In Your Face prototype – LinkedIn meets face recognition

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but many organizations are reluctant to share the demographics of their employees. And yet, how can we address equality in gender, ethnicity, or religion if we can’t measure it?

Inspired by the IT Counts application created by WAX Science (a spin-off of the CRI), in which people report the percentage of women attending and speaking at scientific conferences, Gayathri and I started wondering if there was a way to measure the demographics of a social network. We looked through the most popular: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, looking for ways to gather such data.

No Good APIs for Gender

Twitter offers the best API of the 3, because much of the data is public. However no gender information is available for users. Facebook does provide gender via an API, but only from users that install your application. LinkedIn has recently curtailed its API, restricting most of it to pre-approved partners. Nor is the gender of its users reported.

But LinkedIn does present a significant advantage for our use case: as a career-focused network, it gathers links between users, companies, and educational institutions. It has a powerful search function that allows a user to see near-complete lists of users who work at given company, or went to a particular school.

So how to figure out the gender of users, when that information is not provided? That’s where face recognition comes in! You may be familiar with how Facebook and Google can identify faces in a photo. Well, there are a bunch of free services like Betaface and Face++, which can recognize multiple faces in photos, and then (this is where it get’s interesting) make almost accurate guesses of the gender, age, and race of the person photographed. You can try it yourself using the Face++ demo.

Of course, none of this makes sense if the photos aren’t good quality. Once again, LinkedIn is works well for us in this respect, because most users post nice-looking headshots that are appropriate for a CV, instead of funny memes and line drawings that you can find on Facebook and Twitter. In our informal tests, we’ve found that around three-quarters of LinkedIn users post photos, and about three-quarters of those can be analyzed, giving about a 50% analysis coverage overall.

There are occasional mistakes in the photo analysis, such as women being classified as men, and vise-versa. Age also seems difficult to estimate. And “race” is perhaps the toughest of all. Gayathri noticed that the racial classification of Indians seems almost random between “white”, “asian”, and “black”. This lead us down a fascinating rabbit hole of trying to understand how Indians have been racially classified in the past. For example, the United States government has flip-flopped between considering Indians as white or non-white at least 4 times and rejected citizenship of Indians despite accepting that they are Caucasians because “the average man knows perfectly well that there are unmistakable and profound differences.”

Extend the Browser 

Back to LinkedIn. In addition to not providing the user search via their API, they also require logging in to use the search function. However, the actual profile images are publicly available, once you have the URL. These constraints led me to the idea of writing a browser extension that can activate when the user visits a LinkedIn search page. The extension basically goes down the page, extracting the URLs of profile images, sending them off for analysis, and tallying the results. Since only around 10 profiles are shown at a time, the extension automatically moves to from page to page of the results. A nice advantage of this approach is that it does not require making a fake LinkedIn account, nor do we need to store or transfer the images themselves, just their URLs.

The final step was to make some pretty graphs. For that, I chose the C3.js library, mostly for for their pretty donut charts.

The source code for the project is available on GitHub. There are a few hoops to jump through when installing it, including signing up for a free account on Face++. Once we test our extension, we would like to put it up directly on the Chrome Store, which makes it trivial to install.

What’s next?

So far, In Your Face is not at all a game! Perhaps it could work to transform it into a guessing game. For example, guessing which of two companies has more women, or more people smiling in their photos. Or compare the percentage of men vs. women in a guy’s 1st-degree network as compared to a girl’s.

Another important aspect is how to share the information gathered through In Your Face. We’ve thought of publishing the the data on a website, and/or providing social media buttons. These are not surefire solutions, because we cannot guarantee that each user will see the same results on LinkedIn. But given how slow the analysis is, it could help to spread the word that way.

Our first meetup in India

ARRIVAL

This experience in India was the first of a series of on field missions for the Includo project. Straight in the plane, we found a bunch of interesting things. The number one forbidden item on the national entry form is “maps and literature where Indian external boundaries have been shown incorrectly”. Apparently this is more dangerous for the country than drugs and counterfeit currency. We later learned that the “external boundaries” concern the border with Pakistan in Kashmir, dating from just after the partition. Although for all intents and purposes this land belongs to Pakistan, India refuses to allow maps that show this reality.

