ABOUT THE PROJECT
“A Hamburger” started as a final project for a course on educational games at Teachers College, Columbia University. Along with five teammates, I sought to design a game that would improve design thinking skills.
“Pick something good that can be measured; make a game to improve it.”
In our society, creativity and design-thinking skills are considered nonessential and often disregarded. We are not equipped to be successful in a world that is constantly in need of innovation. To combat this issue, my team created this fun and engaging game as an outlet to cultivate design thinking skills, which we defined as the ability to improve and make things better. In other words, with good design thinking skills, we can use existing resources to produce novel products of higher value than the original’s.
We initially thought of incorporating a recycling aspect to our game — how can we repurpose items that already exist? We could give people an ordinary object, such as a chair, and they would have to think of an innovative way to use it.
This was too limiting. In order to have unlimited possibilities, we included abstract concepts that had different meanings for different people. Ultimately, our game revolved around three cards:
A player would have to come up with a feasible, novel idea that utilized these three cards. For example:
“A portal into my significant other’s heart so that I can better understand her.”
Our peers enjoyed ideating and listening to others’ ideas. In order to make it more exciting, our group added various elements such as time limits, challenge cards, tokens, points, and chance cards.
Week after week, our team playtested our prototype with our classmates. We scrapped superfluous elements of the game and built upon elements that were most promising. For example, while tokens had the potential to increase motivation, they complicated the game and left players confused—this element was removed. Time was a factor that added urgency and motivation with little cost—to improve this element, our team ran trials to assess the ideal amount of time that would motivate players and implemented what we found to be most effective.
Through this process, we were able to identify the most successful components of our game along with those in need of improvement. After careful observation, documentation, and evaluation, we adapted our game to be more impactful. Most importantly, the core principles of our game were founded on educational theory.
Design thinking skills are nurtured within this dynamic, fun environment through carefully crafted elements such as the strategic use of random chance cards, time pressure, communication, and critical evaluation. The three core mechanics throughout the game are:
Draw four cards during each turn: shape, function, context, and chance.
Conceive an idea by integrating the shape, function, and context cards. The player has one minute to brainstorm and present their idea.
Judge your peers.
Additionally, this game can easily be expanded to include more cards and themes, increasing the play lifetime and replayability. For instance, A Hamburger! can be adapted for lesson plans in schools or even for professional development sessions at companies to foster design thinking skills. Regardless of your age, education, or background, there is room for innovation and creativity to be cultivated amongst all of us.
I spearheaded the task of designing each card, carefully considering the user experience. You can have a simple hamburger with only a patty and a bun, but it’s much better with additional elements such as cheese and lettuce—plus, the combinations are endless! I designed the cards to have distinct, bright visuals that differentiate the purpose of each card to incorporate visual feedback.
While the traditional rectangular playing card shape could have been a simple solution, I opted for hexagonal cards to mimic a circular, hamburger-like representation. It also allowed the shape cards to have a more elegant design by giving players more creative license to determine the orientation (what was “right-side up”).
The cards included only the content that was necessary for them to play a round.
To provide “just-in-time” and “on demand” information, we created a small rules card that each player would have in front of them. We also provided specific rules for each chance and challenge card so players could refer to it immediately.
A few members of our team have decided to continue to work on this product and bring it to market.