BELEXPO: a Serious Game Exhibition to Build the City of Tomorrow

I was in Brussels a few weeks ago. While everybody was heading to the BRAFA Art Fair during that weekend, I decided to visit BELEXPO: an exhibition about the city of tomorrow. BELEXPO is part of the BEL, an initiative of ‘Brussels Environment’, the government organisation which manages energy and the environment in Brussels and its surroundings. I was interested because of the interactive nature of BELEXPO. Targeted at children from 10 to 14 years old, the space is organized in neighborhoods, each describing a particular theme (nutrition, transport, …), all inviting the children to tackle a mission. A series of educational games allows for the content to be discovered by the children themselves, to think about solutions to fix the issues faced in our cities today, and to build the city of tomorrow.

The first room presents what Brussels is. There is a map of the city on the floor surrounded by screens on the walls. While the videos show images and videos of Brussels, you can see on the map where these places are, featuring all the elements that make a city, the good and the bad: water locations, parks, historical sites, but also congested roads, train stations, factories, etc., giving a good sense of what a city is. Then, BELEXPO is a series a nine spaces, called neighborhood. When you enter one, you can activate the experience by scanning the wristband given to you at the entrance. There’s a game or a series of mini games on a particular topic: recycling, gardening, transport, etc. For instance, you need to find the object better suited to fix an issue in the house using the least amount of energy possible or you need to find answers to questions related to common consumer goods (cf photo). There are also examples of successful stories around the world showing that positive change is possible.

A neighborhood is, by definition, an area where people live, where there’s interaction, and I think it is what the exhibition designers wanted to show: a city is made by the people who live in it. BELEXPO is like a city with its neighborhoods, its diverse communities, its people. We are the inhabitants of BELEXPO, experimenting how to build a better city. The technology works well, the interactions are simple and to-the-point, the design is flawless and the educational experience worth the visit (some of the games need to be played in teams which shows the power of collaboration). Plus once back home, you can check your journey online and learn even more, thanks to the wristband that saved your data. It is a well designed experience which shows that we are the ones making the world that we live in. It’s on us to make it better.

‘consumerism’ neighborhood, BELEXPO, Brussels, January 2019.

This type of exhibition is more and more common nowadays: educational experiences, usually targeted at kids, school groups and families, where everybody can learn about the environment, food, recycling, biodiversity, … in other words: to be better citizens. They showcase an educational, inclusive, playful design, which, while presenting fun experiences, is all about learning. These past years, we have regurlarly been talking about serious games in opposition to video games. This could be the trend of serious-game exhibitions.

What do you think?

Maxime

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