One Piece at a Time

We are at week 4 of our Ideation and Development studio class at AC4D. This week, it was imperative for our group (Laura GalosLindsay Josal, and Maryanne Lee) to test our ideas with potential users, even though the idea is far from complete.

Because we decided to focus on how design solutions can help families and seniors having difficult aging-related conversations, including driving cessation, we verbally tested short scenarios with families who are having or anticipate having those driving conversations.

We questioned our participants on how they would like the conversation to go–the ideal place to have it, how they would feel, how seniors would ideally feel, the desired outcome, etc. The answers gave us a clearer picture of the ideal conversation from the family members’ perspective, which we were able to map as a journey.

We learned that family members viewed the senior’s home as being the ideal place to have this conversation. They believed it would give seniors a sense of control–which is important as they’re being asked to give a significant measure of independence. When starting the conversation, family members wanted to convey that the conversation was about concerns around health and safety, not the elderly person’s intelligence. Family members wanted seniors to react “rationally” and in a “level-headed” way.

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The ideal conversation journey map gave us some insight to the feelings families would want to have during difficult conversations. And it was tempting to try to create a whole system to encompass the entire journey. However, it’s impractical to expect to be able to create a whole working system at once, and we realized we would have to work on small pieces at a time.

Last week our team was excited about the aspect of using of game mechanics to help facilitate the conversations. Although our final product will likely not be a “game” in the traditional sense, we believe that game mechanisms may be of great help in easing tough discussions.

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How do you go about finding game mechanics that you’re interested in? You play! Thinking of games we enjoyed playing helped us to think of different game mechanics that we would want to test.To that end, we created sketched wireframes of 3 games we could employ to help foster a discussion in a family. Each has a different emphasis.

Balloon game: Keep the balloon afloat by keeping the conversation going.

Slide1Slide2Slide3Slide4Digital slot machines: Win the game (and real-world prizes) by coming to agreement on given questions with family members.

blog_slots_screens-01Cards: Modelled on Cards Against Humanity, there is a question deck and an answer deck. Questions are about the person asking them, and answers can be filled in on answer cards. The person asking the question decides his or her favorite answer and gives points based on that decision.

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In general, feedback about the game mechanics were positive. Participants felt they were a lot of fun. Although the game mechanics don’t yet address all the difficulties of the aging-related conversations, we also asked participants about the games in the context of these discussions. Participants noted that they would like a way of continuing conversations is something interesting or odd came up. They would like to be able to save answers and revisit them. Some participants said that their families do not play games like these together, and so using them at all would be contrived.

We think that our end product needs to be non-threatening and engaging. Based on initial testing, we believe game mechanics have an important place in our design because they can foster these feelings. However, the final product will probably not be a traditional “game” because of the seriousness of the issues and the difference between families on usage of games.

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As our project evolves, we continue to refine the idea of “what it is.” As of now, we’re creating a tool to facilitate tough conversations between family members and the elderly. Using game mechanics, we are making the conversation more approachable and collaborative for everyone involved.