Make a Move (“Toma El Paso”) is officially available on The Game Crafter

For those who have been following my Gaming the Immigration System project and the status of Make a Move (Toma El Paso in Spanish), I’m happy to announce that the game has been translated into Spanish and is now available for purchase! I’ve been working with local immigration experts here in Miami (thank you Americans for Immigrant Justice and University of Miami’s ICAN network) to confirm the content and Spanish language translation.

Since the majority of undocumented unaccompanied immigrant minors (UUIMs) are Spanish speaking, I’ve published the full version of the game in Spanish with an English expansion (you can use the English chance cards and release mats with children who prefer communicating in English). If you will only be playing with Spanish speakers, please order the Toma El Paso version. If you will be playing with both Spanish and English players, then also add the English expansion to your order.

Ordering the game:

For more information on the project, visit:




Vanity 2.0 now available

In Fall 2013 Clay Ewing and I went back and did some tweaking to the original Vanity game. Some of the changes were to make the gameplay more user friendly, like eliminating the moles all together and instead using stackers that move along a numbered column to track your fitness, tan, style, and health risk. Other changes were to increase meaningful choice – like whether to take an acting role that earned you Vanity Points but also potentially reduced your attribute levels.

Vanity 2.0 has an improved player experience and is now available for purchase from The Game Crafter:

More photos to come!



Extreme Candy wins Best Game at Global Game Jam!

I teamed up with Clay Ewing (@claytical), Joel Acosta (@LoseTV), and Brian Deltoro in this year’s Global Game Jam from January 24-26. FIU’s Game Developers Guild kindly hosted us and got sponsors to provide food and drinks to fuel all of us through the 48-hour game jam!

Our game Extreme Candy Photo Bomb Scavenger Memory Saga (title is inspired by King’s recent act of trademarking the use of words like candy and saga in games) pits you against an evil witch with a sweet snaggletooth. Take a photo to concoct a spell for magical peppermints that will claim the candy as yours!

Extreme Candy Photo Bomb Scavenger Memory Saga won both Best Overall Game and Best Candy Game (thanks to @Machinezilla for sponsoring the Candy Jam prize). It was a great collaborative experience, and we are pretty happy with what we came up with in a weekend including introducing a new mechanic of taking photos to dictate the color of your candy ammo in our match-3 game.

We tried to release Extreme Candy… on iOS shortly after the jam, but it was rejected by the App Store because of the name (of course). We’re still working on getting a final version up. For now, we’ve posted a OSX version for your Mac computers on the Candy Jam site:

Game Design: Clay Ewing, Lien Tran & Joel Acosta
Code: Clay Ewing
Graphics: Lien Tran
Illustrations: Joel Acosta
Audio: Joel Acosta & Brian Deltoro




Put Yourself in a Sex Worker’s Shoes – and there might just be a condom in it

Now everyone can put themselves in the shoes of a sex worker – just don’t get caught with a condom in your shoe like Naomi here. Cops and Rubbers is now available for free PDF download or you can purchase an official printed version from the Open Society Foundations (OSF)’s website! Check out the OSF Cops and Rubbers page:

Also this week Paul VanDeCarr, managing director and co-founder of Working Narratives, wrote a nice article for the Communications Network website on Cops & Rubbers. Paul interviewed Brett Davidson and Rachel Thomas from OSF and myself so the article shares perspectives of the design process from the subject matter experts/advocates and game designer. Enjoy!

Naomi tried to hide her condom in her shoe hoping to not get caught in possession of condoms. Unfortunately, tonight the police are searching people’s purses/wallets and shoes for condoms, and Naomi is caught. She’s at risk of getting arrested …. or worse.

Summer 2013 Conference Schedule

This summer I will be presenting my game-related work at Games+Learning+Society, Games for Change, Allied Media Conference, and DiGRA. Please let me know if you’ll be at any of these conferences or have any questions!


Games+Learning+Society 9.0 (June 11-14, 2013 at University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Tuesday, June 11 at 10:00am 
Co-leading workshop on “Building a Gameful Classroom” at the Playful Learning Summit

A gameful classroom uses game design principles to create a better learning experience for students.  Some of the most powerful examples of engagement from video games include freedom of failure, leveling up, and self-paced progression. For educators who want to adopt these values in their classroom, the administrative overhead can be daunting. This workshop will focus on transforming existing syllabi into gameful syllabi with help from veteran gameful classroom designers.  Using software developed by the GLS community, participants will redesign their classroom into a gameful experience complete with an online portal allowing students to submit assignments and track their ongoing progress.  The workshop will start with presentations of existing gameful classrooms and then participants will be given a walkthrough of a gameful learning management system.  Participants will also work in small groups to redesign an existing classroom into a gameful classroom, using point and skill-based metrics as a means to reorganize classes into systems that increase student motivation and participation.  Participants should bring their own computer.

