Both storytelling games and science fiction writing are activities that let us explore possible futures and can inspire bold actions to change the world for the better. So far this year, I’ve run two workshops that combine storytelling and creative writing to imagine positive futures and they’ve been a lot of fun!
The workshops had about 15 participants each and ran for about two hours over Zoom. I ran the first one for Beyond Return and the second for the Foresight Institute’s Existential Hope program, where I brought in Mike Masnick to run the event with me. I’m deeply grateful that they asked me to run the events and that they brought wonderful participants.
The workshops shared a three-part structure that started with two worldbuilding games and ended with a creative writing exercise. The first game was different in each workshop. For the Beyond Return workshop we used a Scarcity / Abundance exercise where participants explore how new abundances create new scarcities and interesting side effects. For the Existential Hope workshop, we used a remix of The Last Hurdle exercise where participants told the story of humanity overcoming existential risks and arriving at overwhelmingly positive futures. Both of these were iterations of exercises from the Positive AI Economic Futures workshop we ran in December 2020.
The second exercise in each event was Premise: Setting, with locations inspired by the themes that emerged in the first exercise. Premise is a game that has players simultaneously adding onto each other’s ideas in format that is a bit exquisite corpse and a bit Mad Libs – the result is always more novel and interesting than any one idea that a person might develop on their own.
The final exercise for the workshops was solo-writing. Participants drew on the locations and ideas from the earlier exercises to craft micro-fiction that explores the workshop’s themes. To focus the exercise, we asked them to create diegetic works that could exist in a broader fictional world – for example, we had players create advertisements, diary entries, ballot propositions, user manuals, emails, and more – all from a fictional perspective.
Both workshops were well received and participants relished the opportunity to collaborate on worldbuilding and engage in focused creative writing. I’m looking forward to iterating on the workshop format and bring it to new audiences. If you’re interested in hosting one, please reach out!