An engaging way for kids to learn about government.
Middle school kids from the board game club at Seattle Academy asked my team and I to create a product that would teach them about government. Over ten weeks, we created a tablet-based app with interactive stories and trivia to reinforce learning.
First, we conducted semi-structured interviews with three students from the Seattle Academy's board game club to better understand what they wanted to learn about government. We then conducted interviews with three more kids around the same age to identify how they learn best and what games they like. We also administered a survey to five kids to gather quantitative information.
• Digital games preferred over physical games
• Multiplayer is more fun because of the competitive aspect
• A compelling storyline makes a game fun
• Visual and anecdotal were the preferred learning styles
• No one had taken a government class
• Turn-based (asynchronous)
• A digital game
• Based on skill, not chance
Two of my team members and I began by visiting the Seattle Academy board game club to run a co-design exercise. We gave the students ten minutes to individually brainstorm ideas for a game about government. Then, we paired the kids up and asked them to combine the best elements of each of their ideas to create one new idea.
Next, we sketched out ideas as a team and used affinity diagramming to group both ours and the kids' ideas. We checked the ideas against our design goals and research findings and chose to move forward with the three ideas below.
In Government RPG, users play as a political figure to discover the responsibilities of that person. This game satisfied some of our goals by being interactive, digital, and skill-based.
Trivia covers various government topics and is played against friends. This satisfied our turn-based multiplayer requirement.
Build Your Own Country, the combination of the kids' ideas, has players create a country with the political ideology of their choosing, and they develop skill trees as well as trade with or conquer other countries. This met our skill-based and interactive goals.
By combining the best elements of our earlier ideas, we created a game that has two major components: learning and trivia. To learn, users play through interactive scenarios that set them up for trivia, which reinforces learning.
After receiving critique on our paper prototype, we created a high-fidelity prototype, which we tested with our users.
We tested a hi-fi prototype with four kids from the Seattle Academy board game club. We received this feedback:
• Story questions should increase in difficulty
• Most testers chose to play trivia first rather than learn
• Wanted clearer feedback about whether questions were answered correctly
• More interactive scenarios wanted
• Wanted consequences for incorrect answers
Since our app deals with politics and government, my first instinct was to use Republican red and Democrat blue as the accent colors. However, because this is an app for children, I did not want to influence our users with a bias to either party. So, in the spirit of bipartisanship, I chose purple—the color that comes out of combining red and blue—as the primary color for the app. For our dark hues, I chose a black with a hint of purple, thus avoiding true black.
Story-based learning guides the user through scenarios where knowledge is tested via questions along the way. Each answer is followed by an explanation describing why the user's choice was correct or incorrect.
Trivia provides a competitive and engaging way for users to play with friends while reinforcing learning. The trivia component of the app requires users to apply their knowledge from the scenarios to more traditional, concept-based questions.
As with any quarter-long project, the time constraint was a limiting factor. Given more time, I would focus on thoroughly vetting the content with a subject matter expert. While one of my team members is a double major in political science, we wanted to receive content feedback from a professor in the political science department at UW. Additionally, I would refine the app's visual design a bit further on certain screens. Even though I set the visual style for the illustrations, there are some inconsistencies between them, since they were created by myself and two other designers.
Overall, I enjoyed the opportunity to work with and design for children. Being able to create something that not only expanded their minds but also brought them excitement was an amazing experience. It helped me realize that my goal as a designer is to solve problems and spark joy.