Transformational Game Design Studio

Fall 2018 | Carnegie Mellon University

This is the class note of Transformational Game Design Studio taught by Jessica Hammer in HCII in Carnegie Mellon University

Week 1

Transformational game is the game when players play, they will learn new concepts, change the way they think or behave. The very first week is mainly about introduction and kick of the warm up project.


One interesting thing is that games are actually based on the verb to build the environment on. When you play, you think about the verb that available to you. For example, Mario is all about jumping while any FPS game is all about shooting. These verb are well explored in game design. As a result, if you explore less common words, you could often come out with good ideas. Considering die which most player will try to avoid in the game, it is not the action you could take. What if dying is something you need to consider?

Furthermore, in the transformational game, it is important to align the verb with the action you want players to take. If you design a game to shoot germ on the tooth, since shooting and brushing are not well-aligned, it will be less effective to the player.

Transformation Game Framwork

  • High level purpose
  • Audience and context
  • Players’ transformation
  • Barrier
  • Domain concepts
  • Expert resource
  • Prior work
  • Assessment

Project 0

The first warm up project is to design a game for your partner to achieve some goals. (It is important to well define a personal goal rather than a goal from social convention so that the game will be more effective.) The first project will focus on the 2nd(context), 3rd(player’s goal)and 4th(barrier) items in the framework.

Teacher also some tips for this project

  1. Fun: What is fun in the thing you are dealing with?
  2. Trans-aggressive: Reverse the situation to kill the didactic.
  3. Introduce delivery difficulty: Easy is not the goal. Difficulty (not complication) provides challenge.

Week 2–1

We came out with 10 game design sketch during the weekend and having a discussion about this expereince.

  • Ideas comes from juxtaposition.
  • Is this a game? -> Only fun matters.
  • With limited cognitive resource, you need to put the transformation part in the core.
  • Jessica talks about an example of grocery shopping called Fry, Grill and Steam: Pick three random food and decide which ways to cook it. We talks about whether we want physical interaction or fantasize the game. Both have pros and cons.
  • Game design paradox: Adding constrains might actually encourage taking action but we also want to reduce the number of pre-decision to encourage people to join.
  • Another game is about listening to music and sketch. While playing game, people’s mindset change. It is ok to draw a very bad sketch (OK to fail).
  • Point system need to be carefully considered. Who and how to rate the outcome?
  • Sometimes, it is not about complete the game but the process of playing it.

Week 2–2

We have brief discussion about our warm up game and touch upon several topics in the discussion.

  • You need to understand the constrains and context. (ex. place, time, money…). Considering transforming some of the barriers into opportunity to increase the richness of the game. Motivate people to overcome the barrier.
  • Skill level needs to be considered. Jessica mentioned that she used to assignment the whole class to play Portal. For those who have limited expereince of video game, it is actually very hard.

We also get into the group and kick off the 1st project about urban gardening today. Many people have intent to do urban gardening, but they might lack of skill level and have space/time constrains. How to amplify the intention into real action? (ps. It is not about creating intention.)

Week 3–1 Guest: Geoff Kaufman

Today we have a talk from Geoff Kaufman, professor in HCI department. His talk is about psychological foundations of persuasive technology through game and narrative. He first argues about some narrative are over-explicit. It is very effective if the players agree on the value but an explicit approach might also:

  1. Trigger psychological reactance
  2. Interrupt engagement and enjoyment.
  3. Disrupt effectiveness because of broadcasting attention.

Is there a lighter, subtle way to design a transformational game?



Interweaving or balancing the proportion of on-topic and off-topic.

Ex. Awkward moment / Dumb ways to die (reduce railway


Concealing the persuasive content with engaging gameplay and narrative.

Ex. Smorball (typing practice) / Zombie Run (work out) / buffalo (stereotype)

For buffalo party game, it helps create mindset for further conversation rather than directly changing attitude toward the topic.

Way to do obfuscation:

  1. Delay revelation: Researches indicate that showing the true intent later is more effective. For example, if narrative could show the main character is in LGBT group later rather than beginning of the game, player have more empathy for the character.
  2. Misdirection: Outbreak is a good example. It is a game about Spread of the virus. One scenario is that if people get the virus, they die. The other scenario is that if people get the virus, they become zombie. Research shows that the later one is more engaging for the players even though two games teach the same thing.
Ex. Outbreak / Gone home


Using device as fictionalization or metaphor.

