Do I Belong?
Do I Belong is an Interactive Storybook in the form of a trading card game that aims to raise awareness and address peoples assumptions of Asian American stereotypes through conversation and immersion.
My Role: UX Designer
Process: problem statement, narrowing down to specific problem, design research, concept generation, game design, product design, prototyping, packaging, video editing
Time Taken: 3 Weeks
highlighting a Problem
We live in an increasingly global world where people of many colors, cultures and backgrounds find themselves living together and needing to collaborate, but this isn't always easy. We live in a world where we develop stereotypes about others. We tend to generalize race and come up with assumptions that may be detrimental to being able to emphasize with others.
Being Asian American myself, I have constantly struggled with my identity and what it is liked to be stereotyped as the "smart, token Asian". I felt extremely misunderstood, whether it was being placed with the standard to succeed academically or act in a certain way due to these stereotypes.
From the conversations I had with friends and others, there were many people who had very little understanding of Asian American stereotypes.
My goal was to compile a collection on stories on a stereotype I felt deeply about and present it in a dynamic and engaging way for users interested in learning about culture, spreading awareness of the stereotype, bonding with others or simply playing games.
power in story
I wanted to know about other Asian Americans and whether or not their story was familiar to mine. I conducted primary research around what the stereotype means, and how it affects lives. This consisted of open-ended interviews and directed storytelling.
I interviewed five to seven Asian Americans about their experiences with the stereotype and asked them to tell me a story about a time(s) when the stereotype had a significant impact on their lives.
Takeaways from the interviews:
- Depending on how you were raised, environment and culture exposure heavily influences how you identify yourself.
- As an Asian American, you have certain expectations to meet. This could mean doing well academically, or focusing on one talent, preferably something “useful” and that will help you get into a good college.
- At a certain point in your life, you may or may not experience a phenomenon called ‘culture shock’. Asian Americans usually experience culture shock in college where they feel disorientated due to unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes. This can lead to anxiety, discomfort or just plain disgust.
- Culture shock can either be a way to conform to a culture or distance yourself away from it.
- How might we educate people on a stereotype without making it seem like they are forced to learn about it?
- How might we encourage empathy through story?
- How might we create an engaging experience that diverts from reading?
facilitating better engagement
I wanted the concept of my idea to be able engage user as well as challenge them to question their accusations of the Asian American stereotype instead of presenting it to them. Using these insights as a way to generate ideas, how I could make the stories "interactive" and engaging for people not aware of the stereotype?
For my first iteration, I created a basic book with all the stories fragmented into different parts. I wanted to play with the concept of each person's individual story. Though different, I combined them to create one piece. This represents a metaphor of how people tend to overgeneralize Asians which was a problem all my interviewees faced to different extents.
I didn't think the book idea was the best way to have people take in the stories because it wasn't engaging enough. I wanted to create an experience where users would have to interact with others, answer hard questions and generate conversations to thoroughly understand the stereotype they were presented with in a fun manner.
I started to brainstorm different ideas of how people remember information or take in stories. I eventually came across games and how they are the perfect medium for storytelling, because stores were a necessity to motivate players to continue playing a game.
foldable booklets = layers
For the instruction booklets and answer booklets, I tested different folds that diverged away from a typical booklet. The idea is providing the users with a set of tangible objects to understand the stereotype from a more personal level.
Because tangible objects are a way of feeling and for users to explore their properties, I wanted to emulate that with stereotypes so that users will be more aware they exist.
Cards as symbols
Visual identity was important in the overall concept of shaping the way cards looked, so I utilized foreign looking text to convey the metaphor of how Asians are seen as "foreign". The colors are used as a way to create unity and differentiate different parts of one's story.
Behind the cards are parts of a story, a bigger story which addresses moments of each individual and how they suffered or overcame the sterotype placed on them.
Playing it Out
From multiple usability tests, presenting the book in a game resulted in more engagement and enjoyment. People remembered the stories and stereotype better by talking to others about it and coming up with their own opinion through collective reasoning.
The game definitely sparked interesting conversations, but the game play wasn't quite there yet (users didn't know if the game was competitive or noncompetitive).
delivering the Product
Users can explore a wide range of different content and learn about the stereotype through them. Getting people to start playing and be engaged was the hardest part, so I created the game using different materials that would draw people's interest to interact with them and speed up the onboarding process of the experience.
Cards as stories
The idea is that instead of reading from a book, which everyone can do, in a game, users have to think more about what they do with the cards, thus having to pay attention to what is written on the card in order to progress.
Users can create meaningful experiences and connect with one another through playing a game together to develop mindfulness and empathy for hard topics by trading and doing tasks in which most are conversation based.
generating conversation through play
The overall goal of the game is to ask questions about the stereotype and have meaningful conversations with the other player that encourages empathy and facilitates learning and awareness through wholehearted participation.
Stories are a good way to relate to others and provide perspective on the issue that pure facts cannot always do. There are no winners or losers, just taking in the stories all while immersing yourself in the feel and touch of tangible stories through play and meaningful engagement.
Instead of simply generating conversations about the Asian American stereotype, I was given the feedback to force empathy with my users. Depending on the environment you are in, your level of empathy can be influenced if the situation is moving.
Instead of forcing empathy out of someone (it's like forcing someone to like something), I would want to create moments in the game where people are able to recognize empathy that causes them to be more responsible with how they think about stereotypes. I also want to be able to make the practice of empathy more apparent and have that be a central part of the game itself.
In regards to mechanics, it doesn't make sense how to play at first so I would want to simplify them and create a seamless experience that does not hinder the interactions between players. I would also want to improve my craft such as less text on cards (readability), have only important parts of the story and tie icons to the overall concept better (make my own).
Stereotypes are a way to have a general understanding of the world, but negative stereotypes can lead to unfair and sometimes unintentional misunderstandings that can hurt people. By practicing empathy, you are able to understand others better, leading to less misunderstanding and a better perception of yourself through your words and actions.
Creating this game was an opportunity to structure an experience that was unique and would provoke positive emotion. I learned that empathy occurred based on consciousness, rather than just subconsciously feeling it. You cannot force empathy.
Depending on the variety and intensity of feedback exchanged by the players, it would affect the impact of the game and the experience they had. By providing voluntary obstacles in a game setting, it helped put peoples personal strengths of understanding to use. This lead to experiences built on community and a way to practice empathy on a daily basis. Play was also voluntary in that the gameplay/reading depended on how much people were willing to immersive themselves in the experience.