Board Games to Teach about Mental Illness
This is my third year doing a board game project for my Game Design Class and this year's crop is just fabulous. It's a tough thing to make a board game that is fun to play, new and exciting, actually teaches a topic and is designed in such a way that it is visually pleasing and consistent throughout the each game piece. This year's Game Design students have managed to hit all the notes.
This year we teamed up with the Psychology class to create board games that would de-stigmatize Mental Illness. The games were geared toward therapists, diagnosed patients and their families, as well as the average board game player. We covered topics such as ADHD, Body Dysmorphia, Schizophrenia, OCD, Anxiety and Depressive Disorder. Students went through a minimum of 3 rounds of playtesting, sometimes doing up to 5 rounds. After each playtest, they would take the feedback, adjust the game mechanics and then get more feedback.
What did they learn?
Beyond learning about what makes a board game play well with different mechanics, and tightening up their Photoshop, Illustrator, and 3D Design Skills, students learned about project management, and Design Thinking. Every class began with a Scrum meeting and students set their own benchmarks over a 4-month period. They wrote their own rule-sheets, designed their own boxes, wrote their own copy, and even printed some custom game pieces that were 3D printed. For the sale of the board games, they found ready-to-order pieces so that the average board game buyer could still buy the game and not have to worry about printing their own custom playing pieces. Game designers consulted their Subject Matter Experts in Psychology often in the beginning and moved forward with implementation once they understood their particular mental health issue.
I am over the moon with how the board games game out and am chomping at the bit to share these games so that others can purchase and use them to teach about mental health issues. Students are proofing their games now and making last minute fixes so that they will be published for sale in the coming weeks. More details to follow!
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!