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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Hansen

Out cynical debate, in playfulness

I was very excited when I heard about “The Room“, a new TV format by and with journalist Eva Schulz. “The Room” is a sort of journalism that the American journalist Amanda Ripley describes as “complicating the narrative”. The Room does that – in a playful way.

Political talk shows on TV have been criticized for doing the exact opposite of what is proposed by Amanda Ripley. Many of the debates are all about short provocative statements, winners and losers of arguments. They provide little space for nuanced views and give limited new understanding about issues.

So, instead of complaining about the classical debate formats, Eva Schulz invented a different one. “The Room” does not promote debates that are about winning and convincing the other. It promotes dialogue between people with different opinions and backgrounds. And it involves play and fun.

Talkshow and escape room game, politics?

The room, in the German public service broadcaster ARD´s online offering, is a mix between a political talk show and an escape room game. Four persons with different backgrounds and opinions regarding a specific topic, for instance, a veggie influencer and a pig farmer meet in one episode. They have to cooperate to solve challenges and escape the room ultimately. And they have to discuss a lot while doing so.

The setting and the games are designed to promote a dialogue that is constructive, nuanced, and at eye level – despite the very different opinions and backgrounds of the invited. The invited have a common goal escaping the room. They ask each other questions, they listen, they try to understand the perspective of each other, and they have fun together in a playful way.

Idea for next German parliament

One of the participants summed it up nicely: “You have to take the perspective of others to understand their point of view. It's very important to get involved in why people think differently than I do, for example.” And he had an idea for the next German parliament: “Maybe we should introduce games like this in the Bundestag from time to time, just to bring together contrary opinions and come out with a consensus afterward.”

I believe constructive debates will indeed be crucial for the soon-to-be-formed new coalition in Germany to be successful in solving the complex challenges of our times. A format like “The Room” might serve as a source of inspiration. They want to fix the broken conversation, more about complicating the narrative

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