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A game platform for social transformation

Actualizado: 2 ene 2020

On October 26, 2019, I conducted the workshop: From Scarcity to Abundance at ITESO University in Guadalajara, Mexico. ITESO is part of the network of Jesuits Universities in America. Participants of the workshop were teachers and students, both seekers-practitioners of social innovation and social justice under ITESO´s PAP program. The ITESO´s PAP program is a network of teachers and students from multiple backgrounds, vocations and professional careers, that collaborate with diverse actors of society in order to develop alternative solutions to fulfil societies needs in relation to common problems. This program is inspired by the Society of Jesus for students to experience solidarity, while connecting with diverse sectors and members of society, with special preference to the oppressed and the poor. The program is designed to develop critical thinking through the exposure to knowledge and realities beyond the academic world, and to engage participants to design and update curricula focusing on fulfilling and generating a better life for themselves and others. And finally to create a practice for the universal good.

The workshop

The goal of the workshop is to explore how emotional readiness may be a potential mediator for individual and social well-being. Emotional readiness refers to readiness and willingness to achieve a more general emotional change in relation to the environment (Zembylas, Kendeou, Michaelidou, 2011) — For example to become involved in educational efforts to pursue social change, sustainability, and social justice through social innovation.

The workshop premise is that inequality and the scarcity mind are the structural forces, and a cultural feature that affect (through an attitude) individual well-being and may interfere with human relationships, particularly affecting acceptance and confidence, therefore collaboration, co-creation, and social well-being.

The workshop is conceived as a learning experience, and will be conducted as social pre-experimental design; learning cannot occur without experience (Morris, 2019). Through a game, I am facilitating a convivial experience (Maturana, 2013; Illich, 1973) or in terms by Deleuze and Guattari (2016), a game experience based on the Desiring Revolution.

The Game

In preparation for the game, through a guided meditation and a breathing exercise participants are lead by the facilitator to be aware of their bodies. The goal is that the participants learn to visualise and embody their needs and desires. Recent findings from cognitive sciences suggest that embodiment is an essential part of fostering a learner’s deep conceptual understanding (Kiefer & Trumpp, 2012).

Before playing the game, and as a pretest, participants visualise an important need, reflect on the their intimate feelings, and describe them in terms of the particular emotion that emerges. Second, after the meditation is complete, participants record each visualised need, the associated emotion, and the intensity of the emotion in a self report chart using a scale from 1 to 7, where 7 is the highest intensity. Thirdly, they position their game figure on the board classifying their emotions on a four quadrants chart. This chart includes a majority of emotions, moods or state of beings as follows: 1. The enthusiasm quadrant, in response to confidence for the future, and foreseeing possibilities, characterised by hope / motivation / excitement / determination / resolution. 2. The joy and peace quadrant, as a response for acceptance and confidence in the present, characterised by peace / serenity / content / joy / happiness / love. 3. The anxiety quadrant as response to expectations, self exigency and emotional attachment; when we experience lack of confidence in the future (Maturana, 2013); characterised by worries / timidity / fear / stress / anguish / anxiety / terror. 4. The pain quadrant, either physical or psychological, as a response to present pain or emotional resentment from the past, characterised by pain / frustration / sadness / anger / resentment.

Figure 1 Emotional Model Chart, Based on The Ancient Greek Stoic School of Thought presents this visually.

To start the game, first participants choose an animal of power, a small figure that will represent them on the game board. Second, participants are divided in two teams, each team must define the domains of life for their reflection during the game. Domains of life are any dimension of life that people want to explore during the game, examples of domains of life are: work, money, family, health, sex, gaming, environment, partner, territory, vocation, etc. Rounds of embodiment, reflection and positioning are conducted randomly, at each player´s turn by throwing the dice.

In the first round of embodiment, before they position their figure on the game board, participants are asked to fill a self report and group report sheet. Then each participant one by one, positions him or her self on the board, and shares their reflection about the experience. The objetive of the game is that in the same round, every participant experiences well-being, positioning his or her figure in quadrant 2; this should mean that all players are experiencing the present moment at ease, accepting, and feeling in confidence with the present moment.

