Logic Mapping — Game Design for Complex Problems

Logic mapping is a game design tool. It uses logic-flows to unpack the complexity of a problem while guiding your thinking towards useful and related solutions. It acts as a design thinking shortcut; as efficiently testing out the viability of a solution as it is at unpacking a problem.

Logic mapping is applicable in any design situation where you are having to deal with complex issues that require systemic design or redesign. I regularly apply and teach this game design technique as part of my service innovation role for the New Zealand government. You can access the Logic Mapping template here.

How does it work?

Logic mapping reveals the common threads running through audience experiences. It helps to identify commonalities around issues and motivations, shared between different groups. It aids decision making by revealing the most impactful area where action can be focused.

The logic mapping technique establishes a psychological foundation for evidencing design decisions. It speaks directly to the needs of your target audience, ensuring that you are designing the right-thing and not just doing-something, that might later be revealed as irrelevant to those you were intending to help.

A Six Step Process

The purpose of the process is to establish the most impactful design threads by revealing their logical associations (the Logic Mapping Flow diagram illustrates how the steps fit together).

Complex Problem — begin by clearly stating the nature of the complex problem that your work is addressing. Such as, invasive pests in New Zealand forests and their impact native bird and tree populations.

Overarching Goal — The second step is to define an overarching ‘Goal’ that frames the direction of the work. For example; a goal would be to generate higher public engagement with ecosystem management.

Audience Types — Thirdly, is the identification of the ‘Audience’ types who are impacted by the complex problem. In our eco-system example, the audience types included research institutes, involved in biodiversity management and the New Zealand public with a core demographic of rural New Zealanders.

Motivations — Fourth, is ‘Motivation’ mapping. To design solutions or approaches to help our audience, we need to understand what would motivates them to engage with the goal and complex problem. Motivations are split into Intrinsic and Extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivations are internal drives that are linked to a person’s values or sense of purpose.

Extrinsic motivations are external drives and come from outside influences.

In our eco-system example, both audience types share the intrinsic motivation of maintaining and restoring New Zealand’s forest ecosystem and biodiversity. However, there’s a difference between extrinsic motivations. The research institutes are motivated to control pest populations, while promoting understanding and awareness of the effectiveness eco-management techniques. But, the public motivations were simpler, being motivated by evidence of native bird and tree recovery. Understanding what motivates each audience reveals the range of potential engagement pathways for design approaches.

Pain-points / Problem statements — The next step is to write a set of pain-points and / or problem statements for each of the audience types. These should be written to reflect the audience motivations for engaging with both the goal and complex problem. It is the targeted design-thinking around the problem statements that allows for audience appropriate concepts to emerge.

Constraints — With the problem statements formed, it is now possible to list the constraints that will impact on solving the pain-points and problems being faced. Constraints can be as large as legislative barriers or a straight forward as poor communication channels. Constraints are things we have limited ability to impact in the first instance therefore must be designed around where possible.

Emerging Concepts — The last step in the logic map process is to create a list of design concepts or approaches that have emerged from undertaking the logic mapping. These concepts can be ‘blue-sky’ ideas down to simple fixes, such as new telephones.

At this stage any concepts are useful as a lens through which to explore and ideate on solutions. You will still have to make sure that any assumptions made about your audience motivations have been evidenced. Otherwise you again risk designing a solution that no one will be willing to use.

The Logic Mapping process evolved out of my PhD research into the application of positive psychology for the design of serious games; serious games being computer games that are designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. You can dive into the full details if you wish through my thesis on Structural Playability. The Eco-system management example is also work undertaken as part of the same PhD research and the research paper can be accessed here Ora — Save the Forest!.

I’ve refined the process for use in everyday situations where design-thinking and human-centered design is called for.

Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to understand more about how this design process could help you.

Game designer | emerging technologies explorer | academic