Paper please / The War of Mine
Karen: The life coach / Life line

My thoughts

  1. Game takes some many different form. I feel that there is unlimited carrier I could possible pick or make it up by myself. (It is a good news for my thesis)
  2. Many examples are more about creating a subtle mindset different rather than push really hard to make people take action. (What of kind outcome do I expect from my gameplay?)

Week 3–2 Visting Phipps

Classroom / Eatable garden

We visited Phipps today to talk to the client and went around the eatable garden

  • Goal of the game is to tansform people from desire to action. Besides that, there isn’t other constraints. We could decide the format, the target audience, the context, and so on. Without limitation means we need to carefully pick our route.
  • The goal of Homegrown program is to harvest fresh product. (sense of achievement?)
  • Younger kid is 2–13 and 13-adult. Some teacher will also reach out for gardening project at school (for science teaching purpose). Some college student will reach out as well.
  • People do gardening for many reasons. Some important ones are school science project, fresh product, ornamental or stress release.
  • The most popular method is one-foot planting.
  • Some people choose certain species because it fits him. Bring him joy. It is a sense of personal connection.

Resource: Behavior change theories

Self-determination theory(SDT)

It mainly focus on understanding the relationship between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. (It is hard to simplify into a framework)

The Transtheoretical Model

To take the action, there are several stages to go through. They include Precontemplation (Not Ready), Contemplation (Getting Ready), Preparation (Ready), Action, Maintenance.

The processes of change help to explain how those changes occur.

  • Cognitive and Affective Experiential Processes
    1. Consciousness Raising (Get the Facts)
    2. Dramatic Relief (Pay Attention to Feelings)
    3. Environmental Reevaluation (Notice Your Effect on Others)
    4. Self-Reevaluation (Create a New Self-Image)
    5. Social Liberation (Notice Public Support) Processes
  • Behavioral Processes
    6. Self-Liberation (Make a Commitment)
    7. Counter Conditioning (Use Substitutes)
    8. Helping Relationships (Get Support)
    9. Reinforcement Management (Use Rewards)
    10. Stimulus Control (Manage Your Environment)

Social Learning Theory

Behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning. However, there is some thought prior to imitation, which is called mediational processes.

  1. Attention: The extent to which we are exposed/notice the behavior.
  2. Retention: How well the behavior is remembered.
  3. Reproduction: This is the ability to perform the behavior that the model has just demonstrated.
  4. Motivation: The will to perform the behavior. The rewards and punishment that follow a behavior will be considered by the observer.

Week 4–1

Today is a group ideation session and get feedback from Jessica.

Garden Immersing

When we visited Phipps, we were amazed by the trellis with squash growing on it. We wonder whether we could rebuild the experience for player. Player could go inside to do some activities such like harvesting the produce. It could be host in community garden for kids to play.

Water gun/ballon competition

The other ideas is about the responsibility of watering. During the visit, Heather mentioned about a shared responsibility problem in local school. People has difficult to share the responsibility and eventually most tasks fall on someone’s shoulder. What if we could reframe the watering into water gun or ballon competition? We could use different colors for water and white paper/fabric to mark the target.

Feedback from Jessica

She mentions that both ideas are exciting but we need to be more precise about what is our transformational expectation and align it with the goal.

For example, the first game could have two very different approaches: One is create a play space so player could feel less hesitate to act silly. The other is for someone familiar with gardening, it could a chance to show off and other people might want to be him

Prototyping (9/19)

We buy a hula hoop and use fabric to prototype as trellis for the first game.

Week 4–2 Play test

Today, we started test each teams game and we are the first one. Before the test, Jessica describe the EOTA protocol.

  1. Experience: Players talk about their experience only. (No suggestions)
  2. Observation: Observers talk about their observations. (No suggestions)
  3. Theory: People talk about hypothesis. 
    (I see … and I think it is because …)
  4. Advice: Advices for the game.

ps. During the game play and feedback process, design team should keep silent.

