Back to basics – I want to be the NGO

The last couple of weeks I have been making a board game for a friend on mine at Uni to explain her research as part of my lab requirements. In short, it is to explain what motivates volunteers for NGO (Non Government Organisations) and more importantly what attracts them into volunteering in the first place.

Since my discipline is that of game design and I am a game designer, it was a game path that I had to take in order to interpret her research as an artefact. Now this could have been digitally, but with the workload I currently have with my own research and making my own game it was not an option. Alternatively, I took the physical approach…a board game.

Once I have finished it I will post it up for the world to see but basically the process has been really interesting and useful to apply to how I have been designing and creating my honours project.

With board games you really don’t have the option to allure the player and maintain their interest with HD graphics, glorious 3D environments and post processing effects that competes with James Cameron. However, after going through the design and structure of this game, I think this is an absolutely glorious thing, really only focusing on the structure and game play. As far as I am concerned – as a game designer at least, aestheticsshould be a secondary objective. Primarily and not always taken into consideration is the structure. It is also why I would say pay a considerable more for a game like Abe Oddysee over a game like I don’t know Assassin’s Creed Revelations. A debate for another time..


The crux of what I am trying convey is what defines a game, the core principles, the structure of the mechanics, and how things work (whether they do or don’t is irrelevant at the moment) irrespective of how it looks.With I want to be the NGO, for some gamers you may see what I did there, my aim is about trying to convey to the player who may be a potential NGO director, how hard it is to maintain, keep and obtain volunteers and furthermore to get them thinking about extraneous factors that may occur affecting their and others moral and time at the NGO. The basic structure is that you have a collection of different predefined volunteers, each of which have 3 traits – Community, Motivation and Enthusiasm. Each trait has a limit of 5 points. However, each volunteer, much like those in real life are different, some have very high on all traits, some have very low and others are average all around. This is what makes the game interesting because as you move around the game board, which is a very simple coloured tile (3 colours represent event, moral and free zones where nothing affects the volunteer(s)) your volunteers will be affected by two kinds of cards – Event cards and Moral cards.

Event Cards
These are random events, much like those in digital games (i.e. random battle spawns) A player may get a job promotion at their current place of employment and as a result can no longer participate in the NGO anymore and thus the player loses a volunteer. Much like real life, these event cards are there to replicate situations that may affect a volunteers participation.

Moral Cards
Like event cards, these work in a similar way. Moral cards comprise of the 3 traits – Motivation, Enthusiasm and Community.

Motivation is the intrinsic pull towards volunteering.

Enthusiasm is the drive for keeping them active in the NGO.

Community is the volunteers drive for helping others.

Moral cards affect the predetermined points already on the players card. A volunteer sheet, indicates points that each volunteer currently has and whether or not they are close to “leaving” the NGO. Moral cards can take away or give volunteers extra motivation, enthusiasm and community points, and when a volunteer looses any particular one of them, then the volunteer leaves the NGO.

It is hoped that this game at least outlines the unpredictability of volunteers and at the same time to teach value and how various events may affect either an individual volunteer or even the NGO as a whole. Perhaps even come up with strategies to circumnavigate potential problems that may arise and to keep a happy and healthy culture among all those involved. I certainly know that having to think in this form has made me alter and evaluate my current design for my honours project game.

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