In a Bollywood movie we saw actors play Carrom, a type of game that looks like a miniature shuffleboard. Upon a large wooden board, players flick circular pieces into other, trying to make them hit each other and put them into corner pockets, like billiards. Apparently this game is fairly well known in India.

As we left the airport the traffic was just crazy. The constant honking and swerving was very unnerving to our senses. This is one big thing we’ve been sensitive to in India, we are stuck in flow of deep feedbacks. Even if we experience the same physically supportive environment we felt that this overwhelming environment sometimes inhibits some kinds of communication. As we drove to our hotel, we did notice that some of the vehicles, especially the trucks, were simply beautiful, with detailed patterns and bright colors, perhaps tassels hanging from the windows and bumpers. Even many of the road signs appeared hand-painted, a technique almost completely lost in western Europe or the US.

MEETING ZMQ TEAM

ZMQ took extremely good care of us during the first week, including a ceremony of putting flower garlands around our necks. Alexandre didn’t want to take his off, it smelled so nice.

As ZMQ presented their activities more in detail, we learned that they do a good chunk of their work outside of India, including in Afghanistan and Uganda. They told us about their “game lab” concept, in which they use material produce by people to tell stories and teach people to make their own games. Their methodology is really close to our micro game jams. For example they do this in very rural areas so that women can tell their problems and turn them into board games using visual storyboards. They find that the technique allows people to work through their problems and inspires ZMQ with new ideas for initiatives.

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In addition to these workshops, they have created a number of games and apps around public health.

Apparently, 1.3 million people in India and China have no regular access to toilets. To answer this issue they created a game to promote the use of toilets, for example, using the metaphor of getting a soccer ball into a goal. They also created a game to promote deworming, one of the least expensive and yet valuable public health initiatives. They designed a polio project for tracking polio immunization.

In a similar vein, their project “Freedom TB” tracks people taking tuberculous treatments. As long as patient continue taking their pills every day over a long period, they will protect themselves and those around them. However, it is easy for people to slip, which has lead to health organizations forcing people to come to the hospital and take treatments in front of the staff, which is obviously very expensive. Instead, in the Freedom TB program, patients are lent smartphones that remind them daily to take their treatment. The patients must “prove” they have taken it via audio or video messages. If they haven’t taken it, the app first tries to motivate them, before eventually alerting the health staff if the patient stops responding. They have currently treated over 3000 patients with this game program.

We also discussed their work with mental health. There is no national health coverage for mental health problems, and so often those with mental issues are left on the streets. ZMQ has been working to educate and train caregivers, such as family, to recognize health problems and to act accordingly.

Trying to investigate some other diversity topics we discovered that some forms of diversity are difficult to discuss in India. Homosexuality is outright illegal there, and the LGBT community lacks legal and police protection.

ZMQ crew also explained how important it is to that their mobile games work offline. Although connectivity is getting better across the country, it is still far from ubiquitous, and can be rather slow (2G). Their games are designed to work through downloads, and can stories for their games can even be copied manually from phone to phone over USB rather than going through app stores and in-app purchases.

MEETING CYC

The next day, ZMQ crew took us through an example workshop when we met with a few non-profits, including Pravah and CYC, that do wonderful work on promoting gender and ethnic diversity, by working directly with young people. Their approach does not use board game pieces as we have been doing in our “micro game jams” in Paris. However, they have a more formal worksheet process that takes participants through the process of selecting game mechanics, storylines, and describing the rules through worksheets.

Through this workshop we learned about the Indian game Kabaddi, where a person from one team tries to touch the other team and get back to their side. The complication is that they must constantly say “Kabaddi” over and over again and once they lose their breath they don’t get their point. We had heard of a similar game being played as part of the New Games movement, called something else, like “Dodo”. But where in the New Games this is played to develop “loving competition”, in India it is played very competitively and seriously.

