Home of Day and Night

Collaborator: Linru Wang

Competition entry: Human Kind after COVID-19, by the ARK

Home of Day and Night is a proposal for a strategy game for people in the pre-COVID era that prophecies a future where COVID-19 is normalized and the city routinely flips between the State of Stability and the State of Instability. Situated in Picun, a district in Beijing outskirts with diverse migrant populations, the game world is afflicted by periodic outbreaks of COVID-19, which if left unchecked will gradually infect more free-flowing people.

There are four groups of people who exhibit very different behavioral patterns due to their varying socioeconomic statuses and occupations – the Affluent, the 996, Essential Workers and Migrant Workers. Different groups respond to the lockdown order differently. For instance, the 996’s mobility is sensitive to lockdown but Essential Workers’ mobility even increases after lockdown.

You, the gamer, are an NPC Deputy and you choose the group that you represent. You can order any area to be quarantined or locked down – to restrict mobility of residents in the area – which will cause infection rate to drop but lead to economic loss in the trade-off. You have many action options: to quarantine or lockdown select areas, to relocate people, or to subsidize companies; each decision requires consideration on the cost and benefit. You win if you contain the spreading and maximize the benefit of your represented group.

All the buildings are supported by columns on a free plan, so doors control mobility. You can quarantine or lock down selected areas by operating the doors of that area. In the game scenario, the Essential Workers and Migrant Workers live in an underground grid field settlement where the opening and closing of the doors is vital to the flexible spatial organization. Service programs are distributed in the center of these grid fields. The 996 live in multi-story pivot apartments that revolve around a central spiral staircase, and each unit has a narrow private entry that minimizes shared space. The Affluent live in large units on the top of these hybrid buildings, each distanced from the other, with a penthouse that provides social space for their families.

This is more than an adult playground, but a space of thought experiment, an alternative social world where a society is exposed to sporadic, emergent pandemic breakouts and as a product born in the post-COVID age it provides pre-pandemic people the lens to envision their tumultuous future.

As James P. Carse posits in Finite and Infinite Games, the purpose of the finite game is to win, while the purpose of the infinite game’s goal is to continue on. The Home of Day and Night tests logic and strategizing intelligence and continues on perpetually in a dystopic alternative reality where pandemic always revisits in a mutated form. Through the process of playing deputies that represent different classes, the player will gradually learn to empathize with different people who may be completely different from the player in reality. The game helps the player to build empathy, especially the understanding of how different groups experience the emergency differently during the actual pandemic of the present day, as a present world becomes increasingly separated and apathetic.

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