Community leaders play modified Buy A Feature Innovation Game to prioritize government services and address $100 million projected shortfall.

January 29th, 2011

San Jose, California: Today, community leaders throughout the San Jose metropolitan area met to tackle the city’s most pressing issue: looming 2011-2012 budget cuts. With a projected shortfall of $100 million, the city’s government was eager to get the input of all interested parties as they seek to balance the city’s books.

But this time, instead of hosting a traditional forum like public hearings, they approached these problems in an unconventional, but highly effective way: They played games together.

These were not, however, your traditional board or video games–instead, concerned San Jose residents from all walks of life played Innovation Games®, the brainchild of the founder and CEO of The Innovation Games® Company, Luke Hohmann. These games are designed to do real work, whether it be market research, new product development, or in this case creating consensus on and solutions to vexing public policy problems.

Mr. Hohmann and his team developed a unique variant of their standard Buy a Feature game that specifically addressed the San Jose budget situation–in this version, players were able to “purchase” potential projects, using a small amount of funds that were doled out to each player at the start of the game. By pooling funds among players, and also by selecting current budget items to cut in order to free up additional funds, players were able to cooperatively “pay for” those services that were most important to them, while also confronting some of the difficult choices entailed in funding those services.

Mr. Hohmann, who has drawn on his decades of experience in psychology, product management, programming, and other disciplines to create Innovation Games®, sees this as the first step in bringing the power of games to bear on the difficult choices that society will confront in the future: “We are unbelievably grateful that the Mayor, the City Council, and the citizens of San Jose for their willingness to try something new as they work together to make difficult budget choices. I firmly believe that our resounding success today will lead to more and more organizations, both public and private, beginning to incorporate Innovation Games into their regular workflow. I think we’ve proven today that by having fun playing together, we can truly help to change the world.”


About The Innovation Games® Company
The Innovation Games Company is the leading producer of online and in-person serious games for market research and consulting services. Innovation Games® are the seriously fun way to do serious work, providing collaborative methods and tools for understanding what customers and markets need. Innovation Games Online delivers real-time collaboration across the Internet. To learn more, visit


  1. Tina Morrill

    You hit a home run, Mr. Hohmann and team!

    Significant contribution and goal participation are two factors that motivate people and from my vantage point, everyone in that room today appeared motivated and engaged. The dialog and negotiation FLOWED.

    Great game, great job.

    City of San Jose resident and (budget) game player

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