Augmented reality game app
Project Manager/UX Designer, Visual Designer, and Developer
Project Manager and UX Designer
Project Management and UX Design (User Research, Research Analysis, Usability Study, User Flows and Low-Fidelity Wireframes, UX Writingt and User Acceptance Testing)
How might we empower teenagers for them to be able to identify and address dating violence?
The Ecuadorean National Council for Gender Equality (CNIG) and ChildFund International USA in Ecuador have joined efforts to support the work of community leaders to bring greater awareness of gender diversity, gender violence, sexual health, and reproductive rights to teenagers who live in rural areas in Ecuador.
Due to the elevated levels of teen dating violence (TDV)* in the communities that are part of the project, CNIG and ChildFund identified the need to create a game to support the work of community leaders in addressing issues related to teen dating violence.
Dating violence data in Ecuador
3 in 10
teenagers between 12 and 17 years old have a boyfriend/girlfriend
have been exposed to psychological violence
have been exposed to physical violence
have been exposed to sexual violence
* Source: Social Observatory of Ecuador
The 5 W’s of This is Love?
The target audience is 12-17 yeard-old teenagers from rural areas of Ecuador.
An AR game app that helps demystify and prevent violence in teen dating.
This game is meant to be played when a safe space is needed to address teen dating violence.
The game can be played in schools, community centers, or other places with the mediation of a qualified adult.
It can be challenging for adolescents to recognize the stereotypical idealizations of romance that can lead them to end up in unhealthy and violent relationships. This is Love? can help to prevent teen dating violence in an interesting, fun, and engaging way allowing teenagers to feel comfortable discussing delicate issues concerning relationships.
Our first step was to hear directly from our target audience. I conducted separate interviews with community leaders and teenagers to gain an understanding of users’ behavior, needs, and motivations. A specialist in gender violence accompanied me and assisted me in the interviews.
Interviewing community leaders
We interviewed four community leaders from different villages. This helped us to understand their needs when addressing teen dating violence. We learned the most common issues teenagers experience in their relationships, as well as what ways mediation has or hasn’t worked in the past.
We interviewed 6 teens from 12 to 17 years old. These interviews helped us to learn about their behavior, needs, and motivations, along with their device and internet usage, and social media activity.
The teenagers believe that it is important to be able to identify and address violence and to nurture healthy relationships.
They feel that it is easier to identify and address violence through hearing about other people’s experiences.
Users are motivated by game mechanics that allow collaboration by completing team missions that generate points or rewards.
It’s important for the users to have their identities represented.
They love Instagram and Snapchat AR Face-Tracking Filters.
Most users have restricted internet access.
Most users’ devices have minimal storage space, low-performance processors, and cameras with limited sensor technology.
«My boyfriend is a little jealous, sometimes he gets very angry at me and he does things I don’t like, but I know he does it because he loves me». – 14-year-old teenager
«I have a plan to use Whatsapp on my phone, but when I have internet data, what I like to do is watch funny videos on TikTok.» – 16-year-old teenager
«It is urgent that we educate boys and girls equally, but it is very difficult for us to be able to discuss some topics considered taboo in our community.» – Community Leader
«Teenagers already know the theory, but it is necessary to give them examples close to their dating experiences so they can identify violence». – Community Leader
How to develop a digital game that does not require the use of the internet, can run efficiently on low-performance devices, and can still be fun and engaging for teenagers?
To analyze the game dynamics and features, I reviewed numerous existing games with game-based learning and gamification approaches to analyze feature elements such as rules, goals, interaction, feedback, problem-solving, competition, story, and learning activity. After playing multiple games and reading several articles, I shared synthesized information with the team for further research.
Research word cloud
Quiz, Role-Playing, Quest, Decision-Making, Leaderboard, Collaborations, Rewards Sharing Achievements, Compelling Stories, Missions, Challenges, Trivia, Acting Out
Revision of Problem Statement
I revised my hypothesis problem statement to align better with the users’ needs and goals.
Teenagers don’t feel comfortable discussing the intimate details of their relationships. This is reinforced by Andean culture and Catholic norms in these communities. Thus, addressing intimate topics using other people’s experiences helps teenagers feel more open to discussing them.
Teenagers need a way to find information about dating violence to be able to identify it and learn how to address issues of violence in order to pursue healthier relationships.
Teenagers need a way to find information about dating violence from examples of other people’s experiences, so it’s easier for them to identify it in their reality and learn how to address issues of violence in order to pursue healthier relationships.
We held a Brainstorming workshop with our team to collectively outline the potential game dynamics and make clear the technologically viable features.
Based on discovery findings, the user personas, and the technical limitations, we came up with a hypothesis to build a “hybrid product.” In other words, a combination of a digital and a physical product. The idea was to create an interactive multiplayer augmented reality game accompanied by a printed gameboard.
To validate our hypothesis and move forward with the design of the game’s core functionality, we conducted a participatory design workshop. This step helped us keep the design user-centered, including users and stakeholders in a democratic design process.
We had the support of a gender violence specialist who assisted us in addressing teen dating violence at the workshop.
This was a great opportunity to get to know and identify with our end-users and to co-create a fun and useful digital game!
The participatory design workshop was carried out in a community center with a group of nine teenagers and three community leaders from different villages. We prepared drawing and craft materials, a whiteboard, post-it notes, and snacks.
First, we shared with the participants the product vision and the hypothesis, as well as some game examples. Since the participants have limited access to the internet to use digital products, we thought that it would be necessary to show them some references to help them in the creative process.
Afterward, we separated the group into three teams and encouraged them to work together to discuss and draw what they think about the game mechanics and what kind of challenges or tasks we should have.
This dynamic helped us to understand their motivations when playing a game and what features excite them the most. In addition, it provided us with a list of the most common myths attributed to misinterpretations of romance that could lead to violence.
We also had the opportunity to validate the following aspects:
Storytelling with other people’s experiences helps the end-users to identify and address dating violence.
Board-game mechanics that show players’ progress and allow them to collaborate while solving tasks about daily dating challenges were desirable.
Graphic Design and Content Acceptance
We validated the graphic design by ensuring user’s identity representation and verifying the acceptance of the content.
Technical Capacity of Users’ Devices
We verified that the users’ devices support the scanning component of the app to display augmented reality elements.
The visual designer created the UI Design and the game board. The developer developed the AR App (MVP).
Problems and Solutions
Based on the findings from the MVP usability tests we were able to come up with a list of changes:
We addressed all the issues and updated the final product. In addition, we created a mediation guide so that community leaders can address issues and lead productive and informative discussions.
This is Love?
The game has been widely distributed in indigenous and small farming communities that are part of the social assistance projects developed by ChildFund Ecuador.
We conducted a survey with 35 teenagers that played the game and interviewed four community leaders to evaluate user satisfaction and game usability.
of community leaders consider the game a useful tool in addressing issues related to teen dating violence
What is Next?
Due to the success of the game, ChildFund decided to develop a web version to reach more teenagers during COVID-19 and incorporate some features that we could not include in the app due to limited internet access for users.
What I’ve learned from This is Love?
This was a very challenging project due to the complexity of the subject and the technical limitations. It was essential to work with a gender violence specialist to address the subject in a productive way, to avoid re-enforcing stereotypes and to ensure we were using the correct language. Also, it was essential to work closely with the developer to find fun and workable solutions considering the technical limitations of many of the potential users.
Despite the limited timeframe for the project, I was able to make design decisions and move quickly through the design process successfully.