Rich Stachon | September 2016

Design Thinking: Game Challenge

I started off this school year with a challenge for my seventh and eighth-grade art students. The challenge was to create an original game using design thinking. Though the challenge is not complete, I wanted to share the process and progress so far.

Day One of Design Thinking (Empathize)

The goal is to have your students learn about the groups of people that they will eventually be designing a design thinking game for.

Start by breaking your students into groups of three or four. Have groups research a traditional board game like Clue, Monopoly, Sorry, etc. Each group will choose a different design thinking game to research, and they will proceed to answer a variety of questions. What is the target audience for the game? How do you play the game? What kind of physical pieces are there in the game? What is the goal of the game? Give students twenty to twenty-five minutes to conduct the research needed to answer the questions about the game.

Quick Tip #1: Get your students in the mindset of working in a group setting. Explain to your students the importance of dividing work evenly amongst group members. Have your students assign one question to each member of the group. Conclude the period by having each group present their findings to the entire class. 

Day Two (Define)

The goal is to have your students understand the basic framework of a game. What does the user need and or know?

Now that your students are once again familiar with the games of the past, it’s time to bust them out and start playing. Physical play is a great way for students to do research while having fun too.

Quick Tip #2: Provide a variety of games for students to play. The games I decided to use included: Clue, Operation, Twister, Jenga, Don’t Tip The Waiter, Trouble, and Dominos. Have your students switch to a different game every five to seven minutes, no matter if they are finished or not. Near the end of the period have students pack up the pieces of the game or set them up for the next class.

Lastly, engage your students with a quick round of questions. What did you like or dislike about playing a certain game? What would you change? How long did it take to complete each game? How did you know how to play the games? Did you need to have any previous knowledge of the game topic/theme?

Day Three (Ideate)

The goal is to have your students brainstorms as many ideas as possible for their game challenge.

In groups of three or four, have students generate as many ideas as they can.

Quick Tip #3: Start off with a theme or a particular topic. Before thinking if they are going to use a game board with cards or dice, encourage students to think about the theme of their game. Have your students reflect on the first two days of the challenge.

Game Sketch, Education Closet

Their experiences with the games they researched and played may help form solutions for their own game.

Quick Tip #4: Remind students that all voices in the group should be heard. This is not a dictatorship, one person should not control the direction of ideas. Relay to your students the importance of working as a group.

Day Four (Prototype)

The goal is to have students create a working representation of one of their game ideas.

Once each group has decided on an idea to use for their game, students will start building a prototype.

Quick Tip #5: Have students assign jobs to each group member. There is much to get done in a relatively short amount of time. So, encourage your students to work on different parts of the design thinking game. I took a few minutes to discuss with my classes all the things that needed to be created in order to complete their game prototype. All games have a name. In turn, groups should create a logo for their game. The logo can place on the game board, playing cards, dice, and the game box. All of which also need to be designed and created, depending on the style of the game.

Game Pieces, Education Closet

Rules and or instructions on how to play the design thinking game need to be created.

Quick Tip #6: Start with basic low-cost materials. Cardboard is great for a number of game pieces. Ask your local grocery store for any extra cardboard boxes, make sure you play the “I am a teacher” card. Other low-cost materials include modeling clay, cardstock, paint, construction paper, and tape. If you have access to a 3D printer don’t be afraid to have your students test out their 3D modeling skills and create game pieces and boards. I have a number of students utilizing this technology while creating their game prototypes.

Challenge Conclusion (Test)

The goal is to have students test out the games and provide feedback to the creators.

As mentioned earlier in the post, this challenge is still in progress. The plan is to have a game day where students play each other’s games. This will be followed up with a circle discussion providing feedback for the makers of the game. The discussion will be centered around a few questions. What worked well in the game? What didn’t work well in the game? Were the instructions of how to play the game clear? Did you have fun playing the game?

3d printed pieces, Education Closet

I look forward to seeing the many different ways in which my students solve the design thinking game challenge. If you have created design thinking games with your students I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to add comments or ask questions.

Keep Making,

Rich Stachon

About the Author

Rich Stachon is an art and technology teacher at Glen Crest Middle School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Rich provides opportunities for STEAM consistently with 3D printing, stop animation and other areas of convergence between art and technology. You can find Rich on Twitter @rstachon to see classroom projects and find more STEAM resources.