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CivRep: Civic Learning RPG

A Transformational Educational RPG

Skills: Client Management, Narrative Design, Research

Project Overview

My Role: Producer + Narrative Designer
Project Trailer

CivRep was a 14-week client project, where as part of a team of 5, I worked to translate an in-class multiplayer role-playing activity about Civic Engagement into a single-player Civic Learning RPG.

In the end, we delivered a mobile game which allowed players to roleplay as a city council member, and go through the steps of talking and reaching out to constituents, discussing issues and concerns you found, then coming up and voting on legislation with your fellow council members to hopefully make your city a better place for all.

My main contributions to this project were:

Researching and Designing Educational Content
Coordinating and Hosting Playtests
Facilitating Client Communication
Researching and Designing Educational Content

Our client, Ron Idoko of the University of Pittsburgh, made it very clear that he wanted to focus the subject matter on local governments, and that the game should be educationally accurate, and properly reflect what it was like to be a representative on a city council. In order to provide the gameplay our client was seeking, I dove into researching the subject matter immediately.

Conducting Interviews with Experts

I first reached out to interview a series of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), ranging from students and professors of Political Science, to actual city council members. I discussed with them not only about how local governments worked, but also what they thought was crucial to convey to the students through our game. Our team learned much valuable information from these interviews. For example, we were surprised to find that many of the experts couldn't stress enough how important letters from constituents were to local representatives, and how public hearings could also have a strong affect on how representatives vote and act on legislation. Learning about such aspects of local government greatly helped flesh out our game content, and also helped us design more effective Civic Learning in our game.

Diving into Research

I also learned from the SMEs that the Pittsburgh Legislative Information Center (LIC) was a treasure trove of information, albeit a rather daunting one. To help make our gameplay more compelling and accurate, I ventured into the LIC, and studied the legal process and steps the city council takes to draft up, propose, and vote on a piece of legislation.

I first read through and took notes on this document which details each step of the legislative process for the city council. I then worked with the game designer to distill the entire process into 4 main steps, as shown below.

I then worked with the game designer to expand these 4 main steps into a full gameplay flowchart, which incorporated the various aspects of Civic Learning our client desired to have in the game, plus the recommended content from the SMEs, while always keeping scope in mind.

Our gameplay flowchart built off of the 4 main steps of the legislative process

To help flesh out this flow even further, I went into the city council archives to look at dozens of examples of bills, resolutions, and video footage of public hearings, and provided notes and references to the game designer and artists so we could faithfully recreate them in our game.

Gamifying the Public Hearing process

Creating Interactive Content

I designed and created interactive content players could play through to better inform how they would draft up and vote on certain pieces of legislation. This interactive content took the form of letters from constituents, and interviews with experts. 

For example, players could read letters from their constituents, then respond to them in a 'madlib' style mini-game, to raise or lower relations with certain sub-sections of the population. 

In interviews, players could choose what kind of questions to ask, in order to either learn more about the topic, or maybe steer the interview in a direction that was more politically expedient for them. 

Coordinating and Hosting Playtests

To help our team make better informed decisions about how to iterate our game, I worked as the playtest coordinator for this project, and took the following actions:

Sending Out Surveys to Find the Right Type of Tester

I sent out a series of surveys to potential playtesters to assess and collect a pool of candidates. Then, based on what we hoped to test in a certain playtesting session, I invited the most helpful type of playtesters to join us. For example, if we wished to test how accessible and understandable our game was, I invited naive playtesters. If we were hoping to gauge the accuracy of our game's educational content, I invited playtesters who were familiar with the topic of Civics, or were experts in the field.

Taking Notes, Writing Up Reports, and Summarizing Tests

I took down notes during playtests, and conducted pre and post playtest interviews with our playtesters to better understand what they thought about the game, and why they took certain actions at certain times. I would then organize these notes into documents and presentations to be shared with my team and our client.

Facilitating Client Communications

As the producer of the project, I worked to maintain effective client communications throughout the project, through the following steps.

Scheduling Weekly Meetings and Presentations

I scheduled weekly meetings and prepared presentations which shared to our client our playtest results, iterations, planned iterations, and questions and thoughts for moving forward. I always made sure to meet up with my teammates and gather all of their questions and concerns for the client beforehand so the client and our team could work through anything that was unclear together, and make sure everyone was on the same page before moving forward

Sending Out Pre-Meeting Agendas and Post-Meeting Notes

To makes sure all of our meetings were productive and efficient for everyone, I prepared agendas before each meeting and sent them out to every participant beforehand, to make sure everyone is aware of what topics will be discussed, and also so people could mention and add on topics they wanted to talk about to the agenda. After each meeting, I wrote up a summary of the points discussed and sent them out to the participants to make sure everyone was on the same page.

Thanks for checking out CivRep!

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