The Bump Game

This weekend I made a game about pregnancy.

As you do.

It was at the Rewired State hack day, held Friday and Saturday at the Guardian’s splash new offices in King’s Place. The idea of the Rewired State events is to bring together:

  1. a bunch of government people with challenges
  2. clever hackers who can solve them.

Over the course of two days, the hackers get a whole bunch of ideas and build working prototypes of the solutions the government needs.

There were a lot of clever people there, and they made a lot of cool stuff. Our project was The Bump Game – a board game about pregnancy.

It’s an educational tool for couples expecting their first child. When you’re pregnant for the first time, there’s an awful lot to know. There’s a lot of medical information you need – like what services you’re entitled to, appointments you’re supposed to organize, and so on. On top of this there’s a lot of health information, like the proper diet, what to expect – and choices to make, like do you want to deliver in a hospital, midwifery centre, or at home . . .

In short, there’s a lot you don’t even know that you don’t know. How to find this out?

The current answer is that you page through the NHS website, or read a stack of leaflets. The NHS website, while excellent and full of good information, isn’t exactly designed to be read like a novel.

The Bump Game gives expecting couples a guided introduction to all the things they’ll need to know before the baby comes. Through the form of the game, they’ll at least figure out all the things they need to learn themselves.

It has two incarnations: a physical board game, and a Facebook game.

How to Play

You can read the full rules here, but here’s a quick description.

Both the online and the paper versions of the game play exactly the same way. You play with a partner, taking turns answering questions about pregnancy. Every time you answer a question right, you advance a step along the board (picture on the way!). But there’s someone else on the board: the Bump, who advances a space along the board every time a question is asked, whether the answer is right or not.

In short, it’s a trivia race. Your baby is on the way, whether you’re ready or not – so you’d better get ready!

The questions are designed to be funny and informative rather than hard. For instance:

What is antenatal care?

  1. It’s medical care you get to stop you from becoming pregnant.
  2. It’s when your mother’s sister takes care of the baby.
  3. It’s any medical care you get while you’re expecting a baby.
  4. It’s medical care you get after you’ve had a baby.

The mother and her birth partner take turns asking each other questions, and together try to get to the end before their Bump does. In the physical version of the game, the questions come on printed cards, which you can just read through if you like (just like Trivial Pursuit cards).

It’s Built Out of Data!

The game board itself is a clever thing. Firstly, the board and question cards are laced with links to more information, in the form of QR code weblinks and short URLs. So just having the game in your hands means that you’ve got all the links you’ll need to find out anything you want about pregnancy, health, medical care and administration.

The other clever thing about this game board is that it’s personalized. Our idea was that you’d get the game from your GP, or download it as a PDF from the NHS Choices website and print it out at home. Every game board is unique to the people who download it. You put in your postcode and your due date, and the board you get is specific to you, with local information and tailored questions. The board itself has the locations and phone numbers to your closest maternity ward, GP and midwifery centre printed on it. This is all generated automatically from a few NHS APIs. Tim Davies has some more details on how this works in his post about our work.

Rewired State – Made of WIN

This was an awesome weekend of work, and big props to The Bump Game team –  Tim Davies, Ivo Gormley, Isabell, Josh Pickett, Daniel Soltis, and Chris Thorpe. Chris has written an excellent description and thoughts about building the game. As he’s the only one of us to actually be a parent, his input was absolutely fundamental to the concept’s success. Daniel has also written in depth about the game design process and how it joins the physical and digital.

The whole weekend was evidence of how effective the hackday way of working is. With only 2 days to work, you don’t fuss and fret and think so much – you just get on and make things. Since you’ve only got two days, no one really expects you to come up with something perfect and refined, anyhow. The net effect of this is that your ideas are actually better than they would be if you had more time. You’re liberated from the tyranny of having to get it just right the first time.

The Bump Game is just a rough prototype, and it would need a lot of playtesting and further design to get to a wide release. But it exists, it works, and you can play it, and get some value out of it (and get mentioned by the PM!) right now.

Many thanks to Emma Mulqueeny and everyone who helped organize this most excellent event.

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