A bird’s eye view: This board game is co-designed by Bengaluru ecologist

Co-designed by city-based ecologist Priti Bangal, this board game offers a window into the world of our feathered friends in Bengaluru
Priti Bangal and Prasad Sandbhor at a playtesting session of Birds in the City.
Priti Bangal and Prasad Sandbhor at a playtesting session of Birds in the City.

BENGALURU: In the bustling city of Bengaluru, a new board game is taking flight, aiming to capture the imagination of board game enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Birds in the City is a new board game designed by city-based ecologist Priti Bangal in collaboration with game designer Prasad Sandbhor, exploring the relationship between urbanisation and its effects on the avian population in the city. Bangal, who has spent a decade studying bird behaviour, says her PhD research laid the foundation for this innovative game. “When I was working on mixed-species flocks, we worked on a game centered around this phenomenon in forest birds. When we played it with various people, they asked us if they could play this with birds that they see around them, everyday. The idea of this game was born in these conversations,” she adds.

Birds in the City focuses on common birds in Bengaluru, a city that has undergone significant urbanisation. The game which is set to be released by the end of April, has already generated buzz in the city’s vibrant board game community. Players can spot the 10 different species featured in the game, mirroring the city’s real avian population. “If you’re to look out into your backyard, you would surely see at least a handful of species that are in the game,” shares Bangal. Sandbhor’s expertise in applied game design, combined with his current PhD research on applied games as tools for climate action sense-making, brings depth to the game. “We call our initiative ‘Play in Nature’ and as a part of it, we look at how we can bring out the play that exists in nature to people through games and other playful artefacts,” says Sandbhor.

Aligning with this initiative, the game is also a tool for understanding and engaging with urban ecology. It is a collaborative effort where players work together against the backdrop of a rapidly-changing Bengaluru. “In the last 20 years, the city has changed a lot and the game features events associated with those changes. While the city changes, the game equips players to take various actions. These actions help in bringing resources to the city that birds need to thrive and survive in the city,” explains Sandbhor. He further adds that the game provides a bird’s-eye view of the city, inviting players to see the world through the eyes of these avian inhabitants, saying, “You’re looking at the city from a bird’s point of view: where do they find certain resources, what sort of habitats they prefer within various localities of the city. The players have agency to take actions that enable them to bring more birds into the city and to make the city more and more diverse.”

Talking about challenges, Bangal shares that funding was a major hurdle. “During the experience of developing the first game, when we were done working on the concept, we were stuck because we had no budget to manufacture the game. This time, we took a different approach and found a grant opportunity by the Bangalore Sustainability Forum. We have also learnt to think about the practical aspects of how to complete an idea to put it out there,” she says.

Sandbhor adds that the other challenge is ‘to convey the key information that you have while keeping it interesting to play’. To deepen the understanding, a companion book is also in the works, which aims to detail the ecological nuances and bird species featured in the game, enhancing the educational value of the gameplay.

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