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Blog – Design principles for an unconscious bias game: I

1 juni 2021 by Maarten

In our previous development blog we shared how we are progressing from a first pivot of the unconscious bias game ‘Blindspot’ to a second instalment. In this article we will describe what we have learned from user feedback in the first game and how this lead to design principles (anchor points for design decisions) that we choose as the foundation for the new version.

So, what was Blindspot again?

Blindspot is a playful experience that creates awareness on what biases are and how they work. This multiplayer game can be used as an intervention in programmes or activities about diversity & inclusion for organisations that want to start a conversation with their employees and customers on this topic. In this game we tried to use a compelling storyline and time pressure to actually trigger the players own biases in various settings.

The first version of this game was launched in November 2020. Player feedback has learned us that it does not yet achieve its goals. First of all: relying on triggering the players’ own biases as the core game dynamic and learning mechanism proved to be a gamble and a risk. The target audience for this game is very broad and everyone is triggered differently. If triggering the players own biases is the condition for learning, than you must be at least 90% sure that this actually happens. Also, even when a bias is triggered it often didn’t feel safe for the player to openly share that it did, thus preventing a good and open reflection.

Secondly, since the player already knows this game is about unconscious bias it makes no sense to try to hide it behind a storyline or other game content. The premise of the game keeps people on their toes preventing the natural behaviour you want in order to trigger their own biases.

And finally, in our effort to pack so much in this experience (a lot of biases, a variation of themes, and a lot…no really a lot of text..) we seem to forgot that we were building a game: a game that should actually focus on having al playful, fun and impactful learning experience

Lessons learned:

These lessons learned lead us to the design principles for Blindspot 2.0 where we try to do better.

  • Number one: explicit bias. We create awareness about implicit biases by making them explicit in the game. The player must engage with biases in a conversation in such a way that they discover the hidden constructs that create them. Biases become actual game mechanics themselves and by interacting them player experience how they work and are able to translate them to daily life.
  • Number two: safe play. To be able to learn about implicit biases within a safe space players must be able to play with them without judgement on their own character. This means that the game is not about their own biases but about constructs that are very common for daily life. During reflection we compare these biases to their own personal situation.
  • Number three: Memorable. The game must have a high desirability status because it is memorable, and people are happily sharing their experience. This seems like basic game design but especially for this topic some worth to mouth is super important.
  • Number four: Accessibility. Something that we held in high regard in the original game and remains important in this version as well. We aim to make this as much of an inclusive experience as possible by taking accessibility into account for a broad range of players. This is always work in progress and is often challenging but also a no-brainer for this topic.

The last few months we have been validating these design principles and validated various (paper) prototypes to test game mechanics and techniques. So far results are looking good so we took a next step to create a first digital prototype. This prototype combined with some basic content will help us to validate actual gameplay in a single player game setting with a larger group of test users. Once we have learned what to improve on user interaction we can further build this out in a multiplayer game that will be open to validate the group dynamics.

We will keep you updated on our progress via these blogs and other media. Stay tuned!

Maarten

Maarten