Common’hood is a simulated video game environment to allow for architectural design mediated by scarcity. The project seeks to explore the ecology of labor practices by inviting the player to engage with resource management to achieve creative building solutions. The game is also framed as an architecture social platform, where players can share creations with one another. Central to the project is the thesis that design can evolve if propagated freely within a social network. Following closely the guidelines of creative commons, Common’hood attempts to create a social repository of design parts that can be remixed by online multitudes.
The project has been conceptualized as a modeling platform, where the ability of the player to create an object is constrained by their access to knowledge, labor power, technology, and tools. Instead of offering access to all the possible modeling tools at the start, as is the case with modeling packages such as Rhino or Maya, in Common’hood a player needs to build a fabrication facility to host the machines that will afford access to fabrication. In this way, the act of designing is delayed, establishing a critical assessment of the infrastructure necessary to develop a particular design. As an example, dimensioned lumber needs to be acquired by processing larger pieces of wood through a table saw or any other machine that is capable of performing such an output. Each machine in the simulation allows the manipulation of source materials, generating a particular output. As the player progresses and acquires more machines, the modeling tools available will increase, expanding the possibilities of the designer.
Machines are not free in the game, so the player must acquire resources to purchase or build machines that will, in turn, allow for more complex building structures. Again, the emphasis of the simulation is not to take for granted the knowledge and technology that is required for conceptualizing a building. This process might be understood as a highly constrained modeling package but is one that starts to bring to the foreground narratives of resource scarcity, the costs of complexity, and the challenges of designs facing limited means.
The game offers two formats, a Story mode and a Sandbox mode. The Story elements frame the challenge of design in a community wrecked after an economic crash—a story that has come true for too many cities worldwide. At the edge of homelessness, a community needs to discover tools for autonomy to reconstruct a sustainable neighborhood. In the Sandbox mode, the player can freely design and create architecture mediated by the management of material resources. This mode is a playground for learning how technology, knowledge, and human labor interact, allowing players to share creations online.