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Robin Resch: "This is not the devil's stuff"

Robin Resch: "This is not the devil's stuff"
Photo: © Julien Menand

What can the working world learn from a game? And how can art be used conceptually and playfully in a way that ultimately benefits an entire society? Robin Resch simply can't get such questions out of his head. He has been working on solutions for years: He is part of the Berlin urban art association Urban Dialogues and is currently developing 40 games in four different countries in a team of experts with the EU project Labour Games. We awarded Robin and the Labour Games with the #berlinsbest seal and met the cultural manager in his Berlin studio.



CCB Magazine: Hello Robin, experimentally it looks like here. You are involved with the game industry but also with future issues. Is there a game that you can currently recommend?

Robin Resch: Oh yes, there are some. My current favorite is Your Super Power.

CCB Magazine:What is that?

Robin Resch: Your Super Power is a card game with 32 cards. On each card there is a kind of short description, a character disposition. You always have to decide between two cards, to the question what applies more to you: am I one or the other? The card that does not apply, you put back. And the card that's left at the end, after you've gone through all 32 cards, that's your superpower. It's your psychogram. 

CCB Magazine:And that says something?

Robin Resch: Yes, it does. That doesn't mean that you should or have to believe everything one-to-one. But it's a good orientation that helps you to structure yourself and also to learn something about yourself.

Robin Resch in conversation with Creative City Berlin, Photo: © Urban Dialogues

CCB Magazine:You are part of the Berlin urban art association Urban Dialogues and are currently implementing the EU-funded project Labour Games. Could you explain what Urban Dialogues is, how you came up with it and what Labour Games is all about?

Robin Resch: Urban Dialogues is a conglomerate of cultural activists, artists and culture makers, which deals with issues related to cultural education, artistic research and, for some time now, has been intensively involved in the future world of work. We have existed since 1998 and have about 15 members. I joined a few years ago. Actually, I come from Frankfurt am Main, I studied international cultural management and then ended up at the Weißensee School of Art - where I did a master's degree in spatial strategies. And there it was also about researching art in context, about the connection between artistic work and scientific practice. It was this approach that brought me to Urban Dialogues. It just hasn't left me to explore how artistic thinking can be applied and depicted in real contexts - away from categories. With Urban Dialogues we have implemented numerous projects on urban transformation processes over the years. Labour Games is our current project. It has a budget of 400,000 euros, about half of which is funded by the EU and part by the Berlin Senate of Culture.

I couldn't stop exploring how artistic thinking can be applied and depicted in real contexts - far away from categories

CCB Magazine:Who is involved and what is your goal?

Robin Resch: In addition to us, the communication agency is also on board, the H.A.B.I.T. Research Group from the University of Athens, the Open State Foundation from Amsterdam and European Alternatives, a kind of pan-European political youth organization from Rome. And we all ask ourselves the question: How do games affect society? What can society learn from games?

CCB Magazine:So, what is your answer?

Robin Resch: That is what we are trying to find out. But let's not kid ourselves: Digitization is progressing, and there is no stopping it. Is that bad? No. We just have to find solutions. And we are working on that.

Photo: © Urban Dialogues

CCB Magazine:What are the solutions?

Robin Resch: We ask ourselves the following questions: How can we transfer things and mechanisms from the world of games to the world of work? What can we learn from them? And, of course, vice versa. What can games take away from the analog world? Games are often demonized. They are dismissed as pointless games, but they have a lot to do with reality, it's not just a pastime. A young person spends an average of 10,000 hours playing games up to the age of 20. About as many hours as with education. Games have a relevance in our lives, and it's not getting any less. But they have almost no relevance in leading institutions and the educational system. This is where we start.

CCB Magazine:And how?

Robin Resch: In Hamburg, for example, we are currently working with the Kampnagel Theater and various schools to install processes that can be developed through play as forms of learning in a theater. So how can we transfer what happens and works in games to the real world? For example, that students work together with drama educators and game developers to develop a game that ultimately creates a practical learning process - and that in turn comes to the theater as a presentation format.

In a game you always develop further. Once you have solved the first problem, the next level comes. This can also be transferred to the real world. We call this CV support through game experience

CCB Magazine:And that works?

Robin Resch: Sure! This gives those involved a completely new learning experience, and they combine the analog with the digital, so barriers are also broken down. This is where we are currently also starting with Labour Games: In a three-year process, we are initiating five phases of implementation. We call these, in the sense of a game, levels.

CCB Magazine:What levels are these?

Robin Resch: We are currently in Level 2, and in Level 1 we have already completed the Un-Conference, which took place at the Impact Hub Berlin. Almost 100 people from 10 countries were there! The special thing about the Un-Conference is that there is no existing program. This means that you come to a conference and don't know what to expect. At the Un-Conference there were gamers, labor market experts, artists, scientists, makers, people from politics, the start-up world, sociologists and so on. This results in completely new interactions that one had not expected before.

