A social justice board game that fosters empathy, critical thinking and collaboration
Task: Game Mechanics Design; Game Balancing; Organize Playtesting; Design and Coding for the Digital Tutorial
Design a learning game to help players engage with contemporary issues on matters of social justice and responsible citizenship; learn and apply 21st century skills in support of social work practice.
Our Town, a competitive strategy board game highlighting the necessity of positive interdependence among players. Collaborated with New York University School of Social Work.
The heated discussion around the 2016 US presidential election calls for more reflection and education on social justice. How might we bring social justice topics into student discussions in a politically neutral way and help them empathize with other individuals and groups? How might we foster critical thinking and collaboration in the social justice domain?
Our Town is a competitive strategy board game highlighting the necessity of positive interdependence among players. The current version of this game has already gone through 4 rounds of major iterations. All the play testers thought it is a fun game and wanted to continue playing even when the scheduled play testing session is over. We have tested with people with or without social work education.
Players in-game discussion and post-game feedback suggested that the game is successful in 1) providing contexts/scenarios in which decision making is tied to expression or suppression of values related to social justice; 2) enhancing players’ understanding that collaborative strategies and pooling resources may enable players to achieve success in their mission more readily than working alone; 3) encouraging players to debate about policies, negotiate trades, and proposing innovative solutions.
To facilitate teachers introducing this game to middle school classes, we have created simplified the rules and lowered the average play session time to 40 minutes. We also created an interactive rulebook as tutorial, so that students can learn to play this game with minimum help from teachers.
Check out the latest version on my Github page.