“The Situation Room” is an immersive experience in which visitors face complex questions and difficult choices. Visitors take on the role of ‘The Catastrophe Citizens’ Assembly’ and react to emergency scenarios through role play, gaming, voting, and discussion. ‘The Catastrophe Citizens’ Assembly’ must debate scientific, logistical, and ethical issues surrounding risks and threats to the survival of the human race, and the continued existence of life on Earth.
Name: The Situation Room
Partner organization: Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin
Authors: Science Gallery Dublin Production
Aims: To create a comfortable environment for visitors to discuss difficult topics through organised facilitation, play, debate and humour.
Time: The interaction lasts approximately 40 minutes.
Original Context: “The Situation Room” was created for an exhibition at Science Gallery Dublin called ‘IN CASE OF EMERGENCY’ in 2017. This exhibition discussed themes of survivalism, archiving, futurism, space travel and extinction events. ‘The Situation Room’ was an interactive gameplay experience for groups, designed to introduce the themes of the exhibition and engage in dialogue with visitors.
Group: The interaction was available to audiences of all ages. Six people could participate at any one time, and the interaction lasted approximately 40 minutes.
Resources needed: “The Situation Room” was an interactive game designed by a number of individuals. The set up included a large projector and audio system, and a panel for each player. The game itself used a decision tree presentation with several options and a voting system.
Considerations: The conversation in which participants engage can be difficult for some. All the scenarios are speculative although very much founded in real world issues such as natural disasters, pandemics and socio-economic matters. Therefore, context framing and strong facilitation skills are a necessity.
Potential application/ adaptation: “The Situation Room’s” gameplay style has very effective scalability. The main goal of ‘The Situation Room’ is to introduce participants to topics with which they may not be familiar and promote dialogue. It challenges participants to think about their decision and they must collaborate to find the best solution. Once they solve one problem they must solve a new problem based on their previous decision This type of gameplay is perfect for workshops, icebreakers, or exhibitions. The timing can be scaled from 40 minutes to shorter or longer depending on the complexity of the questions and the design of the decision tree.
“The Situation Room” is an immersive experience in which visitors take the role of ‘The Catastrophe Citizens’ Assembly’ in order to interrogate complex emergency scenarios and face difficult decisions. Through role play, gaming, voting, and discussion, ‘The Catastrophe Citizens’ Assembly’ debates scientific, logistical, and ethical issues surrounding risks and threats to the survival of the human race, and the continued existence of life on Earth.
Six members of the public are asked to enter ‘The Situation Room’ accompanied by a mediator who takes the role of a gamesmaster. Members of the public take the role of a fictional governmental advisory commission known as ‘The Catastrophe Citizens Assembly’. Here they have to respond to world emergencies such as a global pandemic, a Tsunami disaster, or a water shortage.
Part 1: Cards for Humanity
When participants first enter they are introduced to an ice-breaker game known as “Cards for Humanity”. This begins by the gamesmaster showing a prompt card with an incomplete statement. The six players use their ‘player-cards’ to complete the statements. The most logical (or sometimes comical) response as determined by the group wins the round. The winner after six rounds gains the title of ‘President’. This title gives the player control over the choices made by the ‘Catastrophe Citizens Assembly’, and allows them to veto choices other players make and to have the final decision.
Part 2: The Catastrophe Citizens Assembly
The gamesmaster presents the group with a description of an emergency such as a virus outbreak, tsunami disaster, or water shortage. The group is then presented with two options A or B. They have six seconds to make a decision and vote. Individual players vote anonymously. The group then deliberates amongst themselves, to either go with the majority vote or change their decision, with the President having the deciding vote. Players then see the consequences of their action and are presented with another option A or B. Players make their way through a decision tree and debate ethical, scientific, and logistical issues over the course of ‘The Situation Room’.
The aim of ‘The Situation Room’ is to provide a safe and comfortable space for visitors to be introduced to sensitive topics, with which they may not have experience, through a mix of humour, play and debate. ‘The Situation Room’ provides a safe space, context, and props for exploring novel and difficult topics. The presence of a mediator/gamesmaster/facilitator ensures a platform for equity of voice, allowing all participants to contribute in the way they wish. ‘The Situation Room’ takes place inside a gallery and can function as a frame for the visitors’ experiences. It can either introduce the topics the visitors are about to explore in the gallery, or it can function as a tool where they can test the knowledge they have previously acquired. ‘The Situation Room’ is scalable to the visitor’s background and experience. Visitors may try and solve the problems presented to them at face value, or they can dig deeper and explore more advanced questions such as: “What if what’s best for you and your family isn’t best for humanity or for another species?”
‘The Situation Room’ is a very scalable interaction, both in terms of complexity and method of delivery. The emergencies, and the decisions can be altered to focus on different topics. Although it works best in person, it can be used online. It can also be used at various stages of a workshop such as at the beginning as an ice-breaker or at the end to reflect on acquired knowledge.
‘The Situation Room’ was co-created with several research, teacher and student groups including Junior Cycle Teacher CPD trainers, Trinity Biomedical Science Institute (TBSI), the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geoscience(ICRAG) and the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI).
Evaluation of ‘The Situation Room’ was done through a public survey. Questions addressed the visitors’ experience of Science Gallery Dublin generally rather than ‘The Situation Room’ specifically. Visitors were free to enter “The Situation Room”as they wished. Over 25% commented that “The Situation Room” was the most “stand out and enjoyable experience” of the exhibition.