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When life gets in the way, play

A game to support college students when life gets hard

The problem

The problem

Life + School Challenges
How to make progress in college while dealing with complex life challenges?

In Search of a Solution

In search of a solution

“I was a literature teacher in Argentina for nine years. So often I would have students failing my class not because they were not smart, but for the very complex things going on in their personal life.”

Alejandra Silva, project Founder

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“When life get's in the way, play” is the result of 3 years of design research projects at the University of Florida, with a focus on life stories, resilience, and decision-making in college-age students.

A series of Participatory Design workshops facilitated in Fall 2021 informed the challenges experienced by college students in their personal lives and at school.

A game prototype with student stories in the center was the result of extensive primary research and usability testing sessions conducted with students, alumni, and faculty during Spring 2022.

The Game

The game

The game is set at the start of classes in higher education. 

Players create student characters and role-play college life challenges and the ups and downs of adulting.

Each round is an academic year that brings academic problems to resolve.

Life situations challenge or foster progress in school and a facilitator assesses players’ decisions. Thoughtful answers earn credits towards graduation.

User testing showed that after playing one round, players learn to make more thoughtful decisions in upcoming rounds.

“The game fosters the ability to adjust to unexpected situations in a fluid adaptable manner.”

“Provides resources to delay impulsive responses.”

Luciana Buteler, Psychologist, External Reviewer

“Reflects on practices and routines that impact students decision-making process.”

Analía Videla, Psychologist, External Reviewer

In Search of Greater Impact

In search of greater impact

A collaboration story

In Spring 2023, Alejandra met Denise and Alice in a UX accelerator program.
When they discovered how their values and goals aligned, they decided to collaborate remotely in creating an app version of the board game, in English, to reach a larger audience of students struggling with life+school challenges.

Aspects for improvement

  • Over-reliance on facilitator role

  • Need for back-end content management system

  • Need for US specific content

Fall 2023 focus: Product design

  • Formalize game mechanics

  • Lighten facilitator role

Coming up

  • Additional Content Creation (US students context research)

2023 Collaboration Facts

  • Working part-time w/o funding

Project Strategy

  • Doing work that advances both physical & digital formats

  • Creating a points-based system for evaluation

  • Further developing game mechanics

Physical game vs. App?

  • Funding & resource dependent (greater reach w/ app)

Longer term

  • Apply principles & mechanics to other life situations and demographics

The Team

The team

Alejandra Silva 

Alice Smith

Denise Ting

Case Studies

Case studies

User Research & Community Engagement for Participatory Design

Qualitative research study to explore ways to support higher education students in San Juan, Argentina.

Student-centered design to promote self-agency in higher education

Participatory design initiative to prototype and test a student-centered board game to promote self agency in higher education students in San Juan, Argentina.

When life gets in the way, play

AIGA 2022 Conference, Seattle

When life gets in the way, play [The Collab]

Networking Presentation

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