Humboldtians in private

Learning by playing

In the photo you can see me with my game The Poll. Really, I’m a journalist. But for a number of years, I’ve been developing games. In The Poll you slip into the role of a politician and learn how the electoral system in India works, how you find political solutions to an issue, negotiate compromises and, finally, win majorities. Another example is the smartphone game Farsi, which is about differentiating between rumours and fake news on the one hand and real news on the other.

  • from 
  • Recorded by Georg Scholl
Abeer Kapoor mit seinem Politikspiel The Poll
Saturn-ähnliches Dekortationsbild


Abeer Kapoor has been a German Chancellor Fellow in the Cologne Game Lab at TH Köln since 2022. Trained as a journalist, he previously worked for various Indian newspapers and, most recently, for the SMART Civic Games Lab in South Delhi, India.

German Chancellor Fellowship

What really matters to me is the lessons you learn when you’re playing, about how our society functions, for example, or how to eat healthily, which is the point of another game I invented. Whereby, I still think like a journalist: find the truth, talk to people, argue. All my games have news built into them.

As a journalist, when you travel around a country like India, it really exposes you to a lot of problems and you write about them. But articles in a newspaper are unidirectional. You can’t ask a newspaper to give you back answers. But in a game, you can grapple with a topic, communicate with one another.

With our nutrition game and our fake news quiz Farsi, we visit schools and colleges in India. So far, we have reached about 80,000 players. The games are really popular. We sold over 500 copies of the board game The Poll in a matter of six months. But you’re not going to make money with games that train your civic muscle. Like Germany, India is in the hands of large, often American, firms that dominate the market.

At the moment, I’m a German Chancellor Fellow in the Cologne Game Lab at TH Köln. When I play with Germans, I notice how important it is to them to follow the rules of the game and that they talk about them a lot. That’s why games often last much longer than they do in India. The Indian mind appreciates chaos. But a game like The Poll can be exported to Germany, you need little tweaks here and there to accommodate political differences, but democracy is something that has been exported the world over.

Personally, I really like strategy games like the board game Splendor, where you become a gem merchant, or Polytopia, which you play on your smartphone. It’s about building cities and waging war on other tribes. And I love detective stories. My Master’s thesis was on colonial detective fiction. When I came to Bonn, the first thing that hit me was the stillness. What a contradiction to the hecticness of New Delhi. A murder in this quiet town and a police officer from India investigating. That would be a thrilling story. 

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