A la Carte: design process recap and final remarks

By: Aaron, Maria, Jimena
Food is essential to life, yet there is an increasing amount of disconnection between people and the food they eat. We often have no idea how our food is produced, or how far it traveled to get to us. Many food is produced in harmful, unsustainable manners, for which society at large pays the price.
We wanted our project to raise awareness on these issues related to the industrial food system in general and the hidden cost of food in particular. We thought that a game would be the best media to convey this message. Á la Carte is a board game to inspire people to think more about the hidden costs of food industry.

Research and first iterations

We tried to reach out some community-based food organizations to learn about food values and practices. We went to the  Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, and to the Park Slope Food Coop, both in Brooklyn. We interviewed food producers and shoppers. We asked them about their values and practices when it came to food and eating.

You can listen to the audios of these interviews in Soundcloud and here there is a video of the interviews:

Soon after that, we began the game design process. This is what our very first prototype looked like:


We had several playing and prototyping sessions, and had very valuable feedback from the class and from professor Parasecoli, Coordinator of Food Studies at The New School. Among other adjustments, we worked more on the contents of the “externality cards”, which give the player information on the hidden costs of the food he/she is buying, to make sure the game was a learning experience. After the adjustments -and more playing sessions among us-, we decided we were ready to test the game out there.

Playing sessions

We tested the game with two groups of people. On April 30 we had the opportunity to take our game to Stefani Bardin’s Introduction to Food Studies course. We played the game with 18 undergrad students split in two groups. At the end of the session we received their feedback, which was extremely helpful.

The students all seemed to agree that the game made it easier (and more fun) to learn about food issues. A student suggested that the object of the game should go further than just stocking the fridge with something that brings into it more action. Another student suggested to include real rewards for getting organic or local food, and facts about why it’s better to buy organic or local food rather than regular. Finally, Stefani recommended to make the game a little less biased.

See what Stefani and her students said about A la Carte:

On May 1st we attended the Free University event at Madison Square Park. We played the game with a group of five volunteers (including Katie and Jeremiah from the class). Despite the dampness and the lack of a flat surface, it was fun and we were able to get interesting feedback and ideas. Here some of the comments we received from Katie:


Our players agreed in that the game need more opportunities to buy food, reward positive actions, devise a more complex scoring system, and need more interaction among players. They also recognized the importance of the externality cards as a way to highlight the hidden costs of the food system.




Examples of  Externality Cards

There was a salmonella outbreak at a poultry slaughterhouse! Just to be on the safe side, throw out any regular chicken or beef you purchased.
* * *
Did you know that…
An estimated 1.2 million cases of Salmonella occur in the US every year.

There was a salmonella outbreak at a poultry slaughterhouse! Just to be on the safe side, throw out any regular chicken or beef you purchased.
* * *
Did you know that…
An estimated 1.2 million cases of Salmonella occur in the US every year.
The company that produces regular beef is recalling their products that may be contaminated with E.Coli O157:H7. Please throw out any regular beef you purchased.
* * *
Did you know that…
E.Coli is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure.

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Categories: Event Recaps, Reflective Posts

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