Gamify Empathy


How design and empathy relate to one another has been one of my primary research interests. I am also interested in how I can use fun and humorous methods to communicate difficult subjects. When I observed the camaraderie that developed during play, I wondered if games could address the stigma around illnesses such as anxiety and depression. To do that, I studied theories and empirical findings from the field of psychology and neuroscience on the ways in which empathy is developed and heightened in individuals. I was influenced by contemporary pop culture games such as Cards Against Humanity and pro-social game companies such as Tiltfactor Labs. The game prototypes I developed were designed to facilitate empathy for the shared experiences of negative emotions.

A play on Cards Against Humanity, this card game uses the same conventions with the opposite intentions. The “disease” cards are lighthearted descriptions of the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The “remedy” cards had descriptions and illustrations of coping mechanisms. In the process of playing the game, players relate their experiences about negative emotions and learn new coping mechanisms. The player who chooses the best remedy wins the round.

What am I feeling?

Players react to their teammate’s face and try to get them to guess their emotion, getting the team to think critically about how to discuss and react to feelings while developing communication skills around emotions.

Some of these early prototypes were abandoned because the mechanics of gameplay were difficult around this concept. Left off here, still working on games where concept and gameplay is more unified.

© 2018 Cassandra Ellison. All rights reserved.

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