Co-presenting with Clay Ewing and Kate Fanelli

Wednesday, June 12 at 5:00pm 
Presenting poster “Safety Nets Simplified: Simulated Decision-Making in Volatile Developing Economies”

Abstract: Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF), the largest social protection agency in East Africa, developed a productive social safety net (PSSN) program aimed at enabling farmers to better manage their most pressing concern – rising drought risk. Faced with the challenge of communicating the complexities of this PSSN, TASAF designed and then tested a simulation game with over fifty rural farmers. This gameplay enabled these farmers to learn about TASAF’s systems of conditional cash transfers and how PSSN participation can translate into added benefits for the greater community. In fall 2012 TASAF adopted this game as the sole extension tool for its national rollout targeting 13 million Tanzanians living below the poverty line. This poster outlines how the design of this inhabitable game enables this particular community to engage and understand the PSSN’s complex system in order to make informed decisions that will improve their real-world livelihood.

I will present findings from the game design and testing I conducted with TASAF in Tanzania in July 2012.



Games for Change (June 17-19 in New York City at New World Stages)

Monday, June 17 at 12:00-12:30pm
Magnitude: Developing Strategies for Managing Disaster Threats

There are no such things as natural disasters, only natural hazards. Effectively all disasters are man-made when we are aware of our vulnerabilities, can predict environmental hazards but fail to mitigate their impacts. Magnitude puts players in a position to manage the risk of disasters. Players are racing against the clock to meet all of the Millenium Development Goals within their 10-year timeframe whilst being challenged by the threats of environmental shocks that may wipe out their good work. Magnitude was a collaboration between the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the Humanitarian Design Lab at Parsons.

Co-presenting with Mathan Ratinam and Ben Norskov

Tuesday, June 18 at 10:45-11:00am
Win Win: Models for Creating a Social Impact Game on a Budget

Non-profit organizations interested in making a game face a conundrum: they do not have game design expertise and hiring an experienced game designer or studio may not be cost effective. These established institutions may have concerns for hiring freelance or independent game designers who may not have a huge portfolio and yet there are indie game designers who would be happy to collaborate on a serious game. We will present 4 models by which organizations can team up with indie game designers on small or large scale game projects based on our own experience.

Co-presenting with Clay Ewing



Allied Media Conference (June 20-23, 2013 in Detroit, MI)

Cops & Rubbers will be on display at the  AMC Arcade 2013 as part of the Imagining Better Futures Through Play track

Access to condoms is crucial for HIV prevention programs worldwide. However, in countries around the world – including in the U.S. – police carry out legal and illegal searches of sex workers and confiscate or destroy condoms found in their possession. In many cases, prosecutors have then used the possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution. This treatment of condoms as contraband forces sex workers to make a choice between safeguarding their health and staying safe from police harassment or arrest.

In 2012 Open Society Foundations released its report Criminalizing Condoms, which documents these practices in six countries and identifies their consequences on sex workers’ lives, including their vulnerability to HIV. Cops and Rubbers is a tabletop game based on this report’s findings, which also serves to bring awareness of these inhumane practices to a wider audience including critical policymakers. The game is an interactive demonstration of these policing practices and highlights the consequences they have on sex workers’ lives. Players take on the role of sex workers trying to achieve basic health and financial goals but who are challenged with obstacles, including extortion and exploitation by law enforcement as a result of the criminalization of condoms. The game enables players to embody a marginalized sex worker met with adversity and experience the emotional struggle this population endures due to violations of their health and human rights. As a result, Cops and Rubbers serves as an alternative advocacy tool that attracts interested parties with its visual, interactive, and simple design.


DiGRA 2013 (August 26-29, 2013 hosted by Georgia Institute of Technology at the Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia)

Presenting Paper on “Cops & Rubbers: A game promoting advocacy and empathy in support of public health and human rights of sex workers”

Cops and Rubbers simulates the systemic consequences the police practice of using condoms as evidence of prostitution has on sex-workers’ lives internationally. By embodying a marginalized sex worker met with unconscionable adversity, players experience the emotional struggle this population endures because of a policy that violates their health and human rights. This serious game serves as a captivating alternative advocacy tool and interactive demonstration of these policing practices that elicits heartfelt reactions and independent conclusions about the policy from average constituents to essential policymakers.