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After the workshop, we spent a while discussing with some of the participants, including  Ashraf Patel, an Ashoka fellow from Pravah and CYC. She brought out an older tabletop game, Scruples, that they have adapted for their own use. The original game is meant to be played in families, in which an ethical question is read off a card. The other players must guess what the person who’s turn it is will answer, and then they discuss. They have made their own cards that ask tougher ethical, including about diversity. She suggested that we could try using it in our own workshops.

In general, it seems that board and card games might be more useful for organizations such as Pravah and CYC, who run workshops regularly with groups to discuss issues such as right as human rights. For example, CYC has created a “conflict-positive curriculum” that lasts from 4-6 days, in which they stress that conflict is a positive construct, and that it is important to take stances. Resolution must come from both parties as they move from “blaming to claiming”. They present an inventory of conflict resolution styles, and take the participants through “values clarification” and steps to agreement. They reflect on how world conflict stands in parallel to social conflict (such as within a family), with the goal of increasing empathy for others.

MEETING CIC

The next day we went to the Cluster Innovation Center (CIC) on the expansive and beautiful campus of New Delhi University. CIC boasts an interdisciplinary program powered by project-based learning.

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This time it was up for us to run the workshop. We did something very close to our micro-jam format, except we allowed them to pitch game ideas, hoping that this would make the groups more interesting. Although almost none of the students had made games before, a bunch of interesting board games came out of it. Jesse’s favorite was essentially a religion quiz game, in which players had to know about the 4 major religions in India: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Sikhism. It was difficult and led to interesting discussions.

At the end, the students asked that we run this exercise again, but this time over a whole weekend in order to make full videogames. Some of them would like to come to France to work with us. They also wanted to keep the giant ball 🙂

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On the way out of CIC, two of the teachers took us on a tour. We saw an incubator space and what will soon be a fab lab. They also had interesting exhibits on Verdic mathematics, essentially mathematical tools that were described in ancient religious texts. Apparently this knowledge was needed for certain rituals, such as setting objects in an exact circle.

MEETING Jubilent

The last day we went to the life sciences division of Jubilent, a fairly large company outside of Delhi. ZMQ has contacts with Jubilent through their well-developed corporate responsibility division. This arm of Jubilent works to improve the life of those around the factories, and reduce the negative impact their installations may have. They spoke to us about the value of the Global Reporting Index (GRI) for which they publish statistics about their company’s social and environmental impact, and allows overseas companies that must follow strict rules to work with them.

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After a short presentation on games, we got straight to work with a group of about 15 employees who came to our workshop. It was a bit difficult to get them started on making a game, but after the brainstorming got started it was impossible to stop them. There were two groups, and both came up with interesting games, based on discussion and guessing. In one group, the game was to guess what Indian city a person was from based on questions about the local food, greetings, and movie stars. In the other, players had to guess how a person felt about themselves as they talked about how they appeared to others.

The employees left quite happy with the workshop, and gave their OK for us to share their games on our website.

One last interesting idea that came out of our interactions with ZMQ is to create an application to count diversity. This could be something along the lines of the “count it” app made by WAX. We are concerned, however, that some of our partners would not appreciate it lack of diversity being pointed out. Also, large groups could be difficult to count in a representative way, but this could be worked around in smaller groups.

VISITING DSK IN PUNE

Alexandre stayed 2 more weeks in India. This was an occasion to discover new aspect of the game making education in India and local French authorities.

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DSK International Campus is a leading global school in Indian design. It was established in the year 2008 to offer professional courses in the fields of animation, video gaming and industrial design. It’s particularly interesting for our project since the institute is a result of a joint venture between the Indian DSK Group, India and the French Supinfocom GROUP.

The academics are directed by the French institute to match international standards of education and the trainers are recruited on a full-time basis from various parts of Europe and Asia. Alexandre had the chance to meet English and French teachers that are senior game industry veterans with valuable profiles: one was a former Rockstar Games 3D artist, the other a game designer at Ubisoft.

