This is the week of the NCAA west and southwest regional championships. March Madness has arrived, and it's all happening for the first time in T-Town.
Expect lots of free-floating excitement, some gonzo kinetics, plenty of extra cars in the downtown and some positive "collateral" national media about Tulsa: attention of the happy kind -- a spotlight that won't focus on our seemingly interminable mayor/council meltdown. As it happens, in a lot of other ways, it really is game week here in Tulsa.
I've been reading a new and fascinating book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change The World. The piece is a lucid, wonderfully written mediation of why humans cotton so strongly to computer/video games, what the underlying neurodynamics of games actually look like -- and this is the great part -- how society can convert our obsession with games into some of the energy we need to solve serious challenges.
The author, Dr. Jane McGonigal, a VP at Palo Alto's Institute for the Future and a game designer, has done lots of work in this new-fangled realm -- a space that some call "serious games."
She says, at one point in the book, that World of Warcraft players have spent almost 6 million years playing this epic multiplayer game. Six million years! McGonigal writes that a host of intriguing trials are already underway on the serious game front; she writes that video and mobile serious games are being employed to create novel incentives and unheard of levels of cooperation. Games, she argues, are being harnessed to secure meaningful progress on a host of trying social policy, health care and commercial objectives.
Electric utility firms, for example, are using serious gaming to incentivize lower energy consumption among customers. Medical folks are using games to secure unheard of patient compliance with exercise, drug therapy and food intake/diet regimes.
But back to the "serious" game in play in Tulsa: Every Tulsan, save those who have been vacationing long term in Antarctica, have witnessed the nastiest, most intractable, most unflattering face-off between a city council and a mayor since the adoption of the mayor/council form in the late '80s. Threats and counter threats, appeals to the Governor, lawsuits and counter suites and mediations have been or are being tried to end this multifaceted dispute.
Why not try some game like, "break out options," which might quickly resolve Tulsa's 18-month tumult?
It would be great, of course, to actually build a multiplayer game and open it up to broad public participation via the web or craft a mobile game app to deal with the City Hall mess, but Tulsa doesn't have the time or the cash. So here are some quick game sets that might come from an actual game play marathon.
In this game set, the entire city council and the Mayor voluntarily submit their resignations, kicking Tulsa into a quick call "general election."
This game mirrors the "no-confidence" option that many parliamentary democracies employ. It's what journalists mean when they say the Hungarian or the Israel government has "fallen." Basically all of our elected officials would concede -- at one go -- that they have failed to find the collective chemistry, the "unit cohesion" needed to get the people's work done and grant Tulsans a fresh start.
Obviously Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. and some or all of the current crew of council members might run for office in the redo election and explain or vindicate themselves, which would be fair enough.
A Partial Reboot
Mayor Bartlett simply quits, triggering a quick-call mayoral contest with Bartlett re-contesting the office's chair. Bartlett could say that he wants the people of Tulsa to have a shot at hearing his best case -- he could campaign as an injured, largely innocent party who has been wronged by a deranged council. The Council would obviously argue otherwise. Other candidates who might enter the race could contest Bartlett's case and argue with him about his performance to date and the road ahead for Tulsa.
Players Council Votes- An Issue Jury/Citizen Commission
In this game, a jury-like process would be used to render a strong advisory judgment on the nature, causes and weight of evidence in the City Hall mess.
The impulse to supplement conventional public hearings and valid, if passive, sample surveys in local citizen engagement practice has sparked a host of imaginative experiments. In some places, elected officials, citizens and agency heads are borrowing the "jury" model, with its random selection regime, multi-day deliberation features and per diem juror payment practices. We could actually draw a jury from the DMV files that are employed for regular jury work in Tulsa. In our case, the mayor and his council opponents would call witnesses and experts to make their case before this special, "high cause" citizen jury. The jury would, say after a day or two of deliberations, render an advisory judgment on the Mayor's future.
It's hard to know what's really going to happen with Tulsa's existential mayor/council face off. Maybe, just maybe, it can help us all think more broadly more imaginatively about conflict resolution and moving Tulsa on to a productive trajectory.
We need to get on a better path -- the last 18 months seems like a very bad adventure in a really banal game.
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