Through participant´s experiences, reflections and discussions on the chosen themes, and the report of their affect or emotional well-being, our fundamental human condition emerges, helping participants to be in the present state of empathy, mutuality and equality, this general mood encourages curiosity, it is in our nature to want to know more about ourselves, and to find out how every one can experiment well-being at the same time.

After several rounds, participants get a change to access “magic cards”. These cards provide insights to either transform their emotion or learn how to deconstruct needs. The cards can be considered a treatment of the experimental design, the insights that they provide are based on the ontology of language (Echeverría, 2008) and cultural-biology (Maturana & Dávila, 2004) .

Finally, after all players position themselves on the second quadrant of the board, the first part of the game concludes. The second half of the game consist of a group discussion to debrief the experience and evaluate what we all had learned by being self-aware towards individual (each player) and social well-being (all the players).

Data Generation and Analysis

In the sections that follow, I am using Delueze and Guattari (1987, 1977)´s Desiring concept and post-structural* theories of discourse and speech analysis to illustrate the intervention at ITESO and to answer the question: ´How do people experience self-confidence ?´

*Poststructuralism believes that there are no 'ready-made' objects such as social structures. Rather, social objects are constituted in and through discourse, which implies that they do not have any essence, nature or logic independently of the meaning system in which they emerge (Merlingen, 2013).


In opposition to the lack, an idea carefully cultivated and nurtured through the notions of scarcity, poverty, and needs to induce consumerism, in desiring, there is no lack. Desire expresses the creative and vital force of being human; we are “desiring machines” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1977;1987). Expansion, connectedness and integration of life domains are performed through desiring. We are embodied desires and navigate through desires, creating and expanding the world we live in and the world we want to live in by desiring. Desire brings the joy, flow and freedom to life. Possibility is always meet through desire and the sense of present of future well-being. In Spanish well-being, means “bien-estar”, to be in good spirit, to feel good. “Estar-bien” means to live the present moment at peace with the past, absent from the uneasiness of the lack. Furthermore, bien-estar means to be free and able to move in tune with the creative force of desire. Desiring expands possibilities interconnecting past and future in unity with the present.

Desiring and Play

Through culture we had learn to anticipate and plan for the future, to focus on the outcomes. Anticipation is an ability, such as creativity. However, the downside of anticipation is that we become “blind¨ of the process, we miss the present, there is simply to much future, we forget to play and everything is about effort.

This game is designed to identify emotions originated by mentalities and thoughts based on scarcity. While we are playing, where we want to be, we are in a safe space, and we could perfectly be at peace, having fun and full of joy. However, when we anticipate, it is very common that we project our fears and pains by reflecting, embodying and feeling needs or desires. What does that tell us about the way we live? The lack is self-absence, emptiness, an illusion, fragmentation that make us feel incomplete, we experience the lack, when we are grounded in the past or the future in disconnection with the present, the lack make us search but also suffer, the lack is division, and can be a misleading guiding force. Platonic logic of desire forces us to make a choice between production and acquisition. From the moment that we place desire on the side of acquisition, we make desire an idealistic (dialectical, nihilistic) conception, which causes us to look upon it as primarily a lack: a lack of an object (Deleuze & Guattari 1987). Lack can be a small delirium or a profound esquizofrenia. The scarcity mindset is a deceiving mechanism that operates as a negative anticipation to unwanted outcomes. This unconsciously triggers fear in individuals. An undesired emotional ground for human relationships as fear obscures relationships, and limits possibilities among fellow human beings, blocking creativity, compassion and solidarity. The game From Scarcity to Abundance is an experience about love and fear dialectics, however all fear during the game is an illusion.

