Play the Game of Life 2050

Sensemaking / Play the Game of Life 2050

We talk a lot about system change, tackling complex challenges that involve diverse players, but what does it mean to do it? Here's a game to find out.

By Gemma Adams / 07 Feb 2017

What does it mean to be a system change agent? Let’s find out through serious play. Throw the theories and frameworks to one-side and experience them instead. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn in two hours.

To play the Game of Life 2050, you’ll take on the role of a particular actor in society - like a policy-maker or start-up business or civil society organisation - and make choices about how to respond to big changes that occur in the economy and society on the path to 2050. How will you respond to disruption and upheaval? Will you resist transformation or contribute to it? To succeed you’ll need to be agile and adaptable. Do you have what it takes?

The Game of Life 2050 is an interactive board game in which you interact with four scenarios that describe the radical changes needed in society for us to be living within all, key environmental boundaries by 2050. The game format allows you to engage, first-hand, with the waves of change that occur on the scenario pathways and to imagine how you might respond. By playing the part of business, government, entrepreneurs, civil society or a citizen innovator, you’ll build empathy for other people and organisations and explore how you can use your agency to shape our future for the better - individually and collectively.  

Your objective is to attract as many resources as possible to realise your own vision. But, as you’ll discover, achieving this doesn’t necessarily make you the winner.

What players learn about systemic change for sustainability

  • Ideas for how you can lead change from where you are; on your own and in collaboration with others
  • Everything is changing around us all the time so it’s something to influence not something to create
  • Impact isn’t achieved through direct, causal relationships. You’ll consider the indirect, knock-on consequences of your own actions and how to deal with these more intentionally
  • You’ll recognise the importance and wide options for collaborating with others
  • You’ll realise the need - and the challenge - of changing yourself in response to a changing context
  • The future isn’t predictable, nor is it set
  • We are all playing a part in making the future, all of the time. We can become system change agents by being aware of the influence we already have and using it in ways that recognise everything is connected.
  • Our world is a single, interconnected system: ecological, psychological, social, economic and technological

Choose from a range of different purposes and outcomes

Playing the game is a lively, provocative and insightful experience that deepens players’ understanding and ability to apply system change theories and capabilities. Beyond the learning opportunity it offers for individuals, there are a number of ways of tailoring the game to suit different needs and purposes. These include:

  • Imagine your own response to events on the pathway to 2050: test and learn about your own capabilities
  • Consider the opportunities and constraints that other organisations in your ecosystem might face, by imagining how they’d respond to events: learn about shared risks and ways of supporting one another
  • Test a strategy, plan or initiative by playing it into the future and evaluating the assumptions behind it
  • Create a strategy, plan or initiative related to a particular theme or challenge, by imagining how that area might be change in response to future pressures


  • The game takes a minimum of 2 hours to run (ideally 4 hours) and involves 5-7 actors (each played by one person or in pairs) and one Games Master.
  • Play consists of three ‘rounds’ in which actors are given a set of circumstances that have unfolded at 10, 20 and 30 years into the timeline, and must decide from a range of options how they will respond.
  • All the resources you need for running the game (apart from the players!) are included in the game pack. You’ll simply need a table and chairs to play.

Download the game resources in digital format and guidebook that explains how to play the game. (Note: you’ll need to provide or improvise certain kit in order to complete the game).

Background to the game

The Game of Life 2050 draws on scenarios for a sustainable European society in 2050 that Forum for the Future develop through a project called EU-Innovate that ran between 2014-2016; funded by the European Commission. You can find more information about the research project here:

It adapts scenarios initially developed as part of the SPREAD 2050 Sustainable Lifestyles project.  It adapts a game initially developed by the EU Policy Lab: talk to Dr. Laurent Bontoux if you’d like to find out more about the history of the board game.


If you've missed them in the article, you can find the Game of Life 2050 resources online here and here. This month in our Citizen Innovation explorer, play this game and tell us what new ways you’ve found to lead change. Share your ideas in the comments box below. Together let’s make this a revolution. // #citizeninnovation

SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 was a project funded by the European Commission, and the corresponding scenarios have been developed by Demos Helsinki ( For more information on the original scenarios, follow this link.

If you’d like to play the game set or hear more about the project, please get in touch with Corina ( and Louise ( // 

EU-InnovatE is a ground-breaking initiative funded by the European Commission aiming to accelerate the shift towards to a sustainable future.

Like this article? Don't forget to check out our other pieces on Citizen Innovation:

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

Please register or log in to comment.