Chcem byť v dome

Chcem byť v dome
(I want to be in the house)

Chcem byť v dome/ I want to be in the house
That was the slogan of one Slovak 'Big Brother' style reality show. An extravagant millionaire couple invited a group of chosen people to live for a short time in their decadent villa in the focus of TV cameras. The last person whose manners pleased the millionaire couple and the audience the most got two million crowns to start his own new millionaire's life.
Like in the TV show, which is clearly a show but in a sense a game, we took the question of occupying/taking a house – a living space - as a game. But we kept always in mind, that it might be for some people an actual bitter reality. Our main interest was, how to unite different groups of people with different needs and realities in one place that, on top of it, is a constantly precarious space. An old, open, half run-down and abandoned house. How do these people have to deal with each other and their environment to 'be in the house'?
In the game we included the question of how marginalized people restore and create living spaces, what various means they are using to fulfill their various needs and which interactions they have to manage on a daily basis. Departing partially from the interviews we did with homeless people in autumn 2009 in Bratislava (see the article about it in this publication), partially from experiences of workshop participants and partially from outcomes of our discussion processes in our working group, we tried to transform these inputs into parameters of an interactive board game simulating living in an abandoned house that actually truly exists in the city part of Trnavka in Bratislava.
We chose the form of a game to deal with the question of living and precarious groups, because we want to make this topic accessible to a wider group of people and believe that a game can trigger discussions in a better way than an article. It also put us in front of a bundle of questions that one would not consider probably when having secured housing and living situations.
The monopoly-like table game is also a metaphor to the way of living of people from precarious groups, for who the factor of (un)luck plays a role in their day to day survival. The game has a strong interactive component which demands players to identify themselves with the character they draw. The characters are based on different groups in society, who lack space for living or – in times of crisis – are threatened to loose them for one reason or the other.

The game
The game is split up into a main board and several sub-boards (one per room). The rooms of the house and the character, one will impersonate, are drawn randomly. Each room has certain starting parameters. In addition each character has certain needs, to which the parameters of the room have to be adjusted throughout the game.
These parameters are met by enhancing your room through “Item Cards”. Items are acquired by going through the start field on the board, or by certain “Action Cards”, by stealing, lucky interactions or other occurrences. But these item cards are constantly threatened by events and actions, that can limit the amount of your item cards (storm, police raid, fire,....). These actions are either drawn in the form of action cards, or appear on the board as fields that you can hit.
For example, it is important that in winter your room has a certain heat level, otherwise you have to move to the shelter or you are threatened that you would freeze to death, if this is not the case.
The game ends after five rounds are played and the players try to adjust their rooms to meet their needs. The ending scenario and amount of winners is partially open and may vary.
On the following pages you can find (example) layouts of the main board, the subboards, the character, item and action cards. The house and rooms in the pictures of the boards are parts of a truly existing abandoned house in the city part of Trnávka in Bratislava. We are still working on a prototype of the game, which we plan to finish by winter 2010.