student at UNSW Australia.
Other stories by UNSW students in Environmental Humanities, including a follow up story by Anne, are on our Facebook page.

Ready to play?

In the next step, you can take a turn at playing the game.


  1. Anna Tsing and Elizabeth Pollman, “Global Futures: The Game,” in Histories of the Future, eds., Daniel Rosenberg and Susan Harding (Durham: Duke UP, 2005): 107-122.
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