Promesa Game Night with Mikael Jakobsson

February 29, 2024
Event Types
Public Program
MIT Community
Image of board game 'Promesa' in progress. A collection of small black gems float atop a blue raft on top of a map.

Promesa Board Game, 2022. Image credit: HErickson/MIT

For more information, contact:

cwestj01 [at] (Cassidy Westjohn)

Join the List Visual Arts Center for a game night in Carlos Reyes: 18, where you can play the board game, Promesa, designed by Mikael Jakobsson and Rosa Colón Guerra. 

This is a unique opportunity where visitors can play the Promesa board game to learn more about the effects of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, Economic Stability Act, a U.S. Federal Law passed in 2016, alongside the flickering light of Carlos Reyes’ PROMESA lamps that deliver live feedback of Puerto Rico’s current power outages impacted by this very law. Participants will be taught how to play by one of the game’s creators and an MIT faculty member, Mikael Jakobsson, followed by a chance to play the game in our gallery. 

About the Board Game

Mikael Jakobsson, an MIT Comparative Media Studies Research Scientist who focuses on game studies, game design, and social design exploration, and his collaborators—CAST Visiting Artist Rosa Colón Guerra, Mary Flanagan, the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College, MIT Comparative Media Studies graduate student Aziria Rodríguez Arce, and members of the MIT Game Lab—have designed a counter colonialist board game to establish networks for social impact through creative practices. This project grew out of Jakobsson’s research on colonization and mercantilism for a forthcoming book from MIT Press co-authored by Flanagan.

Most contemporary board and card games set in Puerto Rico depict the island during the European colonialist era. The narrative of European colonialism is told over and over again in an inaccurate and “whitewashed” manner. Meanwhile, the US public in general has a limited understanding of the hopes and struggles of present-day Latin Americans. The objective of this project is to amplify these voices through game design.

Throughout 2018-19, Jakobsson and his team led a class at the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia and workshops at both MIT and Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At these events, professional game designers, students, and others from Colombia and Puerto Rico shared their ideas and experiences and created game concepts. In spring 2020, Jakobsson and Colón Guerra led an MIT Independent Activities Period (IAP) course and a series of collaborative workshops with the goal of developing and producing a small print run of a new board game that challenges narratives of colonialism and foregrounds Puerto Rican voices and lived experiences. 

Promesa was launched in May 2022 with a presentation by Jakobsson, Colón Guerra, and the MIT Game Lab and an opportunity for the MIT community to play the board game.