Play Test at the Point – Ben & Alex

When we were at the point, Alex and I managed to test a couple different versions of the game over the course of 1 session. The rules we used during testing were:


  • Deck of Trait cards (40)
  • Guilty cards (6)
  • Deck of Alibi cards (20)

Starting the Game
Before beginning play, shuffle in a number of the guilty cards into the trait deck based on the number of players:

  • 3-4 players – 1 card
  • 5-6 players – 2 cards
  • 7+ players – 4 cards

Players are dealt 7 trait cards. Each player chooses 2 cards to reveal face up.


Playing the Game
To start a turn, a player may choose to draw a new trait card, or interrogate another player.
When interrogating a player, the interrogator draws 4 cards face up from the alibi deck, and then chooses which player to interrogate. The accused player must match one of the alibi cards with one of their own, using a face up card or revealing a hidden card. If no match is available, they fail the interrogation, and the interrogating player decides between either:

  • Forcing the interrogated to pick two cards to reveal.
  • Taking a hidden card from the interrogated player’s hand.

*When all alibi cards are used, reshuffle the alibi deck.

Afterwards, play continues clockwise


Ending the Game
Play continues until the guilty card is revealed, or all players reveal their hands. 


We started with the most basic ruleset we had come up with, and then adding or tweaking certain rules as play developed. The first reactions seemed to be intrigued, but that people felt it was slow, so our first variation was changing the number of accusations that could be made from 1 to 3. This sped up the pace of the game, which players seemed to enjoy. Though we didn’t manage to finish a full game during the session, we had several lessons we could take away.

First was that players enjoyed two aspects above the others, the trait theming and the second guessing of other players via the accusations. Meeting again after the point, Alex and I decided to start making revisions to the game based on this feedback, and to focus on speeding up the gameplay and highlighting the above two qualities.


The point feedback-Yunqi Zhou and Geyao

The game is a multiplayer game(two), One is using a mouse to push the bricks to save the man on the top of the tower. The other one is controlling the man on top of the tower, in order to keep the man away from falling to the tower. So they have the same goal. Through this process, players should share their perspectives and cooperate with each other.


Testers agree with that this game can change people’s perceptions when they were playing the game. They said that they wanted more levels and the levels should start from easier to harder. Also, they wanted more interactions. For example, the different colors of bricks have different functions. Right now, there are only two interactions which are pushing bricks and exploding the whole tower. There is no differences between white bricks and green bricks. Additionally, testers wanted playing the game in VR space. Finally testers suggested that if they can create the level, that will be cool. Because right now they level design limited the gameplay, there are only 3 levels. Even if we design 80 levels, the 80 still a limited number. So what if let the player design the level. That makes the number almost infinite.

VR’s shortcomings_Geyao

Virtual human interaction lab’s project makes me think about my own thesis project. VR is a powerful way to tell stories, I believe VR will change the world. However if we compare VR or AR with film, we’ll find the similarity in changing the way to look at the world. When The Lumière brothers was showing the arriving train to their audience in 1896, people have the similar feeling with with the testers in the Virtual human interaction lab wearing VR headset exploring the virtual sea world as a fish. Immersive is a right word to describe it. Maybe we can learning things form movies for example how they tell stories, how they design scenes. The three shortcomings that the VHIL studios suffered can be solved with more funds and works, how to design the VR scenes and stories is more important to me.

Empathy VR

While I’m not surprised that VR can be used as a tool for empathy, I’m a little taken aback that a tool as immersive as VR needs to be used to teach people to be empathetic. What does this say about other modes of communication? What makes it so hard for people to put themselves aside to understand another persons position? I think learning from an “experience” is great, but I think it would be more fruitful if people could finally learn to be empathetic through listening.

Additionally if VR has the power to teach empathy in ways other media can’t what other things is it capable of? Bias is something always lurking in the media and responsible journalism is something that is disappearing from the media. What kind of responsibility needs to be used when using VR?

