? Tabletop Game
5-person Team Project | 4-weeks
A card game to encourage meaningful and creative questions on first dates
When it comes to first dates, most people can share stories of equally magical or miserable encounters. Moving past trivial subjects can be awkward, but deep conversation is the best way to forge lasting relationships. How can we create a tabletop game that unobtrusively breaks down awkward barriers to foster engaging interactions and build a foundation for meaningful relationships?
At the core of every date, both people share a goal: to get to know the other person better. ? is built from 3 decks of cards, each of which represents an "atom" of a question. Players combine cards with a question prompt (why, share), an adjective (first, embarrassing), and a noun (family, meal), and ask a question that incorporates all three words. This provides a framework for people on dates to ask interesting questions but still allows enough creativity for the questions to be sincere. The game has no explicit ending because, ideally, the players will naturally shift away from the game to focus on their conversation.
Physical Interaction Design
Game Analysis & Design
Fabrication (Laser Cutting)
We began our game design process by analyzing existing video and board games. While analyzing Carcassonne, a game where players lay tiles and place "meeples" to build the board and earn points, we realized that gaming can elicit strong feelings that are specific to games and are not easily described. We defined a new term to explain a feeling that is common in Carcassonne and other games:
Anxludus (n). - a feeling of anticipation, nervousness, and anxiety in regards to the outcome of a game while at the same time being fully immersed in fun and aware at the silliness of one's emotions
Early on, we sought to focus on establishing meaningful conversation while allowing the game to take pressure off of date-goers to bridge the gap from small talk. We wanted to incorporate creative question building, and physical proximity, and working together, so our original sketches and prototypes involved players writing down questions and working as a team to accomplish some dexterity task.
After playtesting our initial concept, we made lo-fi prototypes to steer our testing in two separate directions. One focused on exciting competition and physicality with a fast-paced card sorting, card slapping game. In the other, we introduced the idea of question building block cards as a conversation guide. While we were attached the concept of pushing small talk away with a question-based game, we feared that the results of our playtests were not representative of a first date. Playtesters gave positive feedback, but we wanted to validate it before moving forward with the idea.
To do so, we ran another round of playtesting with tables in a public setting and recruited several testers who had never met (see middle and right-hand photos). We found that the players quickly began laughing and sharing stories soon after starting.
Finally, we made a few minor tweaks to the gameplay by refining the words on the cards and adding blank cards, which allow the player to choose any word they want as a question "atom." We decided to offer two versions of rules:
Normal Play: Players have a hand of cards; they both play one card, and the third card is randomly revealed. Then one player builds a question from the three words. This mode gives players some power to steer questions and also provides an exciting moment of flipping up the three cards and seeing what card your date played and what question will be asked.
Quick Play: Players flip up one card from each deck and take turns asking questions based on the words.
In terms of materials, cards were the obvious choice for this game because they are familiar to almost everyone and allow the game to be playable in 1 minute. Because date settings often have poor lighting, we emphasized white text for readability in our card design. We envisioned two people sitting down at a bar or restaurant and deciding to check out the box on the table, so we went for the simplicity of a blank wooden box with a question mark. One teammate and I worked on fabrication of the case - we designed the case to hold the cards and also act as the tray for cards during play. In all of these design choices, we wanted to leave the emphasis of the player experience on the conversation as opposed to the game itself so that our game can effectively accomplish its goal of building strong early relationships and moving beyond small talk.