Playtest Feedback

  1. The second player complete the game much faster, because she remembered where the objects are. We need to consider level design.
  2. Beside the sense of shape, we could consider other sensory such as smell(herb?) or texture. There is not misidentification happens. We could consider misguide people.
  3. Be aware of the players’ emotion. It seems that instructor feel bored / anxious. There is only limited action he could take.
  4. The veil has unexpected effect to limited player’s movement while creating a comfort zone.
  5. The game is more toward destructive and requires time to recover before next round.
  6. The food hanged are final product. It lacks those fresh harvested smell.
  7. How does this game work out in the garden? Do we want player to move around?
  8. A good idea is to add imperfect produces. The shape might be not normal. It is a perfect chance for people to experience them.
  9. The instruction card could take different form or add different clue.

Feedback from Jessica

It seems to be two possible directions for this game.

  1. Create a different way for people to experience the garden so they could bring the memory home and might want to have one.
  2. Make people feel comfortable making their hands dirty. Soil under the nail or somthing.

ps. The second play test is a board game to grow your own raised bed. It is interesting to see people promote and protect their own raised bed. They are easily attached to the bed they created.

Week 5–1 Guest: Pop up human-centered research

Today we have a guest talk by Peter Weeks from Philips in Pittsburgh. He talks about guerrilla user research.

Guide line

  1. Have a high ethical bar.
  2. Plan rigorously (Be opportunistic but structured and consistent)
  3. Go to the gemba, the place where practice happens.
  4. Be brave. (Have confidence and embrace Oh Shit Moments)
  5. Think as partnet not subject.

What people say and what people do might be very different -> Use AEIOU model to observe.


  1. Passive listening: Use online forum, twitter, FB, instagram to survey.
  2. Observation: Wider research. Analog exploration, contextual observation.
  3. Interviews: Friend, family. Go to the place doing contextual intercept.
  4. Participation + Simulation: Join an activity or set a challenge.

10 Tips for great interview

  1. Be open
  2. Build Rapport from start
  3. Follow the lead
  4. Use their language
  5. Expect the unexpect
  6. Listen 90%, talk 10%.
  7. Ask open-ended questions. (Avoid Yes/No question)
  8. Embrace the pause. (Interviewee will naturally fill the gap)
  9. Work as a team
  10. Document everything.

Planning your popup research

  1. What are you trying to learn?
  2. What question will help you learn that? Brainstorming questions and use affinity diagram to cluster them.
  3. What methods can you use to understand and help make smarter decision?
  4. Plan you activities.

Week 5–2 Playtest

Today we have iterated our prototype by contrusting a larger trellis made by woodstick but we don’t have time to run the play test.

We also run two playtest session with games from other team. First one is about beans and poems. The second one is about occupying the raised bed. Jessica also pays attention to where those strong emotion reaction occured.

Week 6–1 Playtest

Today, we play tested the games from final two teams. One is planting seeds with TicTacToe and the other is full year class activity with kid in first grade.

For the first one, Jessica mentioned that the time-based rule make conventional element (Tic Tac Toe in this case) become fresh which is quite successful. She thinks that there is potential play in the checking part and designer should consider rule for more than 6 people since they intent to make it as a party game.

For the second one, Jessica thinks there are many ways to easily fail in the game and teachers should be considered as major stakeholder to buy-in.

Playtest in the weekend

Week 6–2 Presentation

Today is the final presentation of our first assignment with Phipps Conservatory. In the first project, we ran through 3 iterations of prototype and 2 rounds of play test. (But I believe we have not done enough research with stakeholders). Here are the feedbacks from the panel:

  1. Phipps try to promote the idea of “vegetables come in shape”. Blindfolded and touch the plant is an ideal activity for that.
  2. Kids love to take turn playing the game. This game is ideal for 6–9 year-old kid in summer camp.
  3. The game provide prize (the food you harvest), people like that.
  4. Jessica like the final part of game to lifestyle. Recipe would be a good idea.
  5. The corporation is pre-assigned which does not necessarily leads to actively share responsibility.

As a other team project, panel also provides certain insights.

  1. How to make kid keep engaging since gardening take longer time.
  2. Be aware about the separate activities. If you design people to do something in order to do other things. You will need to be cautious about whether two activities are both linked to your goal.

10/8 Playtest with Professor

Our team made appointment with Jessica to playtest our game. We bought some fresh produce (not plastic one anymore) and went down to ETC. We setup up the game on the lawn in front of ETC building. After previous experience, we actually setup really fast.