Co-presenting “Mechanics and Outcomes: Factors for communicating humanitarian messages with games”

Not-for-profit organizations, including international humanitarian organizations, are increasingly invested in leveraging game mechanics to improve information dissemination in order to communicate their message. Much of the work that happens in the realm of humanitarian games, games for change, and serious games – however one chooses to call it – can be haphazard and done by enthusiastic humanitarian workers and scientists with limited training in game, experiential, or visual design. Diverse collaborators will have different goals and techniques for approaching the design of a serious game. On one hand this can lead to an interesting innovation; on the other hand, it can be detrimental to the desired outcome of the game. Lack of a common literacy amongst creators can result in a broken game, leading players to discredit the often very important topics presented in the game.

Game literacy is often the toughest obstacle to overcome when creating games for a humanitarian purpose. Many of the players have to play the game as part of a workshop; have not played many, if any, strategy games; and have difficulty understanding usual board game tropes. High barriers to entry can be combated in a variety of ways, and one part of our discussion will focus on the game designer’s role in reducing complexity of in-game mechanics without minimizing the importance of or the core message for the topic at hand.

Cultural literacy is yet another issue. How are dice seen in other countries? Are cards seen as a benign pastime, or a vice to be combated? By discussing these issues in a cultural context, we can identify strategies for minimizing future cultural gaffes that prevent game-based learning experiences from being successful. For example, women often have different roles in certain societies than men, and sometimes these roles are revealed through the act of playing simple games – for better or worse.

Humans vs. Mosquitoes, originally designed as a field game to teach children about the risks of vector-borne disease, is one project where the interests of multiple collaborators became evident with multiple variations within its first year. In the role of serious game designers, we worked in partnership with content developers and non-profits, typically non-government organization (NGOs); in the field with healthcare workers in Africa and Southeast Asia; and with the participation of testers from a wide range of audiences. By examining Humans vs. Mosquitoes and its many iterations and manifestations as a case study, we aim to highlight some of the pitfalls in the development process in order to arrive at a set of best practices for the field of humanitarian serious games.

Presenting with Clay Ewing, Mohini Dutta, Ben Norskov, and Eulani Labay

Cops & Rubbers Goes Dutch via Hivnieuws

Ejay de Wit, a Dutch reporter, interviewed Rachel Thomas from Open Society Foundation and me at the International AIDS Conference (IAC2012) for an article in Hivnieuws. Thanks to the article Hivnieuws European readers are eager to play Cops & Rubbers. We’re a little behind on launching the game to the public, but stay tuned – we hope to launch by early 2013.

The article highlights OSF’s Criminalizing Condoms report and the Cops & Rubbers game. If you can read Dutch, you can download and read the Hivnieuws article here.

Here are also some additional photos that Ejay took of Cops & Rubbers at AIDS2012.


UM launching MFA in Interactive Media in 2013

It’s official, the University of Miami is launching a new MFA in Interactive Media program starting in the 2012-13 academic year. There’s also an Interactive Media minor for undergraduates. I know I’m not alone sharing in the excitement of what’s to come with more interaction courses and projects coming out of the U. To learn more about the new program you can visit

Don’t forget to play Sebastian in Space (I leave it to you to find him), a simple but possibly addicting game designed by fellow faculty Clay Ewing and myself. To learn more about Sebastian check out Wikipedia and to vote for him as Best Mascot in Capitol One’s Mascot Challenge go here.

Humans vs. Mosquitoes to attack Come Out & Play San Francisco!

Humans vs. Mosquitoes is making its way to a third outdoor games festival this year. After creating quite a commotion at Come Out and Play in New York this summer, HvM will be buzzing about SoMA during the COAP San Francisco festival December 1-2, 2012. One notable difference from the 2 previous games festivals: COAP San Francisco will also have an accompanying exhibit from November 17 – December 8 and our tabletop version of HvM will be available to play. If you’re going to be in San Francisco, mark your calendar for a slew of unique physical games! COAP SF will be extra awesome thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Thanks to everyone who donated, and I hope to see you at COAP in December!

Custom art by Come Out and Play San Francisco

Humans vs. Mosquitoes at DCGames

Clay Ewing and I ran Humans vs. Mosquitoes at this year’s DC Games Festival held in West Potomac Park (just south of Lincoln Memorial and west of MLK Memorial). It was a pretty nice backdrop with the Washington Monument peaking out from behind the trees, and we even got a wave from Air Force One (it felt like it was within arm’s reach). I guess Obama – or at least his crew – approves of HvM! It was a pretty hot and sunny day (felt like almost 100 degrees) so we are very appreciative of all the players who came out and ran like determined humans and mosquitoes.

Also here’s a short clip of humans and mosquitoes at play during DCGames Festival. For more information on the game, you can visit our website:

[vimeo width=”600″ height=”365″ video_id=”48891646″]