Even if it was the spring break there, Alexandre met the placement officer and the CEO of the campus. It was really interesting to be guided all of the campus, from classrooms to the library to the sports facilities. Everything was really neat yet closed off from Indian society. The annual fees to get in the school are 6000 euros minimum.

The academics there were interested in meeting the CRI gamelab again to organize a masterclass on game with a purpose or even on scientific games with their video game students.

VISITING THE FRENCH INSTITUT

In his third week, Alexandre planned a daytrip with ZMQ in the countryside. It was canceled by the company due to a lack of availability. Alex scheduled also a presentation of the IncLudo project to the cultural attaché at the French Institut.

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The French Institut in India offers several services to French and locals to reinforce cultural cooperation between France and India. These include a lot of different things, from cultural events to film festivals.

First, Alexandre met the person in charge promote French Film distribution in India. A new responsible of digital culture is gonna be our contact for IncLudo starting in September 2016.

The Institut also handles translation in vernacular languages and in French and provides a platform to writers, authors, editors, publishers, translators to exchange on relevant issues including those of copyrights.

Certification of French language levels by organizing regular DELF/DALF sessions across India. Promotion of higher education In France is done through sustained actions and events but also scholarships programmes. Next, Alexandre met the director of University and Scientific cooperation at the French Ambassy. Opportunities of fundings and promotion for IncLudo project have been discussed. A visit of the CRI has been schedule for april 12th, new cooperations between the CRI and the French Scientific cooperation will be presented to the François Taddei. Yet my quest to find the best Lassi continues!

“Pirate Partage” Prototype

By Garry Williams, Vincent Ducos, Jesse Himmelstein

pirate partage setup

Find the game at https://github.com/CyberCRI/PiratePartage

Pirate Partage was created during the Diversity Jam that was hosted by IncLudo, CRI, JamShaker, Games4Change Europe, and Mozilla Paris. It started with a pitch from Garry for an idea where players assume physical handicaps and must accomplish something together, and grew into a silly physical card-based game that is as fun to play as it is to watch.

Vincent and I were into the idea, and teamed up with Garry just after the pitching session. I was excited by the opportunity to work on a physical game rather than a video game during the jam, both for variety and for the speed with which you can try out new ideas when you don’t have to program and draw each one. Indeed, we were able to go really fast. The three of us actually completed two different games during the jam, and experimented with a few other designs that we then dropped. Even better, we were able to playtest and tune the games quite a few times, something that I’ve never had the luxury of doing during a jam before.

In this blog post, I try to recount the evolution of our idea and the reasons behind of changes in direction. Since ideas can be so ephemeral, I’m certainly forgetting many of them.

 

Version 1: Rhythm

So, we had the idea for a physical game about handicaps, but didn’t know what the players were actually doing. Garry suggested that we use Makey-Makeys, which sounded like a lot of fun. Maybe we could make a rhythm game in which the players have to work together but one player is blind and the other deaf? Let’s test it!

For our test, we put colored circle stickers on cards that represented the different sequences of “notes” that the players had to enter. Then bought a bunch of modeling clay that we shaped into the “buttons” that the players would need to press in sequence (Note: it turned out only certain modeling doughs conduct electricity, and this was not one of them. What a huge pain! We followed online instructions about mixing it salt water or graphite, but nothing worked. So we ended up wrapping it in tinfoil, which was very fragile, and pretty ugly too.).  

At this point we had found some cool props for our handicaps. The physically-handicapped wore a big oven mitt, making it pretty hard to manipulate objects. The deaf player wore headphones, and Garry put on music to make it impossible to hear (also it’s fun to have a personal soundtrack to a game). I always carry travel masks, which are perfect for covering both eyes. Not much for the mute player, unfortunately.

We had one player teach the other the sequence, using whatever means they could while respecting the handicaps. So for example the deaf player would look at the card and try to teach it to the bind player through moving their hands or drawing on their skin. From the outside, this part was pretty fun to watch. But as a player, it was really difficult to memorize the sequences. And not in a fun way.