VR Empathy – Ben

My feelings around the efficacy of VR depends a great deal on the project in which it is used, especially in regards to facilitating empathy. The implications of such a goal for the technology vary, whether a game, immersive narrative, photographic recreation or historical recreation. VR is a tool and medium, not an end in itself, and being mindful of the context of its use is important.

Art and design at its best invokes feelings and responses, emotionally and conceptually. And this is good, it pushes us outside of our own world. Yet the same potential for learning and growth can as easily be manipulative and deceitful. With all the immersive and empathetic potential of VR, this darker potential is one that I see lost in the hype. From what I can tell, VR got its first populist push with the Oculus Rift and gaming culture, hooking into existing worlds and scenarios and embedding the player deeper than they’d ever played the game.

Moving outside of gaming however, some of the “serious” uses of VR have more responsibility in how the tech is used. When leaving behind the fantasy of gaming and more of the real world is integrated into the experience, things get significantly more complicated. Some of the projects we’ve looked at before today’s class stand as prime examples of this, such as “Empathy at Scale” and “Ferguson Firsthand”. Here there is some promise of reflecting the real world, showing you “What actually happened”, yet the experience itself will always be a designed and curated one. I’m sure the creators did their utmost to research and vet and second-guess what they were doing, but there always be some of the subjective that slips in, hiding in the guise of objectivity. It is the blurring that worries me as we start discussing “serious” use of VR. This might be a problem of framing, of making sure audiences understand the fact vs fiction in a work, but it is a problem all the same, and one I think is worth more exploration.

[Perspectives] – Dana, Karen, and Ping

Our last visit to The point was very fruitful. After we came up with three different ways to play test our game the participation of everyone was quite interesting and we got good feedback. 
Here are  two of the three different games we tested:
+All cards facing up on the ground
+One person has to answer questions  (pointing to a card)
+Everybody has to guess why he/she picked that card
Closest answer to why she/he chose it wins.
+If you win you keep the card and get to go first next turn.
+Five cards are selected randomly by each player.
+One person (organizer) poses question
+Everybody picks a card (out of their deck) and explains why he/she chose it.
+Everybody votes for the most creative answer except their own. That person scores a point.
We found out that the questions we put together had to be very broad, interesting but also it mattered a lot that the concepts we used did not have only one right answer. For example when we asked “If you could live a different life, what would it look like?” we noticed it threw the players off because it was a very personal question and they did not know each other that well.  If we think about the right answers to make any of these iterations seemed to work: users said it was fun and we were able to observe how easy they were getting into sharing themselves with others. 

Notes from the Point – Team FLIM FLAM

IMG_0183General Observations & Questions

– We had one super-fan; people generally had fun
– The game meandered with larger groups (> 4-5)
– Do wildcards stay wild for the next player if they’re the last card played, or do they stay as the thing that they were said to represent?
– How related must stories be? (referring to Shakti telling three stories from her childhood that were basically only connected by virtue of being about her childhood.)
– How do we make the game end?
– How much time does a player have to prepare a story? (referring to me and this one other kid who sometimes stalled for more than 30 secs.)
-Everyone definitely learned new things about other players. Personally, I felt like I got to know people better – not just through the stories they told, but the general interactions that happened.
-The game still leans more towards fun more than moments where we challenge expectations or provoke thought.
-Some behavior and strategy emerged although perhaps more structure might aid with this. Some that I observed included: including a lot of detail in your stories (whether or not they were true); checking with other players who might know someone better before calling FLIM FLAM; trying to max out the number of cards used in a turn.

Suggestions from Players/Melanie:
– Consider cards that are ending cards, maybe those are in a separate pile and each player gets one, and if you use one of those cards, or three of them total, or something, you win
– Consider allowing people to interrupt?
– Consider another mechanic, like card swapping or something, to add a bit of variety, or something to do when you’re not telling the story

Reflecting on User Test

When reflecting on and writing about the outcome of last week’s user test at The Point, please consider:
Were people engaged? If so, was the engagement sustained?
Do you feel like anything, such as perspective, POV etc, was shared, that you know the group any better?
Do you feel like (in Joanna’s words) that you challenged expectations or provoked thought in any way?
Did you strike some kind of balance between fun and thoughtful content?
Did you feel like your system was complex enough for behavior / strategy to emerge?
Where do you think the outcome of your creative interaction stands in relation to the goal of mutual understanding or challenging expectations?
Do you think that something related to the above goal is possible through iterating this design, or any other?

