October 25, 2016

Zombie Fight or Flight launches on Kickstarter!

PignPotato Games has just launched its Kickstarter campaign for Zombie Fight or Flight! This collaborative card game was developed at the CoRe Jolts Game Jam in June 2016.  PignPotato Games is made up of 7 Game Jam participants who decided to see if they could successfully launch the game created that weekend.

The group started by hiring Rachel Petrovicz to create amazing art for the cards, and have continued to test and improve the game over the past few months.  In the process, they’ve developed both ideas for classroom uses (for grades 3-12) and trainers’ notes for using the cards in conflict resolution and negotiation training.  In fact, the prototype decks will get a tryout on Halloween when they are used in the Continuing Legal Education Society’s course on Negotiation Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse.


The Kickstarter campaign will run until November 26th, but some rewards are limited in number, so check the campaign out soon if you’re interested in custom artwork, custom ceramics, or conflict resolution training and game jams!

Zombie Fight or Flight and Drunken Zombie Fight or Flight decks are available to ship worldwide, but if you’re in Vancouver, want to save shipping costs and can pick up on December 17th, make sure you choose the “without shipping option”.

September 4, 2016

Game Jam 2 produces Zombie Fight or Flight

It’s been just over two months since CoRe Jolts’ second Game Jam took place in Tsawwassen, and it’s well past time to report on the exciting developments coming out the event!

Sludge (#WorkingTitle)

Sludge (#WorkingTitle)

We had a fantastic group of mediators, lawyers, and students (including both experienced and inexperienced gamers) assembled for three days of creativity! Like Game Jam 1, the group arrived with many different ideas and objectives: the one common theme was that we all wanted to develop a collaborative game.  Over the course of the weekend, two different games emerged – a very complex game which we called “Sludge (#WorkingTitle)” and a fast-moving card game called “Zombie Fight or Flight”.  Both games had fans within our group, but “Zombie Fight or Flight” fit nicely with plans two of us had to develop training tools and so received a bit more attention over the course of the weekend.  As a result, Zombie Fight or Flight will be the first game created in a CoRe Jolts Game Jam to be developed for sale!

Zombie Fight or Flight cardback: Art by Tuna.

Zombie Fight or Flight cardback: Art by Tuna.

Zombie Fight or Flight

The zombie theme arose because Emily Martin and I were thinking ahead to specific training applications, notably a CLEBC course we are preparing for October 31st – Negotiation Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse. Even as the game developed though, it was apparent that the basic mechanics could be adapted easily to other scenarios: Pirate Fight or Flight, Space Aliens Fight or Flight, or even Forest Animals Fight or Flight.  In fact, we also tested a wide range of variations intended to make the game more or less challenging depending on age, gaming experience, etc. and began preliminary work on an expansion pack to keep the game interesting over multiple plays.  Those of us who stayed overnight also took the opportunity on the Saturday night to create alternative drinking game rules: Drunken Zombie Fight or Flight.

Sunday afternoon was spent in a discussion of how to carry the game forward, and resulted in the formation of “Pig & Potato Games” as the entity that will market the game.  In the last two months, we hired an artist (Rachel Petrovicz) who has just completed designing the cards; identified a printer and will be printing prototype decks in the next few weeks; and sketched out plans for a Kickstarter to launch the game.  All of these tasks have been learning tasks for our team, and have resulted in a continuation of the creative energy of the Game Jam – we are all still stimulating new thoughts and ideas as we advance the plan to fully realize the game!

We are on track to launch our Kickstarter in late October – in time for Halloween – so watch for news about the game and opportunities to play it. We’re planning several game nights for collaborative professionals as we explore the options the game offers for collaborative training, and even for possible use in specific types of mediations.

Interested in joining us next year?

