Co-creation in game design

In the world of game design, it is crucial to ensure that the games we create for our clients accurately reflect their reality and address their specific challenges. We try to involve the client as much as possible in the design process, as they are always the experts of their own organisation. 

While we often rely on proven game concepts, simply improvising or starting from scratch is not enough. To bridge the gap between game concepts and client needs, we embrace the practice of co-creation. 

Co-creation involves actively involving our clients in the game design process, allowing them to contribute their insights, experiences, and perspectives. This collaborative approach ensures that the game's content becomes relevant, relatable, and effective in meeting the client's objectives. By leveraging the expertise and input of our clients, we create games that are tailored to their unique requirements. 

Now, let's explore three examples of how we have employed co-creation in designing games for our clients. 

Distributed approach 

In 2019, we designed a game for the international branch of the Danish Red Cross. They operate worldwide in regions affected by conflict and rely on volunteer work to enhance their operational efficiency. However, leading volunteers is a challenging task and ensuring they understand the values of the organisation can be extremely difficult. That’s where we step in to assist.  

One of our most popular and reliable concepts is called Take Charge. It is very simple but great at facilitating dialogues about workplace culture, and we quickly saw a match with the needs of the DRC. 

To develop the game, we needed lots of examples of behaviours that pushed the boundaries of what was deemed acceptable within the established values. To ensure that the examples were not merely conceived within the confines of an office in Denmark, disconnected from the local context, we took a different approach. We developed a template in a standard spreadsheet, incorporating a range of captivating headlines that would spark ideas. This methodology aimed to foster a connection with the experiences and perspectives of local volunteers in regions such as East Africa. In the template, we provided a few examples of what we were looking for to help get people going. Then, our client shared the template with a wide network of colleagues spanning various countries. Within a matter of weeks, we received lots of files brimming with a plentiful supply of behaviours, providing us with more than sufficient material to design the game. 

Now it was just a matter of curating the selection together with the client and rewriting some of the suggestions to align seamlessly the framework of the game. Getting input from numerous people across their organisation helped ensure that the content was both relevant and relatable, and it is used successfully for onboarding both volunteers and new employees all over the world. 

Workshop approach 

In 2018, the municipality of Copenhagen approached us with a request to develop a game. They noticed a particular trend among young individuals who had obtained the EUX high school-equivalent degree, which combines academic learning with practical application and work experience. The municipality wanted to showcase how working for them for a few years would provide an opportunity to both acquire skills and gain insights into their own work-life preferences. This could help the young people choose the right career path for them when they eventually moved on to a higher education, as well as provide the municipality with much needed skilled labour here and now. 

For this challenge, we needed something with a little more depth and opportunity for customisation, so we turned to another of our staple concepts, called Touchpoints. In this, we zoom in on different aspects of an organisation and write dilemmas around it. Depending on the choices made by the players, specific game effects will be triggered, tailored to meet the specific requirements and preferences of the client. Sometimes the effect is as simple as a point score, other times it might be lingering effects that will affect the choices and results of other dilemmas down the line.  

We wanted to achieve two goals: capturing the realism of each dilemma and crafting an engaging narrative that resonated with the young players, so we had to closely collaborate with our clients. We hosted a series of workshops where we gradually co-created all aspects of the game with the client. With each workshop, we focused on new aspects of the game that needed to be fleshed out, going from overall narrative, over dilemmas and options and into which skills and preferences we wanted to highlight in the game. 

This gave us everything we needed to build a game that would be both entertaining, engaging, and educational for the target audience, which helped the students becoming more aware of what opportunities their education provided in both the short and long term. 

Expert co-designer approach 

In 2019, we were approached by a pharmaceutical company that was about to launch a new drug worldwide. They had already launched in a few countries and wanted to disseminate their learnings to other countries through the game, specifically around driving scientific dialogue around the type of drug. 

In this case, we employed a concept centred around driving discourse through stakeholder engagement, a methodology we have successfully implemented with numerous clients. 

We set up a series of meetings with one of the client’s experts who had been an integral part of the launch in one country and then got him to map out what their experiences and takeaways had been. This evolved into a series of immersive sessions filled with whiteboards, post-it notes, and flowcharts, which may have appeared perplexing to outsiders. We then chose and grouped these experiences into three or four major storylines that would likely be relevant in most countries and decided to design a fictional case country for the game based on these storylines. 

In this case, the expert helping us became more than just a co-creator. He became a trusted co-designer that we could consult when deciding how to break down the content into game mechanics. We were privileged to have access to someone willing to put in that level of commitment, but we also believe that he had a good experience taking on the role of co-game designer for a few months. 

The final product was first played at a conference for local teams from 20+ countries, and it was a great success. We helped the client take learnings from one market and share them with their colleagues in a fun and engaging way, so that they could then take these learnings and apply them in their own launches. 

Customising the process 

When we work with co-creation, every process is unique and distinct, ensuring that no two are the same. We always adapt the process to the solution as well as to the needs and preferences of our clients. We believe that it is an essential part of scoping a project that we align expectations about how, when, and why we involve our clients. That way, we ensure that the solution fits both the challenges it is supposed to address, as well as our client's needs and resources.