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Design principles for an unconscious bias game: II

23 juni 2021 by Maarten

In the past weeks we have hosted over 25 test runs with the Blindspot 2.0 prototype. It was exciting and insightful! In this blog I will update you on the results on the design hypotheses we set and how they shape our next steps. If you haven’t already I recommend reading the first two development blogs to learn more about the origins of this game.

In Blindspot 2.0 you will step into the shoes of a team of investigators. You are tasked to solve a mystery that is taking place on hidden island. As a player you choose a character that you will play the game with. However, each of these characters is highly biased, leaving you with a handicap (biased assumptions) making solving this mystery a challenge. Learning to circumvent your characters bias is crucial for you as a player to succeed.

For the purpose of these tests we developed a rudimentary prototype. With this prototype we wanted to learn:

  • If the game is intuitive to the player and the instructions are clear.
  • If the concept of a detective/mystery has a fit for a narrative to have people play with unconscious biases.
  • What the overall reception was of the concept direction we choose for this game.

In addition, testing the game also gave us a lot of feedback on how players experience the actual handling of biases in this game. Although the instruction and interaction was the main validation point for us these insights proved to be a vital learning point for our next pivots.

What have we learned?
Usability and instructions: We have learned a lot on how to increase the usability and instructions for the game. Most feedback was about the amount of text, fonts, visuals and we took a lot of time to test our many ideas of the game’s tutorial.

Schizophrenia in game goals: We discovered that our game mechanics are a bit demanding on the players focus resulting into less attention for the actual biases. Players experienced difficulties switching between the level goal (solving the mystery) and the supporting mechanic where you had to discover your own characters biases. We believe that this confusion is not serving the game’s purpose of providing insight in what the unconscious biases are.

Make it more real: We have heard the request to integrate more ‘real life’ dynamics and situations on our fictional story. This makes translating these situations into your own world easier which will strengthen the learning effect, as requested by some of you. This will be picked up on in the debriefing and content of the next version.

Mystery was well received: our choice for a detective/mystery was well received and the narrative is engaging. However, in line with the previous learning, we have learned that the actual situations could be closer to home.

So, in short, what we will do:

  • Improve the game’s tutorial and instruction messages.
  • Improve various usability issues.
  • Integrate the bias mechanic with the mystery mechanic. Instead of using your characters bias to find the culprit you will now receive a much clearer objective: the secret agent has a ‘xx’ bias. Analyze the behavior of the suspects to figure out who it is. This provides us with the opportunity to integrate more common biases, and the more exciting ones.
  • Remove the support mechanic (judging your assumptions) since this is now obsolete considering the change above. This will provide the player with less work and more focus.
  • Adjust scenes and characters to bring them a bit closer to home helping players to bridge fiction to reality.

Conclusion and next steps:
Experiments are always successful since the goal is learning. Even more through all the feedback and ideas we received we see a clear line of requirements which will put us on the path for improvement.

We feel that we are on the right track but that we need to make a strong pivot as well to be able to respond to the feedback and suggestions. This results in a simpler approach of the game mission, more concrete bias situations and less extra’s for the player to worry about. We are eager to bring this new direction alive in the next demo for you to try out.

Stay tuned!



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