Connected Worlds
Design I/O in collaboration with the New York Hall of Science, 2015
Additional design and animation by Josh Goodrich and game consultation by Zach Gage. Sound design by MOST Original Soundtracks.

Connected Worlds is a huge interactive ecosystem / game designed to teach sustainability, systems thinking, and cooperation to K-12 children (different lessons for different age groups).

I consulted on the game-design component of Connected Worlds, essentially making sure that the underlying value-systems are cohesive and educational.

My biggest pushes were for ensuring that the takeaways for children were experiential (to be unpacked later with educators/family members/friends) rather than a set of point-by-point facts or statistics. I strongly believe that part of the power of games is that they can convey experiences, not just lessons, and that experiences can be key in teaching certain topics that are too complex to ever truly understand — in this case, systems thinking.

Part of what makes sustainability and environmental issues so difficult to lobby for is their phenominal level of complexity. We have our best minds working on them, but we may still never completely understand how precicesly nature works. With Connected Worlds, Design I/O was able to build a system of simple rules, but deep emergent complexity. Finding out the answer to where water is going, or why animals are showing up is often a multi-step process in an environment that is constantly changing. My hope is that children (and adults!) will leave Connected Worlds with more questions than answers, a deep respect for systemic complexity, and will continue to remember and interrogate their experience there for a long time thereafter.

More information about Connected Worlds (and a ton more photos) is available at Design I/O, or even better, at the New York Hall of Science — an absolutely wonderful science museum I grew up visitng — where the exhibition will be up for quite possibly the next ten years.

Photos by David Handschuh