Playtesting in Little Italy: NYC Haunts Final Event in the Bronx

If someone had told me that this summer I would be venturing out to the beautiful Little Italy neighborhood of the Bronx, seeing firsthand how geolocative games are created through the program ARIS, and eating gelato at the same time, I definitely would not have believed them. Fortunately for me, that’s exactly what I have been up to since last week, interning with the Online Leadership Program.



For the past few days, I joined the OLP team for the NYC Haunts program in the Bronx, and learned some crucial elements of game design, how to playtest a game and the final steps to take before presenting it to a curious group of middle school students.

The day started off in the Bronx Public Library, where Juan, Yuanjun, and I went over a game called “Conflict in Little Italy,” which students at MS 391 had been working on throughout the year. I got a sense of how the game functioned in terms of mechanics, and also how it served educational purposes. I learned that the game was designed to educate youth about secrecy in the government, and provided them with examples to help better understand the subject matter.  I found out about the different functions in the game, such as the map function, which would help the students complete the quests the game had in store for them.


After we got a bit of background knowledge about the game, we went out to the streets of Little Italy to test it out ourselves. This process, called playtesting, was invaluable in creating the best game that we possibly could. We played the game, followed the instructions, and picked up clues, exploring Little Italy in the process. We would play the game and along the way discuss things we thought were good, and ways in which we could improve it even more. When we felt that something didn’t make sense in the game, or that something even better could be added, we went back to the library and used the computers there to implement our changes, using ARIS. Then, we would go out again, and test the changes. We repeated the process throughout the day, huddled underneath our umbrellas, furiously tapping away on our iPads, until we were satisfied with the results. This was definitely a rigorous process, but seeing our game being played and enjoyed by the students on the actual game day, was such a rewarding experience.


The culminating event in which the students got to play the game was a huge success. I joined them in the process, helping them out, and answering questions along the way. It was great seeing the final result, and knowing that I played a part in creating the game. From the playtesting process, to wandering the streets of Little Italy (and eating delicious food along the way), to the final game day, I had a fantastic time with the OLP team, and learned so much along the way.