Fellow game players, facilitators, and creators,

For the past 4 years, the city of San Jose has used Innovation Games’ “Buy a Feature” game to help balance their budget.

The goal is to bring citizens into the budget building process and to get them engaged in the community.  They have also done this in Kortrijk, Belgium.

For those of you that don’t know, Innovation Games is a collection of very practical “serious games” for producing work and it was founded by Luke Hohmann, an active member of the agile game community and author of the Innovation Games book.

This year, the San Jose Budget Games plan to go from involving hundreds of citizens to TEN THOUSAND citizens! The only way they can achieve this is by playing online… and they need help.

Would you be willing to donate an hour of your time to facilitate one of the online games Jan 23, 24, or 25? If so, you can sign up here.

Check out this video of a previous budget game session.

If you would like to know a little more information about what is expected, please read the information below from Innovation Games.


Don McGreal


Facilitation will mainly consist of making sure participants understand the system, keeping the conversation moving and on track, and coordinating with other volunteers if the in-person group requests a SME.

Because the game is typically fast paced, the facilitator might have difficulty writing down notes. The observer is there to capture game dynamics and interactions that the game cannot capture. Observers will be critical to the in-person games because the participants will be much more likely to talk to each other instead of using the chat functionality. The conversations will be important for processing the data after the game. It is best practice to have both roles at each table.  

A training session will be held January 17 to give people new to facilitation and observation an understanding of the do’s and don’ts, along with training on the online tool. 


About Budget Games:

This is our 4th year working with San José to produce the Budget Games. The goal is to bring citizens into the budget building process and to get them engaged in the community. San José has had its share of financial difficulties and has squeezed its spending to get things under control. Because this affects the citizens directly, the City wants to understand how the citizens prioritize items (such as parks and crime prevention units) within the budget. The results of the Games feed into the budget discussions held by city officials and bring a greater understanding of the city services the people hold in the highest regard.

The Game consists of 8-10 people ‘buying’ the services they like. This year, we hope to gather preferences for potentially spending ~$34 million dollars gained through a proposed sales tax increase.

In previous years, we have used in-person games with physical money and calculators. We are pleased to expand the games to an online format this year! Community leaders invited to the in-person game will have tablets allowing them to play the game. Another addition to the normal Game is the expansion to the greater San José public via the online platform. We hope to get 10K citizens involved!

January 18 has been designated for in-person play and online play will occur January 23 – 25.

We are looking for facilitators and observers for the in-person and the online game slots, which are 1 hour long. It would be fantastic if you could tell your friends and colleagues about this event and encourage them to get involved! Please click here to sign up to facilitate!


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