 

Version 2: Swap

Maybe we could do away with the memorization part and just have one player indicate to the other in real-time what they needed to do? We made a bunch of cards indicating which buttons had to be pressed. One player would draw a card with the instructions, and had to get the other player to press them. Rather than keeping the rhythm, the goal became drawing the cards and executing the actions as quickly as possible. This aspect of the game was heavily inspired by Spaceteam.

At this point, we had figured out that even though the blind player couldn’t use color as an indicator of which button to press, they could feel out the shape of the buttons. So we paired colors and basic geometric shape together on the buttons: red circle, green triangle, etc.

This version was easier and faster than the previous one. But pressing one button was a bit too easy. We tried pressing 2 buttons at once. We tried picking up the two shapes and then putting them down again. And then came a more exciting idea: what if instead of pressing buttons, we picked up two shapes and swapped their positions?  

Since the Makey-makey part wasn’t working well anyway, we could drop the constraint that it had to be convertible into a video game. And swapping the shapes made it harder for another player to simply memorize the positions of the objects. We tried it with 4 players, where each player was drawing from their own stack of cards and playing at the same time as everyone else. It was fun to watch the players try to negotiate who was moving first, especially since the blind player couldn’t just glance at the table to see the positions of the objects.

We playtested with other jammers. It was fun to watch. Time for lunch!

 

Lunch break

Over some bò búns and beer, we talked over what we had made. There was one glaring problems with our idea- what possible reason could we give to the players that would explain why they had to swap the objects? What context, story, theme, or other meaning could we give that would have this strange act make sense?

One of us had the idea of transforming the mode of the game from collaboration to competition. What about if you had to barter to exchange items? This communication would be more interesting, and bring in a strategic element of deciding which player to barter with and under what conditions. Also, it would be easier to come up with a story that explained what the players were doing and why.

 

Version 3: Barter

Freshly back from lunch, we set out testing the idea. We gave each player tokens of different colors. We made “objective” cards that spelled out what combination of tokens each player needed. And off we went.

It was no fun, though. In fact, it turned out to be relatively easy to barter with another player, because there wasn’t that much information to exchange. And so if one player could just monopolize the conversation long enough to make 2 or 3 trades, they would win. Plus, it was harder for certain players to communicate than for others. In particular, the blind player was at a significant disadvantage both for capturing another players attention and for keeping track of who had which tokens.  

So this idea seemed like a dead-end. But the bartering made us think of another variant. What if we paid each other coins instead of swapping objects?

 

Version 4: Pay me

We returned to our collaborative system, but instead of telling players to swap objects, the cards instructed a player exchange 2 coins with the neighbor on their left, for example.

When we tested it, we found that counting the coins was fun for the blind player. But we had gotten rid of the contention around the objects at the center of the table, which was a shame. And what reason could we come up with for swapping coins with each other, anyway?

This is when someone came up with a really cool theme: pirates!

 

Version 5: Pirates

Here’s the story: a bunch of pirates have to share some treasure. There are a bunch of treasure chests in the middle of the table, in different shapes and colors, as well as a pile of treasure (coins). The goal is for each pirate to get the others to place the right number of coins in the right treasure chest, as quickly as possible.

There were a few nice consequences to this idea. First, we finally had a theme. And one that allowed us to associate each handicap to a pirate character. The blind pirate was the one with the familiar eye patch (well, two patches actually). The deaf pirate became so because he was in charge of lighting the cannons. The best of all, the one with the physical handicap had a hook for a hand (we didn’t have an actual hook, so we took a coffee stirrer and taped it to the oven mitt). The deaf one wasn’t as obvious, but at least we could draw a big pirate smile with missing teeth and drape it over the player’s mouth.

Also, we returned to the nice dynamic of contention around the objects in the center of the table. Since we couldn’t find actual treasure chests, we used glasses from the Mozilla kitchen and formed bases out of modeling dough. Occasionally the glasses would fall over, but that turned out to be fun too.

We loved how Spaceteam throws in occasional actions that require the attention of all the players. We came up with two such ideas for our own game. If any player draws a “toast” card, all the pirates must put their hands together in a mock rum toast over the table. And a “swap handicaps” card makes it so that you have to change identities in the game. This complicates things both for the players who have to assume new constraints, and for the other players who have to suddenly exchange communication styles with them.  