When the players play the game, the game designer should not be there. So we leave the rule set and let Professors and TAs play by themselves. When we were back, we saw the dirt on Professor’s pants which means we kind of successfully transform Professor’s behavior (OH YEAH!).

Week 7–1 Project 2 Begins

This week, we are put into different team and begin our second project with Phillips. It is a game about sleeping technology. Jessica mention that many current solutions are all about grading your sleep which does not necessarily make sense for the user. How could we design for healthy sleep without using score or point?

Furthermore, unlike the previous project which has well-defined user group, we only have vague user group to pick (which means heavier user research to define the potential user). Our group pick up “People who regularly away from home” as our target.

During the previous playtest, Jessica’s feedback focused a lot on players’ experience and emotions. In the second project, we also change the way doing playtest. In the second project, we will use parallel playtesting. Two 2-group test will be conducted in class. By cutting the class into half means people could get feedback earlier but with less observers.

Jessica also demonstrated how to design game without using score. When brainstorming the games, we could put some limit in advance. Take an object and choose an approach (ex. physical, social, strategic, …). Then you could actually come out with very interesting ideas.

Week 7–2

Find the right problem to solve, framework and reframe template sheet

Today we have our draft research plan and talk to people from Phillips. “People regularly away from home” is still too large to explore. Before narrowing down, Peter suggests us to talk to people first. After we choose a specific user group, we then could further identify the paint points in this specific group. Don’t think about the solution first. Just propose that you could help them solve the problem and see their response.

Week 8–1

Today, we have a short lecture from Jessica and then a discussion session. After today, we will have 3 play test sessions in the class.

Jessica mentions about three points today.


Thinking about how to make rule not for control but for provoking behavior. Intentionally imperfect rule could become a sense making process for player to improvise behavior.


On one hand, people often feel negative emotions such as shame, guilt or frustration while encoutering failure. On the other hand, failure could be a chance of learning, discovering or even a reality check (the failure is caused by something out of control or in control).

Due to the nature of sleeping, people might be lack of agency to control it. Design the failing experience will be important for this game. How do we design for failing experience?

  • Designer could manage players’ expectation (ex. the game is deliverable to be very difficult).
  • Social comparison will be also good techniques. Make players think they are not alone or stupid. Everyone has suffer the difficulty.
  • The frequency of feedback is also important. If it takes too long to show the failing message, it does not matter anymore.
  • The prior experience will also affect the way player assess failure.

Attribute to failure

  • Self / World / Task
  • Global / Situational, locus of control, stable/changeable

Eventually, the question is how to make failure more pleasant and productive?

Sharing our interviews

We have also shared our interviews result and converge into three topics.

  1. Sleep on the airplane
  2. A sense of unsafely due to unfamiliar environment
  3. A sense of anxiety due to internal mental factor

Based on these, Jessica suggests us the following way to brainstorm. It might not be a solid game. A playful experience is what we need.

  1. Use physical object to generate ideas
  2. Use verb list to generate ideas
  3. Use random worlds in dictionary to generate ideas
  4. Generate one idea based on your personal experience

Week 8–2

Our team come out with our first prototype about essential oil and mad libs. No play test for our team today.

We went through two playtest sessions today. First one is for people who share bed. The game ask two people sleep on each other and talk about what happen to them that day. I personally thinks this game has great potential. Jessica mentions that it will be very to balance funny and vulnerability. It will be a great game if you could balance it. Otherwise, you should choose either direction.

For the second game, it is about shadow puppet. Jessica think it is interesting ideal of bed time ritual. As an adult, our decision to go to bed is often either we want to be functional tomorrow or we finally get all the things done. However, she afraid that once player gets used to the story, it will be boring very soon.

2-Player test (10/20)

  • LOVED the game, thought it was super fun yet calming
  • Kept commenting on how calming/soothing the scents were as they smelled them
  • Occasionally wouldn’t like one of the scents and used a negative adjective to describe how it made them feel
  • One of my roommates suggested making a poem instead of a story because the story ended up being so funny that it wasn’t exactly sleep-inducing

1-Player test (10/22)

  • First player didn’t think the game is helpful. I think It is mainly because the story he picked has too many words. He said the game makes him think rather than relax.
  • Second player found that the idea of the game is interesting but she was not sure about the effectiveness of the game. She also suggested we should pick some smell from home for people to smell.
  • Third player is a male. He liked the game and think that the game makes him shift the focus and even the story was fun. It did not make him too excited.
  • I also found that the reference list is not working properly. I do suggest that they could reference but not limited to those words but it seem people simply ignore the sheet.