After two incredibly fun and successful Game Jams, we know we want to have another one! The creative energy stimulated within the event, and flowing afterwards, is an amazing boost for any project -whether or not it leads to development of a fully formed game. The fact that Zombie Fight or Flight has emerged from this past game jam, and that we are learning new skills and gaining knowledge about game development, only makes the idea more exciting!  We are trying to find a date for the next Game Jam that will accommodate as many of our returning Game Jammers as possible, while also welcoming new folks to bring new ideas! We anticipate holding Game Jam 3 in Tsawwassen in spring 2017. Let us know if you hope to attend: we’ll send out periodic notices as we plan, and will canvass everyone on the mailing list for availability as we choose dates.  To be added to the mailing list, email a request to zombieforf@gmail.com.




March 19, 2016

2nd Collaborative Game Jam – June 17-19, 2016!

Version 2CoRe Jolts is excited to be hosting the second Bi-Annual Collaborative Game Jam  aimed at the creation of collaborative tabletop games on June 17th-19th, 2016 in Tsawwassen!

We are gathering a group of individuals interested in getting together to form teams and create collaborative games! We will form teams based on shared objectives for the games.  One group might choose to create a short game that can be played during a mediation to refocus participants on problem solving approaches.  Another group might choose to develop a game that allows all members of a family – no matter what age – to participate equally in group decision-making. Or perhaps a few individuals will choose to create a game that requires different forms of communication for a group to successfully manage a task.  The possibilities are only limited by the imaginations of the participants!

Island teamGame JamAt our first Game Jam, participants came from a wide variety of professional backgrounds and interests in collaboration: mediators (in commercial, child protection, labour, family and civil practices), tax lawyers, teachers, university administrators, and students in fine arts, digital games, engineering and law.   The broad range of backgrounds (and game experience) led to fascinating discussions about what sorts of games we’d like to create and why.

In the end, we produced two very different games:  Eruption and Soul Jumpers/Hotel California/Macabre Mansion (name yet to be finalized).

The Eruption team developed a complex negotiation game that required individuals to develop multiple alliances to manage an entire society. The Eruption team seemed to have a great deal of fun with the entire concept, but perhaps this short excerpt of the team explaining the rules about “breeding” amongst families captures the spirit of their game.

The Soul Jumpers group focused on creating a game that could not give rise to the dreaded “Alpha Player”! By limiting the exchange of information, no one player was able to dominate decision-making by asserting greater gaming knowledge.  In the following video clip, Bob Wilson shares the background story for Soul Jumpers.


Ben Ziegler was a member of the Soul Jumpers creation team and he provided a great description of the event on his blog, Collaborative Journeys.

If you’d like to try out some commercially available collaborative games in advance of the Game Jam, check out the list Emily Martin and I collected for a CoRe Speaker Series event last fall.

You don’t need to be some combination of mediator/gamer/designer to join us.  If you think it would be fun to develop a game like this, and you can commit the time to work with your team, then you are welcome. There is no fee to attend, but we will collect $50 from each participant to contribute to the costs of refreshments, lunches on Saturday and Sunday, and game materials.

If you’d like to join us, check out additional details at https://corejolts.wordpress.com/game-jam/ or email us at coreclinic1@gmail.com. Register here.

You can read more of my observations about collaborative games here!  And check out Emily’s and my presentation for CoRe here.

January 17, 2016

Active listening skills for phone sex operators and other lessons from the theatre

“The cross pollination of disciplines is fundamental to truly revolutionary advances in our culture.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson

This year our youngest daughter turned 19 and we are now parents of three adults.  They are all at university so it’s not as though all of our responsibilities have ended, but …  We are definitely free to make plans on our own in a way that hasn’t been possible since the eldest two (twins) were born.  It is possible that this freedom has gone to my head – just a bit.  As a former theatre student who attended plays very frequently in my pre-parent days, I upped our theatre-going dramatically this year in response to the excitement of that freedom!  We moved from season subscriptions at two theatres, to a year in which we saw close to an average of one play a week (an average which is skewed by seeing 30 plays in 10 days at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.)

Now theatre, by its very nature, tends to focus on conflict.  Critics since Aristotle have explored the ways in which plays develop around central conflicts; while playwrighting courses teach that nothing kills the entertainment value of a show quicker than characters agreeing about everything!  As a consequence, plays tend to lend themselves to examination through a conflict resolution lens: What is the source of the conflict? How do the characters negotiate? What might a conflict resolution professional take away from the interaction?

