First to Launch.JPG
First to Launch




The SCIPR (Sensing Curiosity in Play and Responding) project focuses on designing tabletop games that work as interventions to empower marginalized youth. Our games are specifically designed to increase curiosity as a way to increase comfort and skills for students who are marginalized in STEM classrooms and inoculate these students from being prematurely off-ramped from potential futures in STEM.

For this project we have iteratively prototyped four different playable tabletop games, each with different but interrelated transformational curiosity goals.

  • Outbreak – a collaborative question-asking and hypothesis-building board game about comfort with failure
  • First to Launch –  a competitive team game about hypothesis building and comfort with voicing uncertainty
  • Combinations –  an asymmetric card-matching logic game with hidden information designed around misattribution of arousal and uncertainty
  • Alter Egos – a role-playing game about growth mindset

In designing these games, we used a method we developed called Tandem Transformational Game Design (learn more about Tandem here which leverages the strengths of interdisciplinary teams and has a dual focus on theoretical and physical iteration. Specifically, we spent three months play-testing and co-designing these games with local middle school students in Pittsburgh. These students were of diverse backgrounds, with socio-economic status, race and gender being the main axes of diversity. We worked with students at the Homewood YMCA, Carnegie Science Center and PRYSE. As a result of this work, Outbreak was presented with two game design awards at Meaningful Play 2016.

Finally in addition to these methodological and artifact contributions, we have also had theoretical contributions arise from this work including pulling together game design and curiosity theory as well as creating design models for curiosity.

If you are interested in working on this project, please reach out to Alexandra To.


  1. Modeling and Designing for Key Elements of Curiosity: Risking Failure, Valuing Questions. In Proc. DiGRA 2017. To, A., Holmes, J., Fath, E., Zhang, E., Kaufman, G., Hammer, J. (2017)
  2. Scaffolding Conversation through the Design and Implementation of Board Games. In Proc. DiGRA 2017 Boardgame Studies Round Table Workshop. To, A., Kaufman, G., Hammer, J. (2017).
  3. Designing Affective Supports for Curiosity in Games. In Proc. CHI ’17 Designing for Curiosity Workshop. To, A., Kaufman, G., Hammer, J. 2017.
  4. Tandem Transformational Game Design: A Game Design Process Case Study. In Proc. Meaningful Play 2016. To, A., Fath, E., Zhang, E., Ali, S., Kildunne, C., Fan, A., Hammer, J., Kaufman, G. (2016).
  5. Treehouse Dreams: A Game-Based Method for Eliciting Interview Data from Children. In Proc. CHI Play 2016. To, A., Fan, A., Kildunne, C., Zhang, E., Kaufman, G., Hammer, J. (2016).
  6. Integrating Curiosity and Uncertainty in Game Design. In Proc. DiGRA/FDG 2016. To, A., Ali, S., Kaufman, G., Hammer, J. (2016).


Best Student Non-Digital Game, “Outbreak”, Meaningful Play 2016
People’s Choice Game, “Outbreak”, Meaningful Play 2016


Alexandra To
Jessica Hammer
Geoff Kaufman
Elaine Fath
Safinah Ali
Jarrek Holmes
Catherine Kildunne
Anny Fan
Allison Mui
Arlex Gole
Eda Zhang
Justus Hibshman
Daniel Hua
JiaQi Wang
Siyuan Tu


MultiComp Lab


Heinz Foundation