Week 9–1

After previous two tests, we decided to add a poem elements in our mad libs game and we ran two session in today’s playtest, one with story and the other with poem.

  • Players like to story. It makes them feel cozy.
  • Some essential oil is strong and obvious which makes people hard to imagine different worlds.
  • The way of placing essential oil on the table has significant effect on the player. Player will lean toward them to smell(the quality of engagement). Player avoid reading the labels. Player will arrange the order after smelling them.
  • The way of smelling essential oil also effect the engagement. Directly smelling from the bottle is too strong and limited. How could we design a way for player explore and change experience by his own.
  • How the game could be played? Bringing bottles of essential oil is difficult for business travelers. (HOW)
  • Jessica mentioned two possible directions: 1) Make players forget they are away from home. 2) Make players remember their familiar place.
  • Jessica also suggested that we should consider medium beyond essential oils. There are plenty of things could make people feel cozy.
  • Being able to clearly articulate the barrier will help us move forward.
  • As for the second session, player really enjoy the coziness of the poem. Jessica suggests that we could let player pick up a smell and describe the story by themselves.

Week 9–2

Today, our group first helped test the second iteration of the shadow puppet. Then we ran playtest with our second iteration: an interaction story book with cozy scene. (We plan to have scratch-and-sniff stickers for player to interact but not able to make it this time)

Player really like to story line and use smell to decide which way to go. The prototype is limited as well as the playtest result. As a result, more feedbacks are about suggestions.

  1. We discuss that either the digital format or physical format is better. Both medium have their pros and cons. (If it is in digital form, we could use keynote to prototype)
  2. We talked about adding some music/audio elements to increase the playfulness.
  3. The multiple storylines provide great replay-ability.
  4. The smell and pick interaction implies people about “What kind of environment I want to end up with?”
  5. The cozy pictures we put in the book are impactful.
  6. People suggests to have different smell at home which also has its pro and con. (Feel like home or feel homesick)
  7. Jessie mentioned about a child book, Good Night Moon, we could check.
  8. We could also do something like Grounding Box for good night sleep.
  9. Nick mentioned about a psychological term called Transportation Theory which talk about people’s immersive experience while reading stories.
  10. People also suggested to carter the story to where people live. It could be city-wise or place-wise (ex. luxury hotel, Airbnb, Hostel, …etc)

Week 9–2 Assignment 2 Presentation

The final prototype of DreamOn is a cozy storybook for people to choose their own adventure.

Week 10–1

No class

Week 10–2

Today, we kick off the third project with GroupProject, a company that help large corporate to be more effectively and equally assign the tasks within the corporate. GroupProject tries to help employees better understand themselves so that you could achieve better performance on the job.

In terms of game design, this project is about investigating how game can produce data? (The data could be either quantified or qualified) and how data could be understand by players and outside observer? (Maybe we need rubric for output)

People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well

  • You can’t judge whether you’re biased, because when it comes to yourself, you’re the most biased judge of all.(The I-am-not-biased bias)
  • You need people who are motivated to see you accurately which is your colleagues. The challenge is they’re often reluctant to tell you the stuff you don’t want to hear but need to.
  • If you want people to really know you, weekly meetings don’t cut it. You need deep dives with them in high-intensity situations.
  • People who know you well write your user manual for you.
  • You can’t ignore feedback from multiple sources.

You don’t know yourself as well as you thinkg you do


The game’s data could also be useful to one or more of the following stakeholder groups:

  1. Employers. Employers need actionable, reliable information that they can trust, that guides them away from undesired bias, and that will help them to understand their employees better. However, employers are in a position of power over employees; consider how involving employers may change the player experience, and what negative consequences might ensue.
  2. Group Project. Group Project needs usable data to improve their project, which they want to be accurate, consistent, and, to the extent possible, scientific. They want to satisfy their clients without sacrificing on their core values of doing good science and fighting bias. However, Group Project will not have important contextual data, either on the scale of workplaces or the scale of the individual. For example, they won’t know if the user was in a really bad mood when they provided data.
  3. Other stakeholders, as defined by you. For example, investors might want to see this data for companies they are considering investing in. Group Project is hoping to create an ecosystem that is friendly to their ideas and values, so you may define a new stakeholder group, identify what they need, and produce data that is relevant to them.

