Testing Generosity

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Yesterday I tested a game exercise I developed called Generosity with students in Tom Seager’s Sustainability Ethics class at ASU. Generosity is a card game in which characters help fulfill each other’s needs with value that they have so that the players are free to do amazing things.

This is about the fifth time I’ve tested the game. Some consistent insights have emerged from the tests:

1. At the beginning of the game, some players struggle to fill out their “need” cards while others have a hard time filling out their “value” cards.

2. Throughout the game, players realize value that they didn’t know they had. (This is my favorite insight)

3. Players gain empathy for each other as they play the game and they reframe their value or create new value to align with other player’s needs.

4. Some players take on a “connector” role and help other players identify need-value matches that are hard to see.

5. Players shift their definitions of “generosity” from an act that is altruistic to one that has mutual benefits.

6. After the game, players incorporate the “matching needs with values” mechanic into their conversations.

A unique insight that came out yesterday was that brain chemistry plays an important role in being generous. Humans have a need for dopamine and oxytocin that can drive us to provide value to others. An interesting question that emerged from this insight was “Is the need for dopamine or oxytocin enough of a value exchange or can/should we evolve to create even richer value by being aware of  brain chemistry rewards?”

I don’t know the answer to that one, but it’s fun to think about. I truly enjoy listening to the conversations that this game inspires people to engage in. Thank you Sustainability Ethics students. The value of your engagement fulfills my need to understand how we can be more generous with each other.

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