VR & Empathy – A Small Rant

I am incredibly skeptical about claims of creating empathy through VR experiences on multiple levels although on further examination, it seems that I’m more so skeptical about the way it has been heralded and accepted as more of a game changer than it actually is.

My first skepticism with the VR hype is that there seems to be an assumption that our empathy and ability to “walk in another persons shoes” is derived almost solely from a visual experience. As someone who learns and internalizes information (and maybe emotions) through the physicality of things (touch and movement), this seems like a stretch to me. How much more does VR let us walk in another person’s shoes than seeing an intimate play or participating in a LARP? I mean, teen pregnancy rates dropped dramatically after a couple of shows (16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom) around that topic came out on television and that makes no overt attempts to put viewers in the shoes of the pregnant teenagers. Yes, VR (meaning oculus, cardboard, morpheus, etc.) can be paired with other sense creators, but as a piece of technology and how its commonly referred to in popular culture, it is mostly limited to a visual experience. This is especially true given that no one has really fully addressed physical controller interaction in a satisfactory way.

The second is that I’ve found that many of these projects over promise. Yes, perhaps a virtual experience makes me think about an event or perspective in a different way and yes, that is the first step to actionable change. But I’ve seen news articles covering VR and empathy and projects make pretty grandiose claims of the impact that their project(s) will have on actions or larger systemic change (this is also one of my gripes with “games for change”). I think this has been improving, and I’m particularly interested in the Stanford VHIL studies because they’re actually applying some sort of scientific method of evaluation to this field of practice.

I often question VR in the context of the larger user experience. Duration of user interaction is one question I would pose: Can empathy be created in a medium in which the average use time is probably around 3-5 minutes? Although it is improving, the graphic quality still lags behind what I would call a photo-realistic environment (and maybe you could argue that this isn’t even necessary since our brains can make those kinds of cognitive leaps). Furthermore, as of yet, VR is not mainstream accessible, which also kind of limits its potential and brings up all kinds of questions for me about WHO is getting to experience another perspective? Maybe there should be a little more critique around not only how we represent and simplify certain perspectives, but also for whom we are designing.

I think the final critique I would express about using VR to create empathy and change perspectives is there’s the danger of getting too self-congratulatory about how we’ve helped someone step into another person’s shoes. There are limitations to this. For example, even if I dressed up like a homeless person and sat on the street asking for money (which is more VR than the VR we’re generally talking about), that role playing experience would still be limited by the fact that I can easily change my clothes and go back to my comfortable living. In the same way, if I saw through the eyes of someone of a different skin color, that doesn’t mean that I can understand what it’s like to be black or white or hispanic. Again, I think there’s some merit to VR in that it is a good introduction to this idea of empathy, but I worry that it has become trendy to make claims of what it does or can do beyond this incremental knowledge/awareness shift.


Empathy through VR

I’ve always been weary/skeptical whenever someone proclaims that a product or project “facilitates empathy” as that term seems to be thrown around often. As someone now making a project where I’m trying to do the same however, I know it’s no easy feat. But as I checked out the Empathetic Media site etc, I thought about my only Google Cardboard experience that my roommate had me try out; I found myself in the middle of a riot/march for the Freddie Gray killing and it was an incredible immersive experience for me. The street bustling with fire, screaming citizens, armed police etc felt like my authentic reality. I found myself twice as empathetic and emotional towards something I had ALREADY cared about. For me, experiences like that are powerful and effective, but I often wonder just how far these things can be pushed ? How much empathy does it create and does that empathy lead to anything else ? Change? Dialogue ? Is there any way to control someone’s empathy ? How can these tools be leveraged for a larger more complicated context? I think there is so much rich potential here, but it doesn’t seem as heralded as I’d imagine.