Personality Aspects

Metrics from GroupProject / Five factor analysis

Cognitive and Social Biases

Jessica provide some material about self-evaluation and games at workplace but one of the most important things is that we need to understand the cognitive and social biases. Here are some examples:

  • Availability heuristic: people will use the first examples that come to mind, for example because they are recent or because they were particularly dramatic.
  • Bias blind spot: people are less likely to detect bias in themselves than in others.
  • Confirmation bias: people will lean toward confirming their prior biases or hypotheses.
  • Cue-dependent forgetting: people remember things better when they are in a similar state (e.g. emotional state, physical location) and worse when things are different.
  • Dunning-Kruger effect: people with low ability in a given area are not expert enough to accurately evaluate themselves.
  • Fundamental attribution error: people overemphasize traits and underemphasize the situation when judging others, and vice versa for themselves.
  • Objectivity bias: people can be less objective when they think they are more objective.
  • Social desirability bias: people want to present themselves in ways that are socially acceptable to others.
  • Stereotyping: stereotyped perceptions interfere with people’s ability to evaluate each other, and themselves, fairly.

Week 11–1

Today, we have conference call with the team from GroupProject to talk about their service and the challenges they are facing.

  • Enterprise often uses performance review to evaluate people’s work and we often understand people through their title or job description.
  • GroupProject is trying to design a quiz that help people ask self-reflective questions.
  • However, the experience of filling the quiz is not guided strongly. The context of taking the quiz will effect the quality of the result. How might we integrate the experience of using GroupProject into company’s review process?

Answers to some Questions

  • The quiz has as individual or in the group, why? We often judge people from their job but it is not exactly right. However, we want people to be themselves at work which means try to make people act consistently.
  • GroupProject avoid using certain role or stereotype for the result of the quiz. They don’t want the result being interpreted by job description. Rather, they try to achieve contextual appropriateness for the people and help people think about their own abilities.
  • The challenge is that employer often need to force employee to do the quiz. Most participants are often reluctant to do, however, research shows that once they start, they often finish and appreciate the result. It is always hard to take the first step.
  • The manager has dashboard that could see information anonymously. Furthermore, employee can decide to opt-out the test.
  • To avoid stereotype, over report or under report. The option in the spectrum is designed to be not low-high but this-that. Participants also fill out the demographics information after they have done the test.
  • The design also try to avoid those behavior that is built by your job description.

First ideas

We need to come out with our first iteration to playtest on Wednesday, so we directly meet after the class to ideate and prototype. I think of three potential attribute we could focus on:

  1. Playfulness, experimentation, and openness. (I like to want with people who is fun)
  2. Decision making, execution and present focus. (It might be fun to make a decision making game)
  3. Collectivism vs. Individualism (About team player or individual worker)

Eventually, we decided to deal with the third one (Collectivism and Individualism) because it has great potential to investigate this attribute through a multi-people board game.

We come out with a two team, time-based, city building game.

  • 6 players will be divided into two teams. (3 vs. 3)
  • Players will have the resource cards on hand to build the building.
  • It is time-based so the team that has the resource and act faster could get the building done.
  • If one player build the building by his own, he gets higher personal score.
  • If the team collaboratively build the building, everyone get score but lower.
  • The win or end game condition is not decided yet.

Week 11–2

We have the first playtest today and here is our observations:

  • The win condition of group winner and individual winner does not quite make sense.
  • The game ends when one team finish building all four types of building. The score system does not mean too much.
  • We see people’s engagement mostly due to the rule of time-based.
  • People get stuck if they figure out there is no way they could build the building. (It is a game mechanical flaw)
  • It seems to be easier to corporate rather than being selfish.
  • How might provide a common goal while incentifying selfishness?

Second Iteration

We have meet on Sunday night to come out with second iteration. We have also conducted a playtest internally to see whether the iteration works or not.

