Last week I filmed a thematic collecting interview with Sumir Tagra and Jiten Thukral at Manchester Museum about a game that they have created called Walk of Life. Tagra and Thukral are artists based in New Delhi in India and they came to Manchester Museum to train Visitor Assistants and volunteers how to play the game so that they can lead sessions with members of the public over the summer.The idea of the Walk of Life is to make people more aware of water conservation issues.
Walk of life is a board game in which up to six players play a number of rounds, moving a boat shaped vessel containing the players’ markers. Each player is given a cup containing a set amount of water. In each round they select ‘Karma’ cards from a pack and act on what the cards say: if the player has done something good for the environment such as planting trees, they receive water credits; if they have used water in an unsustainable way they have to drink a certain quantity of the water in their cup; or the effect may be neutral. Players may draw a card which tells them to spin the roulette wheel which can have negative consequences for that player and the players sitting either side if the wheel indicates there has been a disaster which affects the community’s water supply.
As the game progresses some players may experience a water deficit and if they have credits they can take some water from the communal reservoir held in a decanter on the table. This reservoir is finite and very quickly a point is reached where the supply in the reservoir is no longer sufficient to meet the player’s requirements. In this situation, unless helped by another player, the player ‘in deficit’ has to drop out of the game.
The nice thing about this game is that players can play competitively or collaboratively, in which case there is a greater chance of more players reaching the end of the Walk of Life. The fact that the pieces representing the players are in a boat makes the point that so far as water is concerned we really are all in this together.
In the game I played last Thursday players were trying to support one another and even so only two players made it to the end of the game. This makes you think about our shared dependence on water supplies and our communal interest in ensuring that water supplies are used sustainably. When I interviewed them for Manchester Museum’s thematic collecting project Tagra and Thukral told me they were very encouraged to see that players were implementing some of the actions that resulted in water credits in the game at home: for instance not running the tap when brushing their teeth.
I thought this was a really good way to encourage people to think about the issue of water sustainability in a non-preaching way that is actually a lot of fun. The only thing I would say is that this is the first board game I’ve played where at the end of the game I’ve had to dash off immediately to the loos to spend a penny!