Gaming session

Participants start the game by choosing their animal of power and the themes or domains they want to explore in relation to their own well-being. Two teams of 4 people each, were assembled to decide the dimensions or domains for the game. The following themes were selected: Sara´s team suggested environment and family; Esperanza suggested social justice and profesional growth, and Carlos and his team suggested human development and finance. I suggested spirituality and both teams agreed to include that dimension as part of the game. For each domain we assigned a number from 1 to 7, so that at the thrown of dice each theme could appear randomly.

The goal of the game is that all participants experience well-being at the same time, particularly searching that all experience peace, joy or happiness in the present moment. After several rounds Sara, Carlos, Esperanza and 4 more players visualised, embodied and anticipated the fulfilment of relevant needs associated with different domains in life. As they recorded individual and collective outcomes they noticed that is not easy to be in well-being, and that is really hard that all participants coincide. Also they noticed collective patterns of pain and fear, associated with social justice and finance for example. After 3 hours of playing, and when the workshop was about to end, it was unprovable that we could finished the game in the peace quadrant. Then I decided to share a “magic card” and give the following advise for their next reflection: Every need can be transformed into a desire, all need fundamentally depend on the desire of well-being. Desire is not bolstered by needs, but rather the contrary; needs are derived from desire (Deleuze & Guattari, 1977).

Finally, Sara thrown the dice for the last round, and the domain of spirituality appear for the first time. Suddenly and one by one, move their figure to the peace quadrant. An awe moment invaded the room. When participants shared their experiences, I noticed that the tone of voice changed when they shared their experience:

Esperanza was the first one:

For me spirituality… I express my spirituality through social values… justice, liberty, fellowship… I participate actively in communities, therefore I feel proud at level 7 (the maximum level of the chart). Yes, I am proud for collaborating in community projects.

After three more players, Sara shared her experience:

I position my self on pride too. This is something that I like a lot about my self, and that it has to do a lot with the Ignatian. I believe that I was working this part of my self for a long time, way before I meet Ignatian Spirituality. However for me it was very very important to start to work, for me spirituality implies personal work - I don't want to say discipline because it may sound strong - the discipline of being in silence, of start to recover every moment of my life… to be brave touching and working the wounds of my life, and to feel all the emotions down in the chart: frustration, panic, terror, anger… all of them and every single one of them… and from that be able to express my enlightened side, I believe that is what makes me more proud.

One of my fears of finishing College is to step out of the spiritual community that I am part of and we meet every Tuesday and Wednesday… I mean I have a community and suddenly that will end, I was very fearful about that, but just in this silence of the last days, I have come to realise that I am capable of doing it, and that makes me feel very proud about my self. And that is it.

Carlos was the last to share his experience:

It catches my attention, that when you took out the magic card… something really interesting happened, uh, I felt that I went from being passive… a spectator, to being an active subject.When you are only examining your feelings, it doesn't matter which feeling, your are passive, is as if you cannot do anything about it, you are only watching, suffering from it. But when you say, come on now, match a “magic card” with desire, it does not matter the feeling, what matters is what you are gonna do with it, what are you willing to do with it, and that I believe is a radical change. If people could do this exercise with every feeling, every day, I truly believe that this can change any person life, if she or he is conscience. This happened to me… Well, I feel spirituality, and truly I feel very good, but when I change or made the match I arrived to love… I changed… what I want and desire with spirituality is to overflow, that is what I feel.

As I heard the voice recordings of Carlos, Esperanza and Sara, over and over again, I cannot stop thinking on the small silences, the pauses and hesitations, as they are searching for words, but also stoping to feel and grasp more clearly their personal experience. Sometimes remembering, others capturing a moment to fully express it. This pauses make think of the different flows and the interconnectivity of desiring, and how participants might be reterritorializing experiences, passages and other relationships that might be obstructing their bodies from desiring.