What we change?

  • We decide the game should end when one team finish all four buildings.
  • But people will win according to their individual goal to provoke selfishness.
  • For game materials, we need cheatsheet, bank resource cards (for trading), one more type of building (total 5), holding template for building.

We have run a simple playtest for the second iteration and we find out we need to address some game mechanics so that it is fair and playable.

Playtest by Sasha

Week 12–1

Before I talked about playtest of our game, we playtested the dancing game for other team. The game is a ramification from paper, scissor, stone (disco, ballet and breakdance). However, players have difficulty to understand what beats what. Because unlike paper, scissor, stone, there is no rational behind the rule. It makes people have no reason to dance at all.

As for the score, Jessica sees great potential in the bracelet. How do we make other see your score? Maybe the bracelet should wear on four limbs. This way makes the score very explicit. As for leaving the group or staying around, Jessica thinks more successful player should have more difficulty and the bracelet should be served as indicators. Since the core mechanics is simple, the design around should be crispy.

Test two rounds

We have test two rounds. In the first round, player could simultaneously place the resource(time-based only). In the second round, player should put the resource one-by-one. (turn-based + time-based) I think the second mechanics works better because it give people more time to be strategized.


  • The phase is too quick. Don’t have time to think or even try to be selfish. It is also interesting to see people react so quickly. (Fast learning)
  • The size of card, building and resource are confusing.
  • In the beginning, Jessica started to strategize reserving some card for herself. When the game starts, she realizes she definitely needs her team mate to win. Her winning chance is too small and random, she quickly gave up. The individual goal is out of control.
  • There are very high cognitive load for this game which could be a good or bad thing. It depends.
  • For the second round, the order might matter. The 3rd person mentions he is stressing out because previous team mate do their job.


  • Can we discuss about think and behave in the specific moment? What I feel vs. what I did.
  • The setup seems to favor quick-thinking person and fast-phase reward collectivism.
  • The mechanics do not reward communication and strategy.
  • Strategy could be what’s left, what resource I should pay attention to.
  • More agency will trigger more strategy.


  • Reduce the cognitive load by color-coding or even some hint/cheat sheet.
  • A example is the game “Spoon”.
  • Jessica suggest player could choose either to contribute or fold a card if player does not have resource or he lies). Or even play resource on the building. Or once you fold cards, you could choose to use the resource once you decide to.
  • Think about team goal and personal goal. Don’t make them align with each other too much.
  • Once a building is built, people can clear their cards on hand to increase possibility and remove randomness.

In general, players enjoy playing the game. The game is fun. We just need to decrease the randomness and make it more strategize.

We also need a debrief for after-game discussion. Maybe 5 discussion questions.

Week 12–2 Closing lecture

Two classes next week will be all about presentation, so today it actually the last day of the class. Jessica gives a close talk about the class.

  • After this class, we will all have three portfolio pieces to represent. Although there are all non-digital games, they have potential to be digital.
  • We all have learned how to infuse playfulness and fun into non-game product. (There are so many crapy game in the world but the gamified products are even worst)
  • Game helps people express feeling and reinforce action. Every actions in games are inherently valuable. (ex. the hat, the bracelet, the shadow puppy. Everything matters)
  • We discover game as a tool to express what matters to us. We learn is it a good problem to solve by game? How do I iterate? How do I know it is successful?


  • Try to be a domain expert.
  • There are no money in transformational game now. But many organizations want to use game to solve problems but don’t know how. Apply the game design skill you learned for those organization such as museum or medical institute.


We tried to discuss how to solve the problem of randomness and increase roon for strategy but don’t know how.

Week 13–1 Presentation for Game 3

Today we have our final presentation of the third assignment for GroupProject. Here are the feedback we got from the panelist:

  • One mentions that she really like the point-out-who-is-selfish activity after the game. She could imagine that provoke many conversations.
  • It is interesting to see player is the one that could produce resource because this mechanism is rare in the board game.
  • GroupProject talks about it will be interesting to see the pattern emerge within specific company when the game is played multiple times. The strategy might be evolved over time as well.
  • Jessica mentions that it is interesting dynamic that people have some resource can be seen and some can’t be seen. It creates interesting dynamic.
  • It will be interesting to see how a person manages other’s perception to himself.