Parklife, originally created for the Virtual Collaborators Festival in Leytonstone, questions our access to green spaces and their value through a board game format. Two beautiful wooden boards equipped with a central grassy circle represent each player’s park and in the middle of us is a large jenga-style tower of bricks.
Each player aims to get rid of their eight cards in front of them by swapping them for a block from the central tower. Each block has a message on it — some are reflective, asking the player what they value in a park, whereas others tell of misfortune that has befallen one’s park.
We play two rounds. In the first, my park becomes a dumping ground of crushed plastic cups and dog faeces; however, in the second, I have an abundance of flora and a play area for children. To represent the facilities and appearance of the park, there are small white models of cups, balls, slides, ducks, dogs, and their business, which visually identify the type of park you run.
I am an avid lover of green space; a keen gardener, plant enthusiast and national trust member, and thus the concept of appreciating green spaces is one I am naturally drawn to. The game reflects on who has access to green space and why this is important, and couples this with thoughtful reflections on the green spaces near us and what we appreciate about them.
The concept of the game is really interesting — it is meant to be played in a park, although today it is chucking it down so instead we sit by a glass door staring out at the greenery of our garden, and it does make you reflect on the privilege of being able to access green space. Living in South London I am fortunate enough to live near two large green spaces and frequently take advantage of them, I also have a very small garden — which is a luxury, especially during a pandemic.
The piece relies, however, on a game and as an avid game player I do not think that the game is strong enough. There is no incentive to try to win and make the greatest park and while I understand that it is more of a reflective game, it needs a bit of competition to make it fun. The rules are also rather unclear so I do not know for sure that we play correctly.
Overall, Parklife is a nifty idea that has the potential to be brilliant. The board game itself is quite poor (in theory, not physical design which is gorgeous) but is pulled up by an intriguing concept. I would like to play again once the game itself is further developed, as I am slightly let down by the central element of game-play. But, I am always advocating increased access to green space and, using this quirky format, this does just that.
Parklife played at the Virtual Collaborators Festival in September. For more information, visit the Virtual Collaborators Festival online.