Building a game to combat implicit biases:

Bookstore Simulator

To combat microaggressions and stereotypes that occur in everyday life, I've been independently designing and developing a video game called Bookstore Simulator that aims to provide players with a deeper awareness of their own implicit biases in a non-confrontational way.

Role

Game Designer, Developer

Time

Sep 2022 - Present

Deliverables

Video game
(developed with Unity)

Skills used

Game design,
design innovation

How might we

counter microaggressions and harmful stereotypes?

"You're too pretty to be a doctor"
"A Black man dressed as Santa is just wrong"
"I thought you Asians were supposed to be good at Math"
"You're a minority and female, so you'll get tons of aid"
"You're married to her?? But she's so thin!"
Examples of microaggressions (source)
This is a topic that hits pretty close to home. As a Chinese-American guy, I do not claim to have had it the worst, but the microaggressions I do get can still sometimes make me feel like I don't belong anywhere.

The opportunity:

I can design to encourage people to self-examine their own implicit biases

Many microaggressions occur unintentionally when individuals are unaware of how their words perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Raising awareness of implicit biases can help people become more mindful and deliberate in avoiding microaggressions.

Academic tests like Project Implicit have been developed to measure implicit biases, such as associations between gender and academic fields. However, these tests can feel too formal and serious. There is an opportunity to design for a more relaxed and non-confrontational experience that encourages self-examination of implicit biases.
In other words, how might I repackage academic tests like Project Implicit to give it more appeal?
"There's fighting for you boys, and romance, for you ladies"
Microaggression quote that formed inspiration for Bookstore Simulator (source)

The idea:

Bookstore Simulator

A game for examining self-bias in providing book recommendations

While researching types of microaggressions, I noticed a specific type of stereotyping where one would assume likes and dislikes based solely on gender or appearance. For example, one may assume that a masculine looking man would dislike romance novels, which are traditionally assume to be "for women".

This inspired me to think of a concept for a game called Bookstore Simulator, where the player plays as the owner of the bookstore. Customers with different appearances and personalities show up to ask for book recommendations. This gives the player opportunity to examine self-biases to see if they primarily use gender/appearance to determine what book to recommend.
I envision Bookstore Simulator as a comfy/chill type of game, making it less confrontational.

Visual/gameplay aesthetics

I created a visual moodboard for cozy bookstores and referred to games like Diner Dash and Overcooked for the current iteration of the game.

Book recommendation options

Some of the current book recommendation options are listed below. Can you identify types of microaggressions that may occur by judging someone solely on their appearance and recommending (or not recommending) some of these books?

Sea of Monsters

an adventure novel about a young hero battling mythical creatures

Hearty Dinners

a cookbook containing recipes written by celebrity chef Gordino Ramsee

Rosaline

a semi autobiographical novel about famous actress and model Rosaline

Vampire Moon

young adult novel about the steamy romance between a vampire and a human

Agent 070

action packed thriller about a spy infiltrating a criminal syndicate

Girl Meets Girl

an LGBTQ+ romance novel where a small town girl falls in love with her roommate

Star Style Secrets

a magazine giving fashion and makeup advice, along with celebrity gossip

Data Science 101

a school textbook giving tips on getting started with data science

Fight for Rights

a recount of the struggles of marginalized groups fighting for civil rights

Keto Diet Now

a nutritional guide for adopting a keto diet and losing weight quickly
It was important for me to come up with a balanced selection of books that resemble books you may find in real life.