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From the moment we are born, we are treated differently based on our gender. We treat boys and girls very differently already from birth. According to studies, a newborn boy is more often described as strong, dominant and active, while girls often receives statements about how tiny, sweet and contented they are. These behaviours are often unconscious since they are based on a norm which has been growing inside us for generations.

This project aims to highlight the children’s active choices when it comes to interests and choice of future profession, without the influence of society. Target group: children, ages 10-12.

It ended up with a boardgame called Mysterious Portal.

Annie Rehnberg, Danny Lam, Helena Stening & Louise Henriksson



The requirement phase consisted of gathering data regarding the target group, with the help from Developmentally Situated Design (DSD) cards, through a workshop with eight 10-year-old children. The workshop aimed to test a very early prototype of some possible game ideas and mechanics and at the same time increase the group’s understanding about the children and their knowledge around gender, norms and stereotypes. The specific factors tested in this workshop considered both how well the pupils were able to think around traditional stereotypes and how they reasoned around who to ask for help in situations when faced with difficult problems.

Developmentally Situated Design (DSD) cards for children, ages 5-6.

First, the group of children was divided into two groups of four. The groups were presented with 13 images of different persons, together with the person's first name. The children were then presented with pictures of different professions and pictures of interests. The children got the collective task of guessing which profession belonged to which person. This sparked discussions of why and why not the children believed different people had a specific professions.

Secondly, the people’s real profession was presented together with a background story about the people. A larger discussion in the whole class was held regarding why and why not the two groups believed certain things about the people.

Lastly, the groups were presented with four different problem solving “challenges”. These challenges could be connected to the interests and professions of the people presented earlier, with the purpose of spark a discussion around whom to ask for help. The children were given the possibility to solve the challenges together, either by themselves or by asking one of the people in the pictures presented.


Workshop with children, ages 9-11, where they try to solve problems.

During the workshop several discussions amongst the children arose. The discussions regarded how the gender, age, facial expressions, clothes and background settings of the people in the pictures made them believe certain things about them. Below, some citations taken from the children at the workshop are presented.

“He looks like a president!”

(discussing an older man)

“Boys can also be stylists!”

(discussing who is the stylist)

Girl: “Girls can also do programming!”

Boy: “Yes, I know!”

(discussing who is the programmer)

“What!? They can like whatever they want.”

(discussing interests)


The design phase consisted of another workshop with the same group of children as in the first. However, this time the learning goals consisted of learning specific design skills. The children were told that they were going to be designing something for the game, but not exactly how and what until the different tasks started.

The workshop started with a discussion regarding the previous workshop and its intended learning goals, since this had been missed during the last workshop. The children were asked questions such as “what do you think was the purpose of what we did last week?” and when asked this question they didn’t really know what the purpose had been. Therefore, it was positive that the beginning of this session was dedicated to clarify our previous intentions. 


Children drew their own characters.


The children then sat in groups of four and each received a piece of paper with the outline of a human on it. They were then asked to draw a character for ten minutes. They were then supposed to switch papers with each other and add a superpower to the new character. Then switch two more times and add an interest and the world that the character was located in. The method of switching papers with each other was chosen in order to generate diverse characters, since each child would bring their own personalities into the characters.

Lastly, the children were given a large amount of pictures of different games and were asked to  select the ones which they thought was most suitable for their character. This task had an underlying purpose of creating discussions, in order to discover what kind of games the children find intriguing.

All of the characters were then digitalized, and seven additional characters were added in the game to create even more diversity and also more options in the game for the children to chose from (see below).

The diverse characters the children drew.



The last encounter with the children were to evaluate a low-fidelity prototype of the game with the specifics of the target group and included a digitalized version of their characters that they created in the second workshop (see videoclip below of how the game works).

Two groups of four children were formed. A short story was told to the children to explain the setting of the game but also to awake their interest. Then the game rules and how to play it was communicated and they started playing.

A direct observation method was conducted while the children were playing the game with the purpose of evaluating the prototype, i.e the ease of use and what reactions were triggered. This method was also chosen due to its ease of adaptation towards children.

When the question about what they thought was the hardest part of the game was this quote sums up  most of the answers: “There was nothing that was hard”. This is both positive, they understood all the rules quickly and could play without frequently asking questions. Based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory, this could also be a negative aspect since this might make them uninterested over time if they feel like it is too simple.

A video snippet of children playing Mysterious Portal.

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