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CDI plays pivotal role in serious game development

Monday, 07 May 2018   (0 Comments)
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Serious About Games, a project the Craft and Design Institute (CDI) has been a partner on since 2016, recently held a showcase of innovative games and cutting-edge research. The event placed a spotlight on how harnessing the power of technology can help residents improve their lives.

As implementing agents of the Western Cape Design Strategy, the CDI saw Serious About Games as an opportunity to showcase the value of taking a design led approach not only to identify how the project could look, but in crafting the process itself. It was also a platform to introduce the local game development community to a user-centric process where needs, goals and behaviours of the users drive the direction of the process/product to deliver the most appropriate outcomes.

The Serious About Games project is a collaboration between the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), Interactive Entertainment South Africa (IESA), 67 Games, and the Craft and Design Institute (CDI).

In November 2016, Serious About Games challenged digital content developers to create a game that would allow people in the Western Cape to reimagine how their communities work. Seventeen entries, four prototypes, and one winner later, the competition has shown that serious games have the potential to make a serious impact.

On 19 April, a showcase event took place featuring the competition prototypes and Vukuzenzele – the game that won the R1m grand prize. Vukuzenzele developed a serious digital game about informal settlement upgrading which will help communities. The game allows communities to learn about the importance of re-blocking; a term that refers to the spatial reconfiguration of informal settlements to help them better withstand disasters, like fires. ReBlok – the team making Vukuzenzele – shared insights from their development process, and showed off some of the innovative technology behind their game.

Serious About Games also shared the findings of research into how and why young people in Khayelitsha play digital games, and we heard from the AT Section residents who were involved in the testing and implementation of Vukuzenzele.

CDI’s design led approach

The CDI has played a pivotal role throughout the project – we have supported the project since 2016 through the provision of process design support to the partners, and in mobilising civil society organisations to glean audience feedback.


Our ideation workshops with the partners and funders helped to strategise and conceptualise the competition brief, rules and approach.

Then, as entering teams were challenged to design a game that addresses challenges using a user-centred design process, the CDI took entrants through a design-led process as well as gave strategic input to the competition steering committee around design thinking process. This importantly included assistance with prototyping and user feedback sessions in local communities facilitated by the CDI.

To assist the winners Vukuzenzele, the CDI mobilised a sample group of civil society organisations (CSOs) and intermediaries who are active in the community development space (informal settlement upgrading) in the Cape metro to gather audience feedback. The primary objective of these sessions was to gauge usability, playability and effectiveness of the prototype interactive digital re-blocking game.


“We have no doubt that innovation using design led processes and thinking methodologies is key to address the imperative of the need for a broader, more collaborative, user-centred approach to problem identification and solution finding; and we hope that our partners reflect on Serious About Games as a tested and credible blueprint for innovation in other sectors, in addressing service delivery and in tackling complex, wicked problems within government and the communities they serve,” said Lisa Parkes, the CDI’s design projects manager.

Here are some of the benefits of our design led approach on this project:

Empowerment and improved sense of agency: participants felt enabled to challenge existing assumptions, think radically, challenge preconceptions and navigate the unknown. The approach supported the ethos of a participative design process that enabled everyone to have a voice in the process

Trust-building and development of a shared understanding: the approach enabled trust to be built with the beneficiary community for the game and supported efforts towards understanding the context, and promote shared understanding between designers and users. 

Enhanced ‘sense making’, building connections and navigation of process

Tangible outputs: the process of distilling conversations, documents and activities into new artefacts (such as summary documents, drawings, charts, videos or objects) transforms complex information, systems and concepts into digestible formats for different user groups.  Crafting artefacts, in a form appropriate to both the content and the users, helps make ideas concrete and easier to interrogate, while also encouraging participation and creative thinking.

Cross-disciplinary collaboration and solution finding: the use of the design led tools and methods support problem analysis and solution finding. Stakeholders with different, but complementary, skills worked together for mutual gain.

Iteration: projects allow for rapid prototyping to share and test ideas, reflection as part of an iterative process, as well as testing, refining and evaluating of ideas. Feedback loops enable corrections, clarifications and adjustments in a non-judgemental and non-defensive way.

Enjoyment factor: making the design process an enjoyable experience enables those involved to move more easily into a co-creative frame of mind, leading to creative and enjoyable outcomes.


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