For Sara, spirituality was the relationship with her deepest self. She recognised her desire to be the best version of herself and that make Sara accept and recognise her self:

“I position my self on pride too. This is something that I like a lot about my self ”

She also acknowledged her courage to connect with pain and negative emotions. The strength of Sara comes when she is able to connect with her deepest emotions in silence and be ready to face the world. I believe this to be a source of confidence. When she reflected on her identity as a student, the identity that is about to change as she enters professional life. Uncertainty was around the corner, however when she reflected on her abilities and hard work to practice silence (probably meditation), she was sure that she will be all right, even if she is away from her spiritual community. For Sara, self confidence, was recognised when she accepted her ability to produce spirituality by her own means.

“ I have come to realise that I am capable of doing it, and that makes me feel very proud about my self ”

In her narration, the lack of a community was the lack of spirituality, and that trigger fear and being worry about losing her community. Every time desire is betrayed, cursed, uprooted from its field of immanence, a priest is behind it. The priest cast the triple curse on desire: the negative law, the extrinsic rule, and the transcendent ideal (Deleuze & Guattari,1987). When she noticed her competence and acknowledge her transformation by connecting the flow of desiring, she felt very proud.

As I hear Esperanza voice recording, I notice a particularity in her rhythm, she calculates her words, her sentences are final, complete, for example, she shared with us a concept of spirituality very close to the jesuit´s concept of social justice, she is committed to knowledge, and the ideas of the liberation of the poor. This trait makes me think of certainty, and how she reflects security in her words, and how she felt proud of her self. For me Esperanza finds confidence comes from knowing, from certainties and the things that she accepts as universal or true.

Carlos´s insights shows a real transformation by undertaking desire as the creative energy for transformation, in accordance with Delueze and Guattari´s desiring.

"Match a magic card with desire, it does not matter the feeling, what matters is what you are gonna do with it, what are you willing to do with it, and that I believe is a radical change"

For Carlos self-confidence comes from acknowledging that he is not a victim of the lack, on the opposite when he recognises his desires, all possibilities are at hand:

I feel spirituality, and truly I feel very good, but when I change or made the match I arrived to love… I changed… what I want and desire with spirituality is to overflow, that is what I felt.

Conclusions and Final Note

As we explore the spirituality conversation (originally in Spanish and translated for this document), I had noticed that it is a very interesting domain, it might be for most people a meta-domain, this is a domain that includes all human dimensions. Spirituality is constructed by the relationship that we make from our inner world, to the outer world. There is desire whenever there is relation or another; a phenomenon of physical, biological, psychic, social, or cosmic matter (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987). Spirituality includes all, ones and others desires, fears, hopes and pains. Our spirituality is built in the relation that we have with certainties and more important with uncertainties. I noticed through Carlos, Esperanza and Sara that when we are at peace in relation to our uncertainties, that is an expression of self-confidence; also self-confidence maybe built out of past experiences such as abilities, knowledge, capacities that become certainties that secure the fulfilment of our desires and needs. Finally like Carlos, self-confidence can be a more permanent state, as he came to appreciate desire. Desiring is an affirmative vital force, a force for transformation. Desire is what makes human humanity (Gao, 2013).

Final Note

I found my self through the narrative of this document introducing three persons, each with rich and complex life histories. Personal life and motivations that are imposible for me to fully understand, and by all means cannot be reduced in any article. It is me who is projecting his own ideas, believes and desires through this narrative. It is my own experience talking. I cannot pose as a social scientist without recognising that my own worldview is present. That it is me on the narrative, and deciding on the nuances of translation, as an observer trying to find answers and my own voice.


Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1977) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen Lane, New York: Penguin Classics.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Gao, J. (2013). Deleuzes Conception of Desire. Deleuze Studies, 7(3), 406–420. doi: 10.3366/dls.2013.0120

Frances Moore Lappé (2013) Beyond the scarcity scare: reframing the discourse of hunger with an eco-mind, The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40:1, 219-238, DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2012.708859

Zembylas, Kendeou, Michaelidou (2011). The Emotional Readiness of Greek Cypriot Teachers for Peaceful Co-existence: European Journal of Education, Vol. 46, No. 4, On becoming a teacher: a lifelong process (December 2011), pp. 524-539

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