Mick Halsband and Elad Verbin developed a metaphor of the Bitcoin blockchain as a social LARP (Live Action Role Play). The first event was conducted for a class of Art Students at Universität der Künste as part of the RCPP (Research Center for Proxy Politics) in Berlin this December. Participants got a hands-on experience with the inner mechanics of this blockchain system. The main goal of this LARP was be to explore the mechanics of a blockchain’s incentives system, namely the functioning of the mining networks and consensus layer.

Since these mechanics rely on less common game-theoretical concepts, a hands-on LARP (rather than other more academic approaches) can helpfully illuminate intricacies and behaviors to non technical and uninitiated crowds.

To better understand the incentive mechanism behind state of the art blockchains, currently PoW (proof of work), and to understand the ways in which it can fail, the students role played a mining network and experienced those incentives hand on.

Using pen and paper, participants had to compet in solving simple puzzles, and raced each other to a central board in an attempt to gain rewards for securing valid solutions. Starting with a naive set of rules, and through gradual development of the system, the game demonstrated the complicated workings of a system very analogous to a decentralized blockchain.

Students learned the following key concepts through role pay:

Incentive mechanism (PoW) how they make everything work and allow consensus
How non-idealized ledgers behave (in a near-real-world manner)
The workings of a sample protocol for building a ledger

Find a closer description of this LARP on Github. You are welcome to fork this idea!

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Vera Tollmann