While I tend to view most popular culture through a conflict resolution lens – if only to identify great examples for teaching purposes – I realized this year that I have underutilized plays as options for engaged discussions with fellow conflict resolution professionals.  The realization hit me after I watched Tonya Jone Miller’s amazing performance in The Story of O’s at the Vancouver Fringe.  I’ll write more about the play below, but the play and her performance reminded me vividly of how interconnected some of the skills she was displaying are with conflict resolution practice.  As a result, I was inspired to come up with a list of the top plays for conflict resolution professionals that I saw in 2015 – with the hope that others will join me in discussions of even more such plays in 2016.  (To that end, I’ll be organizing a CoRe Speaker event in September specifically focused around plays seen at the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Details to be announced on the CoRe site once the Fringe schedule is announced.)

Jolts for Mediators

My top four plays for conflict resolution practitioners in 2015 were:

1. Tonya Jone Miller’s A Story of O’s

a_story_of_osI didn’t go to A Story of O’s with an expectation of insight into my own profession.  The program description in the Fringe guide told me little beyond the fact that the play was a monologue about sex phone work based on the performer’s real life experiences. It sounded like something that could be entertaining or dreadful; but it was only 60 minutes long so worth the risk given it fit the rest of my schedule for the night.

Instead of my best case – entertaining – the show was sensational! And much of what impressed me was directly related to Tonya’s demonstration of incredible skills in active listening, spontaneity, trust building (with the audience and with her phone sex clients) and empathy without judgment.  The majority of the show was scripted, but one could readily extrapolate, from the snippets of calls that Tonya performed, just how attentively she was listening to each client and continuously checking her understanding of their interests.  That she was so explicitly concerned with finding empathy without judgment with each caller resonated with me: as mediators we all occasionally struggle with a tendency to judge a party’s approach to negotiation, their behaviour leading up to the conflict or within the conflict, or even their objectives for resolution. Tonya demonstrated an empathy that many conflict resolution professionals must work to achieve.

The show also contained a truly brilliant snippet of improvised monologue based upon audience suggestions for a “weird” desire.  In that segment, of course, we witnessed Tonya’s amazing skills in spontaneity, listening and awareness of audience cues, “accepting offers” (in the sense of “yes, and-ing…” ideas and contributions from others in order to build on their ideas rather than rebut them), and storytelling.  I’d hire Tonya as a mediator based purely on that performance!

If you have an opportunity to see the show – or anything else she creates – you should! And then let me know: I really need someone else with a conflict resolution lens to discuss the show with!

2. A Simple Space

This production by the Australian acrobatics ensemble Gravity and Other Myths inspired me to think about conflict resolution themes in entirely different ways.  The troupe of 7 highly skilled acrobats mix games in which they compete against each other to “win” such challenges as most standing back flips in a row with incredibly challenging “team competitions” in which they carry out incredible acrobatic feats that rely on perfect collaboration amongst all members of the troupe to keep everyone safe and in which they all “win” if they pull it off (even if one or another member might have a “starring role” from time to time).

As a whole, the show is a brilliant display of teamwork at its best and most functional, and ways in which competition can be enervating and push teams working together to higher levels of achievement.  Check out the video below for a flavour of their performance – then imagine yourself seated right on stage as they perform only a few feet away!

3. Cock by Mike Bartlett

Cock_video-01-500x155cockfightCock won an Outstanding Achievement Award in the 2010 Oliviers, so there will certainly be opportunities to see it performed by different companies in different cities.  On a simple, structural level, the play showcases interpersonal and relational conflicts in a rapidly changing series of short scenes.  John is torn between a return to a long term relationship with his boyfriend, M, and a new relationship with a woman, W. Staged without props in a circle intended to evoke a cock fighting ring, the play shows moves from one confrontation between characters to another: first John and M engage in a series of difficult conversations, then John and W circle each other in similar discontent.  Eventually we see the combination of John, M and W, only to have John’s father, F, added to the mix.  The production staged by Rumble Theatre in Vancouver maintained the sense of short engagements in a longer (cock) fight as the characters pick at each other in familiar patterns of verbal conflict.  Each scene offers examples of all the ways that speech and body language can exacerbate conflict.  John’s personal conflict drives the play, but the interactions of the characters in snippets of negative discussions offers the conflict resolution professional a complete study in conflict behaviours.