CCB Magazine:What happens in the other phases? And what comes out in the end?

Robin Resch: We do not know yet. But solutions are being developed in which we believe. Level 2 is the artistic research phase we are currently in. Here we work out the more precise questions, then we summarize the results, this is level 3. In the next level we start so-called game-jams, which are events with more than 100 people in a place where game concepts are developed together within 48 hours. And these are then presented and tested in the next phase. Over the course of one year, 40 games are to be developed that can help society - that is Level 5.

The biggest mistake of culture is to believe that culture has nothing to do with economics. In this respect, it is precisely in the domain of the economy that we must intervene. This is where the true transformation process takes place

CCB Magazine:You are presenting here a very optimistic picture of the effectiveness of games. The opposite side is: Acceleration society (Hartmut Rosa), the dissolution of boundaries between work and life, permanent availability, digital burnout. Don't you talk things up a bit?

Robin Resch: But what would be the alternative? Should we run away? There is simply no other choice than to face the technological development. And games can help. Just recently I played a game about the future of the European economy. It was a board game where you had to go through scenarios of how the European economy will develop - in the stages 2010, 2030, 2050. There were five players - a public policy maker, a local policy maker, a press person, someone from the NGO sector and a person from the business world. In addition there was a game master who moderated the game. The game master created scenarios of what could happen and then you had to act on them - for example as a politician. You have to make things work, and everyone else plays along. The press then asks: What kind of crap are you doing and if you can't argue plausibly, you won't get to the next level. During the game, there are always extremely interesting changes of perspective and serious arguments that make the complexity of the subject matter immediately apparent. Such games can help you to understand complex systems by means of a game and at the same time are great fun!

Photo: © Urban Dialogues

CCB Magazine:That sounds like you should avoid mistakes. Isn't it also healthy to make mistakes? You learn from them.

Robin Resch: That's right, and we make these mistakes in the game. But the mistake is not that bad. In reality, it can be much more painful. Many educational institutions, for example, fail at these points. They simply don't ask themselves where their actions will lead. Many do not manage to recognize talent, let alone promote it. We call this CV support through gaming experience. In a game, you always develop further. Once you've solved the first problem, the next level comes.

CCB Magazine:But is this a good way to constantly optimize everything? Does the human being ever come along with it? Is that what you want?

Robin Resch: It's not a question of whether you want it or not, we have to want it. We have to be prepared for future developments. It cannot be stopped. It's about recognizing the potential and putting new solutions on the table for the future. And games allow a kind of experimental stage here. They can reduce anxiety by first of all testing ourselves in a digital experimental room. You are allowed to do certain things that you are not allowed to do otherwise. And it's precisely in the educational sector and in art that the greatest skepticism prevails towards digital development. I appeal here above all to the arts: get involved! Don't leave the world to those to whom it should not be left.

CCB Magazine:And that means?

Robin Resch: Go into the economy! Do not leave the economy to the economists. The biggest mistake of culture is to believe that culture has or should have nothing to do with the economy. But it is precisely in the domain of the economy that we must intervene; it's here that the real transformation process takes place, not in politics. If politics were to behave in a game the way it is in reality at the moment, they would not make it to the next level and would have to stop. The world today is turning 16 times faster than five years ago. And what I decide on in politics today will not be implemented for another three years, oh dear. It's so terrible. It's depressing. Very few people can really keep this up, I have a lot of respect for the people who make it happen. But if we want to have a say in our future, we have to be economical. Even artists can do that. And artists in particular are free in their thoughts, and that can also set things free in other domains.

Games allow a kind of experimental stage. They can also reduce anxiety by first trying things out in a digital experimental room. You are allowed to do certain things that you are not otherwise allowed to do

CCB Magazine:But isn't that the end of free thinking when everything has been economically thought through?

Robin Resch: What does free mean? The flip side is that others decide about our freedom. Do we want that? Not me.

CCB Magazine:Robin, if you had to describe a future scenario where will the world be in ten years' time if we don't succeed in all this? Where will it be when everything runs smoothly?

Robin Resch: Nothing is impossible and nothing will run smoothly. We must and will learn to network even better and to think and act in an interdisciplinary way. That's precisely why artists, labor market experts, educators, and game developers are working on our project - we need to interlink business and culture more closely in the future, but not in such a way that culture ends up falling on its feet. It's much more important to get our economy to stand up to social development, but also to leave room for free thought and culture. If we succeed in the future in building up interesting companies with good cultures, with good and fair business ideas, then we can get involved. And we can only determine the rules to a certain extent ourselves if we get involved. The only thing that counts is that, in the end, money has to be earned and the thing stays alive. But how I distribute my profit, who gets what, is up to the entrepreneur. And above all, it's the cultural workers who can make a positive impact here.

CCB Magazine:Robin, thank you very much for this interview.

Profile of Robin Resch on Creative City Berlin 

Award Berlin's Best 

Category: New Player


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