 

Version 6: Production

Up until now we were using hand-written cards, but we wanted something more polished for the demo at the end of jam. After a bit of searching, we found a program called nanDECK. It only runs on Windows, and I couldn’t call its interface pretty or intuitive, but it turns out to be just fantastic for making card games.

The big advantage of using nanDECK is that you can specify graphical elements like text and images over ranges of cards. So for example, you can tell it to put a left arrow at position (0, 100) on cards 1 through 30, and the number “2” on cards 1, 3, 5, 7, etc. It generates a PDF that you can print, cut, and paste yourself. No more copying and pasting in a document or image editor!

Vincent made the graphics and designed the cards. About 15 minutes of cutting and taping later, we had a pretty new deck!

Oh, and we came up with a name. “Partage” means “sharing” in French, and “pirate” is the same in both languages. So “Pirate Partage” sounds cool, even if it doesn’t mean much in English.

 

Future

There’s one aspect that we talked a lot about but never got around to doing: braille cards. Right now the blind player has to “cheat” and peek at their cards in order to understand them. We’d like to make the cards in such a way that they can be “read” by the blind pirate using touch alone. To do that, we would like to either draw on the cards with some kind of thick substance, poke holes in the cards, or put a second layer of card stock on top.

 

Reflection

When you make a game where players assume handicaps, there’s the danger that someone could mistake your intentions. We are most certainly not trying to make fun of someone who can’t speak, hear, or pick things up with their hands. Nor are we truly “simulating” what it would be like to have such handicaps, because in real life people adjust to their abilities and work around them in incredible ways. For example, an actual deaf person would probably just read lips, if not use sign language.

When you think about it, a great number of fantastic games are based on imposing artificial limitations on players. Look at soccer, which is essentially a game about manipulating a ball when you can’t you use hands. Pirate Partage is in the lineage of miming, drawing, and guessing games which limit the means of communication for amusement.

So does this game say anything about diversity? I don’t think it will directly inspire organizations to hire people with disabilities. But I do hope that it could be used to spark conversations about ways to communicate. When faced with a communication barrier, people are remarkably good at finding ways around it- think about how you might order food in a foreign restaurant, for example, when you can’t speak the language. Though it takes more effort at first, communicating in unconventional ways can be just as effective, while being way more enriching.

Find the game at https://github.com/CyberCRI/PiratePartage

“Planes!’s Devblog”

This is the story of how the prototype Planes! came to life and of what my intentions were with it and what I learned in the process.

At first, when I arrived, IncLudo had been operational since one month and my knowledge about India was close to zero. But my mission was to make games for raising awarness about inclusivity in the workplace.

And that is how in one project, three majors challenges appeared :

First the game had to address the diversity problem in an Indian context to Indian people, not only was I  unfamiliar with their problem but also I didn’t know enough about their culture and how to talk to them about things they relate to.

Secondly, it had to talk about inclusivity. But, I’m a straight white French man working in an educated environement. I’ve never felt like I was rejected in my work place. I don’t know.

Lastly, it needed to talk about the workplace environment, and here it is the same. As an employee, I have less than a year of experience. The workplace environment is still new to me.

So, firstly, I had to know more about India. Sadly, I couldn’t come to India when the game lab came there, so I started to read every article I could find about India, especially the ones about diversity in the workplace.

At one point something caught my eyes… In India, 11.8% of the pilots are women. And here’s the interesting part : In the world, only 3% of the pilots are women.

More insight was needed about indian aviation So, I also asked my Indian co workers (Gayathri Gopalakrishnan and Anirudh Krishnakumar.) if they had any idea of why aviation is more inclusive in India than anywhere else… And they didn’t know. Neither their familly nor the pilots we asked had an explanation. Actually, majority of them were unaware of their country being so inclusive.

Was there more behind it ?…Yes there was. India also had the first all-women crew.

India had the youngest commander in the world AND it was a woman : Nivedita Bhasin.