4. Nirbhaya

nirbhaya_1Nirbhaya is a powerful interweaving of women’s stories of sexual violence and abuse. The stories are woven around the central tale of Nirbhaya who died following a horrific gang-rape on a Delhi bus in 2012. (The name Nirbhaya, meaning “fearless”, was used to identify Jhoti Singh Pandey before her name was known.)  The stories invite the audience to acknowledge the existence of sexual oppression and abuse, and the consequences – to individuals, families, and societies – of the resilience of such cultures. The topic of culture in conflict studies is an extraordinarily broad one: plays like Nirbhaya help us to engage in discussions of such difficult and complex topic through the lens of individual narratives, opening up discussions and increasing understanding.

Honourable mentions?

If you are looking for plays that lend themselves to a conflict resolution discussion, then I’d also recommend:

  • The New Conformity – a narrative about social and peer pressures to conform performed entirely through juggling.
  • Small Town Hoser Spic – Pedro Chamale’s one-man contemplation on growing up Hispanic in a small town in northern BC.
  • 52 Pick-Up – This story of a couple’s first meeting through dissolution of their relationship is told in the order in which 52 playing cards are picked up by the actors. Never the same, every performance offers new insights and connections.

And What to Watch for this Year?

I’ve made a few theatre-going choices for early 2016 with the intention of seeking out conflict resolution themes.  If you’re interested in joining me in the endeavour, consider checking out:

December 16, 2015

Gift Ideas to Inspire Conflict Resolution

Sharon Sutherland offers a short list of gift ideas with conflict resolution themes.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed several “gift” lists for conflict resolution professionals (especially mediators):

This year, I wanted to take a different approach to the idea of conflict resolution gift giving and focus on ideas for gifts for anyone that might just inspire the recipients to think more about conflict resolution.  Here’s four categories of gifts, most with a few examples, that conflict resolution professionals might very well think about giving to their family and friends this holiday season. And please do check out previous lists for ideas that suit folks who aren’t mediators but have an interest in a world with a culture of collaborative decision-making!

1. Collaborative Games

HanabiIf you played board games or card games as a child, you almost certainly played competitive games.  While cooperative board games have been around for many years, the early ones were almost exclusively created for children and were so didactic as to be boring!  Hence, the cooperative game of yore was played once or twice and then relegated to the back of the closet while Monopoly, Risk and Trouble came out for family gatherings.  The consequence, of course, is that we were exposed to a constant stream of messages about the importance of being competitive, learning to be a good loser and a gracious winner, and the implicit notion that collaborating is “weak”.

Happily, over recent years, an enormous number of excellent collaborative games have developed – games which have all the excitement of competition, but that require genuine teamwork to “win” against the game.  My first recommendation for everyone this holiday season is to choose a collaborative game and introduce your family to an entirely different way of thinking about competition.  Let’s normalize a culture in which the best teamwork results in a “win”!

IMG_2273Here’s a list of collaborative games that Emily Martin (a labour mediator from Seattle) and I developed for a recent CoRe Speaker event.  Of this list, my favourite is Pandemic, but it’s a bit of a tough entrée game for people who aren’t very familiar with gaming generally.  (It’s great if you have one gamer who can help others figure out the mechanics for the first few rounds, but tough if everyone has to keep reading the rules!) So if you’re new to games, or haven’t played much besides Monopoly, I’d suggest starting with with Hanabi (very simple and easy to learn) or Forbidden Island (a bit trickier, but aimed at a younger crowd and so easier to get a handle on than Pandemic).

