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Serious Play


In an interdisciplinary studio built around Cranium, the Hasbro board game that blends language, art, memory and performance, students explored the psychology of game playing with an eye toward developing new games for the future. “We set out to have the RISD students think about play and game experiences in the spirit of Cranium, where everyone is good at something,” notes Jill Waller, vice president of design for Cranium and Trivial Pursuit at Hasbro headquarters in Pawtucket, RI.

Rather than work toward developing specific games for the current marketplace, the goal was to have students research and think about how and why people play, what makes a game fun and how games help groups or families bond when they play together.

“Play is part of human nature,” notes Assistant Professor of Illustration Susan Doyle RISD 81 IL/MFA 98 PT/PR, one of three RISD faculty members who taught the course. “In some cases, adults don’t think they need to play. But the most creative people play all the time – when they paint a picture, compose music, even study a spreadsheet because they know how to have fun at what they do,” she points out.

Doyle and fellow faculty members in Industrial Design and Digital+Media kicked off the course with a lecture at Brown University’s John Hay Library on the history of game playing in America. A series of presentations from design professionals helped add broader context. Students researched the wide range of board games now on the market, visiting retail stores and scouring the web, and also plumbed their parents’ attics to pull out relics from the past. Working in teams and individually, some then invented new board games, while others created less sedentary games with a lot of action.

“We brainstormed, generated ideas, tested them among ourselves and with guest players,” says Hakan Diniz, a second-year graduate student in Industrial Design. “It was pretty serious to design something that’s supposed to be fun. It’s actually sort of stressful, like the comedy business.”

Still, for Hasbro, “it was amazing to see what was accomplished in so short a time,” says Catherine Carr, a Seattle-based senior director at the company. “What was really inspiring is that students were looking for game experiences that people of different cultural backgrounds could play together,” she notes. “They really wanted the games to break down those cultural differences.” And from a corporate standpoint, the studio was invaluable: “It gave us a unique window of insight into how this generation of students thinks and what game playing means to them.”

Related links:

Hasbro - Cranium
Hasbro, RISD explore deeper side of play 

Watch a video: RISD + Hasbro, a Multidisciplinary Studio in Game Design 


tags: corporate, alumni, local/regional, digital, entertainment, graduate, local/global, Illustration, multimedia, Industrial Design, partnerships + collaborations, research, students

At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.