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So it struck me. My job was not to come as a white European man and say “Oh! it’s no good, let me patronize you and explain to you how you can make this better”. No, because I realized that in one sector : aviation, India is more inclusive without lot of them even knowing it. A game that could introduce them to this model could be a good idea

Now that a theme had been found, a real game was needed. Making a game were you could play as a pilot was logical. I didn’t want to do a shooter game because I was not in favor of a war concept.

It would be a 2D game on mobile, that way it could be controlled with the accelerometer in order to make it more fun.

Once the first draft of the prototype in hand I had to admit that it didn’t look fun enough, or at least novel enough. Really similar games already existed. So I searched how to improve it. Dr Himmelstein advised me to make it mutiplayer. Two players could control one plane, one the direction and the other, the special power.

It was a good idea but I feared that it could be a liitle bit boring for player to be only using power, more needed to be done.

In the end, the two players of one plane could control it, but using the same phone in order to have more cooperation. Also, it made it easier for people to coordinate their actions because there’s ne need to talk, when you move the phone, the other player can see it but also feel it because he has the same phone in hand.

Lastly, a 4 players mode with 2 phone was added.

So that’s the story of Planes!’s prototype !

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PinMyState: Understanding the Great Indian Thali

As an Indian living abroad, I have noticed how confusing it is for people to understand the vast diversity within India. I empathize with them. With 29 states, 7 Union Territories, 20 officially recognized languages (each with multiple dialects) and at least 6 distinct religions, India would probably be the most complex chapter in the textbook of diversity!

Here is an easy way to understand the diversity in India:

“India is like a thali — a collection of sumptuous dishes in different bowls. Each may not mix with the next, but they combine on your palate to produce a satisfying repast.” – Shashi Tharoor

Now, for most people, even within India, it is impossible to name all the dishes in a thali. As a quick fix we resort to grouping them – the sweet stuff, the rice items, the spicy stuff, and the side dishes and so on.

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An Indian thali. To further complicate things, each region in Indian has its own thali!

If India is the thali, its people are the different dishes. And because nobody understands the whole set, stereotypes have become a quick fix. “Oh you are from the South! A Madrasi!” or “She loves fish and wears a big bindi! She must be a Bengali!” The list of such stereotypes is long.  While stereotypes originated as an easy way to classify people, today, they are a source of bias and prejudice. Inadvertently, people allow stereotypes to influence critical judgements. Changing this behaviour is key to creating an Inclusive culture across India and the first step to change is awareness.

PinMyState is a simple ice breaker game that gives players the opportunity to understand how stereotypes can be misleading. It was inspired by the numerous stories of my family and friends who were were victims (and sometimes assaulters) of stereotype driven prejudice. It is designed to be a physical game played in groups. Such a design encourages an open dialog among players which would possibly lead to realizations. The game play of PinMyState is tailored in a way that tempts players to use their existing knowledge about stereotypes to make quick (but not necessarily correct) judgments. Further an element of competition accompanied by time pressure acts as a catalyst to accelerate such behaviour. In each round of game play players discover clues about a person and must identify which state/union territory the person is from. The challenge is for players to discover the balance between quick decisions and informed decisions. Click here for a more complete description of the game rules.

The game was initially based exclusively on stereotypes. It was interesting to notice how resistant people were to the realization that they had misjudged based on a stereotype. During the play testing  players felt that the game was unfair and “made-up”. As a resolution, the content was modified to revolve around celebrities. Thus, players not only discovered how stereotypes can be misleading, but were also convinced that the possibilities of such a misjudgment is realistic and impactful. Sample game content can be found here.

The open nature of the game content allows for modifications and customization based on the target audience. The game serves as a simple ice breaker for a workshop or session on diversity. Although, the game is not very sustainable on its own (players may recognize the pattern after the first game play), it can be enriched with more ambiguous clues.   

The game has currently been designed to be played as a physical icebreaker during workshops. It may be worthwhile to analyse the possibility of a digital version- One idea is where the players have to sort through lost baggage and send them to the right town based on  clues that are found on the baggage.