Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Final Project- CitySpace – Amanda Wolfe

For my final project I created an Urban Planning themed Board Game called CITYSPACE. I wanted to explore designing a game that would engage people with the field of urban planning, putting them in the position of being an urban planner in the game to deal with “building” a city by completing plans to get points to win the game. I faced many obstacles with this project, first being that I have never designed a board game before. I had to spend a lot of time researching game design and thinking through the game play while also thinking about how I could make all the pieces in time to have a product for people to play with before the final presentation. In the end I feel I didn’t leave quite enough time to build all the pieces, I ended up with 2 player beta version of the game, but started out wanting to make it a 4 player game. I also didn’t get to make multiple prototypes for all the different parts, for example, I wanted to redo the cards, but ran out of time at the end. 

I feel that after taking this course I have not only gained many skills in making: laser cutting, 3D printing and designing, Arduino, etc., but also gained a better understanding of how I learn. I tend to spend a lot of time on the idea of a project, fleshing the idea out, which if I leave enough time to execute the idea helps me to create a project when I am proud of by the end. However, if I either underestimate the amount of time something will take to put together or don’t spend enough time on the idea then I get frustrated with the outcome. For example, with the pom pom bot lab I spent most of that lab just trying things, putting different parts together and seeing how the bot would work, and not enough time on thinking through how the design of the bot should look first. I ended up not submitting this lab because I was unhappy with what I had completed. Also, with this final project I spent a ton of time developing the game design, I enjoyed this part, but let myself get a bit too bogged down in the details and felt I didn’t leave quite enough time to execute the project to what I had imagined in the beginning.

I am beginning to acknowledge that producing something in an “unfinished” or early stage is acceptable for some things, and that I need to be less critical. With the pom pom bot I was too critical when I didn’t produce something to my expectations, yet, I knew and could acknowledge that I didn’t spend enough time developing an idea. Instead of submitting what I had done and thinking about it as a learning experience I just didn’t submit it. For the final project, I tried to remain less critical, even when the game wasn’t at a stage that I wanted, I presented what I had and talked about next steps. I got some really useful feedback and encouragement during the presentation from everyone and realized the benefit of allowing myself to show something in it’s early stages to make it better. Being less of a perfectionist has been something I have been working on in general, and I think experiencing these things with making (as opposed to less physical things like writing ) has helped me to see in a tangible form that how I can actually improve something by letting people see things in earlier stages.

My learning goals for this project were:

  • I want to challenge myself to talk to people inside and outside of the field of urban planning while developing the project to understand the many different perceptions of urban planning. I hope that this will help me to refine my project by incorporating what I have observed so that I can create a tool for planners to engage with people so that they can better understand the field.
  • I hope to further develop my collaboration and critical thinking skills by working with the other graduate students in developing a podcast to discuss the connections between the maker movement and urban planning. Collaboration is a key skill in urban planning as all of work I will do involves working in teams, so I hope to think critically throughout this process about how we can each use our strengths to create a unique podcast experience.

I realized as the final deadline approached that my first learning goal was a bit ambitious. I struggled to ask people outside of urban planning about my board game and get useful feedback. I had to spend a lot of time explaining the game instructions and I realized that since many of the people I asked didn’t know anything about Urban Planning they couldn’t really give me any feedback on what they didn’t know. I did get some useful feedback from a friend of mmine, Sabrina, she thought it would be unique if players had to purchase a vehicle of sorts in the beginning of the game, a car or bus etc, and based off which piece you got it could costed more, and would help you travel farther faster, or cost less but you would move slower. I didn’t end up putting this in the game but this is what gave me the idea to explore putting a player piece in the game and making people build roads to reach the places they would build on. But after exploring asking more people outside of planning I realized it may not be a good use of my time to continue this in the early stages of game development and ended up focusing on asking planners what they thought about it. I mostly got positive feedback, people were truly excited to see the level of detail in the game design. I had some useful feedback from a fellow planner Richa Singh who asked me questions about the design to help me think through simplifying the game design. She also helped me to identify plans to use in my plan deck (20 cards) which gives players an objective in planning to complete for points, an example being “a subdivision with 5 houses and 2 parks in suburbia”.

For my second goal I thoroughly enjoyed the process of thinking about, designing questions, and recording and editing the podcast. Susie, Sarah, Kelly and I all have such a range of interests in planning and have enjoyed this class and each have gotten different things from it so I felt that our collaboration made for an intriguing dialog. Making this podcast, thinking about various connections and ways to ask questions to get the person being interviewed to dig a bit deeper helped me to reflect on my experiences in this class and my learning.

Lastly, my final project means a great deal to me. I feel motivated to see it through past the current version and improve upon it. I think it would be a fun way to engage with my friends outside of planning and I might continue thinking of other ways to expand on it in the future. Furthermore, when I reflect on whether or not I consider myself a maker, I would say yes. I think everyone is a maker in their own way. I have never considered myself a very creative person, before coming into Urban Planning I was in environmental science and I mostly did research. I enjoyed doing things that were more “creative” but never felt very encouraged to pursue more hands on making. Through the course of my work in the master’s program here, including this class I feel I have gotten to explore more kinds of “creative” work and making. Yet, the coolest part of this is how I began to see an appreciate the other aspects of my life that are not making in the traditional sense, but now I see them as opportunities for creativity and making. I gained a better appreciation of the other skills I do have through learning more about myself through these projects, and I think that is one of the more significant lessons I have learned. 

Early Stages of Design:

Game Board and Pieces: