Mikael Jakobsson’s Maria: Voicing Counter Colonialism Through Board Game Creation

Fay Chandler Faculty Creativity Seed Grant

Mikael Jakobsson, an MIT Comparative Media Studies Research Scientist, focuses on game studies, game design and social design exploration. Jakobsson and his collaborators—Professor Mary Flanagan, director of the Tiltfactor game lab at Dartmouth College, MIT Comparative Media Studies graduate student Aziria Rodríguez Arce and members of the MIT Game Lab—are designing a counter colonialist board game to establish networks for social impact through creative practices. This project grew out of Jakobsson’s research on colonization and mercantilism for a forthcoming book from MIT Press co-authored by Flanagan.

Most contemporary board and card games set in Puerto Rico depict the island during the European colonialist era. The narrative of European colonialism is told over and over again in an inaccurate and “whitewashed” manner. Meanwhile, the US public in general has a limited understanding of the hopes and struggles of present-day Latin Americans. The objective of this project is to amplify these voices through game design.

Over the summer, Jakobsson and his team led a class in Bogotá at the University of the Andes and workshops at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, San Juan and at MIT in which professional game designers, students and others from Colombia and Puerto Rico shared their ideas and experiences and created game concepts. Jakobsson and his team are developing the concepts to create a new board game to be shared with students at MIT and board gamers around the world.  

Mikael Jakobsson studies connections between sociocultural systems and gaming practices through embedded qualitative investigations, interaction criticism, and design exploration. His education was shaped by the the Scandinavian participatory design movement in the early 1990s, which has instilled him with a sensitivity to issues of design as political acts, and the importance of recognizing power differentials between stakeholders in the design process.

He is currently studying how the socio-technical systems we engage with when playing modern video games cast players in roles which many may be uncomfortable, or unhappy, with, and working with developers to reflect more on the benefits of inclusivity when contributing to the casting process. Another current project engages with colonialist themes in contemporary board games and includes efforts to strengthen the voices of the subaltern by creating counter colonialist games.

He the research coordinator for the  MIT Game Lab where he also teaches classes in game studies, game design, and playful and social design exploration. He has over 20 of experience in teaching, course development, research project management, as well as advising master’s and PhD students.

More about Mikael Jakobsson.

Past Events

Counter Colonialist Board Game Design Workshop
July 26-27, 2018
MIT Campus, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

Aziria D. Rodríguez Arce, Masters Candidate, Comparative Media Studies, MIT

MIT Game Lab

MIT International Science and Technology Initiative (MISTI)

Mikael Jakobsson. Credit Rik Eberhardt.
Mikael Jakobsson. Credit Rik Eberhardt.