2. Books

There are so very many book possibilities!  Outside of the range of non-fiction books that offer negotiation advice or other ideas for conflict resolution practice, there are a large number of books that can be viewed through a “conflict resolution lens” to great effect.  Wendy Lakusta offered a brilliant example of the value of reading novels through such a lens when she led the first CoRe Book Club meeting in September and guided an enthusiastic group through a reading of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Consider giving both the first book and Wendy’s Book Club question list to inspire someone to think about the book in a new way!

fledglingOnce you apply a conflict resolution lens to one book, it’s so easy to apply the same lens to others!  An easy way to start might be to give a friend or colleague a copy of Octavia Butler’s Fledgling along with a pass to the next CoRe Book Club session on January 26th, 2016.  This session is definitely not just for conflict resolution professionals, but will focus on lessons for conflict resolution in the book.  (And you might just want to package this book and book club combo with one more Octavia Butler book: Parable of the Sower is a brilliant exploration of a world in which hyper-empathy has the potential to be both a disability and a gift.)

What came beforeThree more books that strike me as powerful opportunities to examine conflict resolution themes are:

  • The Speed of Dark – Elizabeth Moon (This 2003 Nebula award winning novel explores a world in which autism can be “cured”. Who decides whether the “cure” is the best choice for an individual?)
  • What Came Before He Shot Her – Elizabeth George (While this book explores the backstory of a shocking murder in another novel, it’s not necessary to read this as part of the connected series.  This novel stands alone as an examination of a series of seemingly inevitable decisions leading a young boy to become a murderer.)
  • The Sunday Philosophy Club – Alexander McCall Smith (This series by the author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency offers a fascinating lens on life: Isabel Dalhousie examines every choice through the lens of applied ethics.  For the conflict resolution practitioner, the explicit consideration of each and every nuance in decision-making will feel very familiar, despite the change of focus.)

(You can purchase any of these books through the CoRe aStore and support CoRe Conflict Resolution Society).

And check out these lists for books that might appeal to younger readers (or folks like me who love YA fiction):

3. Theatre Tickets



Just as books can explore conflict resolution themes in new and enlightening ways, live theatre can engage with all the same topics but brings a number of qualities that are simply not part of the usual reading experience such as immediacy, the sense of communal engagement in the narrative, direct engagement of the senses in the performance.  The simple fact that most theatre-goers attend with a friend increases the likelihood of an engaged discussion about the topics raised in the production.  Over the past year, I’ve seen a number of excellent productions that explicitly engage with conflict resolution topics. (I’ll blog about my 2015 top picks on CoReJolts over the holiday, but they certainly include A Story of Os (Vancouver Fringe), Cock (Rumble Theatre), Nirbhaya (The Cultch) and 52 Pick-Up (Twenty Something Theatre/Theatre Wire)).

Why not look ahead and book a couple of tickets to plays in 2016?  Here’s a few that I have on my list that look like they’ll stimulate great conflict resolution discussions:

  • The Motherf**ker with the Hat (Firehall Arts Centre)
  • Little One (Alley Theatre/Firehall Arts Centre) – I saw this one at the 2014 Fringe Festival and it’s both creepy and excellent.
  • Ga Ting (thefranktheatrecompany/The Cultch)
  • Reclaiming Hope (Theatre for Living) – I’ll be watching for news about public performances when this one is developed.

VanFringeFest_2016_RGB-with-datesAnd, of course, buying someone a Frequent Fringer pass for the Vancouver Fringe Festival is a perfect option, too!  (They’re not available until the summer, but a promissory note now works.) I wasn’t specifically looking for conflict resolution themed productions this past September, but still saw 12 shows that I would classify as fitting the bill.  Next year, I’m going to blog about my best bets for conflict resolution shows in advance of the Festival so others can join me to view them and discuss at a CoRe Speaker event and/or a Mediators’ Lounge.

4. Human Library

I can’t list books and plays and leave out the Human Library project!  If you haven’t come across the project before, the Human Library is an explicit response to a hate crime that seeks to end violence one person at a time. Borrow a “human book” for a 20 minute conversation intended to narrow ideological gaps through personal connection.  The Human Library is offered as part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.


This post is shared here by permission of True North Collective.

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