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DSI Students Test Their Games for Impact

by Karina Davila (Class of 2017) and Nada Azem (Class of 2017)

For the past few weeks, we’ve been creating street games as part of our Games for Impact design class. The topics ranged from Hijab’s, the Syrian refugee crisis, to voting in America and exploring New York to kids with immobility. Many of our
games took advantage of the public parks and cityscape in New York, while others took place at DSI.

The Hijab Race used Union Square as grounds for showing people of non-Muslim culture what it’s like to be a Muslim woman in the modern world. Players were asked to race through an obstacle course while wearing a hijab. The only rule was no physical contact — a constraint women wearing hijabs experience everyday. Some of the obstacles, however, such as the personal space challenge (where the player must run around people to get through), made that difficult. By asking our players to step into a Muslim woman’s shoes and move within these constraints, our hope was to build empathy and remove bias.

Ballot Royale helped people determine what presidential candidates they best aligned with, and provided a better understanding of the complexities of the political system and how the candidates are elected. The game framed a political topic within a question, asking the players to choose whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement. However, the player also didn’t know which statement belonged to which candidate. This allowed the player to choose a stance purely based on their opinion and not a previous bias about the candidate. It also allowed them get right to the heart of the issues being discussed. At the end of the game, it was revealed to players who they ultimately aligned with. More than not, people were very surprised which candidate they ended up with.

#OrangeVest took advantage of the space at DSI by converting the classrooms into an installation/immersive experience aimed at raising awareness about the Syrian refugee crisis. Ten players entered the room in silence, collected Syrian ID cards of actual refugees, and proceeded to collect bags, strap on life jackets, and decide which items they should take with them on the journey across the Aegean Sea to Greece. The game facilitator then tangled the arms of the participants and placed them onto the makeshift ‘boat’. The participants tried to untangle themselves, and those that stepped out of the confines of the boat were pulled out of the game. At the end, participants read aloud the actual accounts of the refugee whose ID’s they assumed.

Double O Duckie was played in both the classroom and nearby stores, demonstrating what it feels like to be an immobile child. An “immobile player” assumed the role of the “master mind” staying in the classroom to solve riddles while they communicated with “agents” out in the field. The riddles lead teams to uncover where rubber ducks were hidden in nearby stores. Double O Duckie was aimed at bridging the gap between kids that are healthy and those who are not — giving them an arena to play together, and build empathy and understanding of their different realities.

All in all, the aim was that these games were able to give players a new and realistic perspective on social issues. Our hope is that our games were not only were fun, but that they start a different kind of conversation, built on understanding and empathy.

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