In collaboration with Julian Hyde, Jingjin Liu, and Carl Farra

Space Game: design a game with a large space to play in.

Map of area designed for


There’s been a breakout of a virus, and the Center of Disease Control has quarantined off the area to prevent spreading it to the rest of the world. A cure is available, but the CDC has a special code that you must send them in order to prove that you are not one of the infected. Work together with your group of survivors to piece together the code and get the cure!

Rules of Gameplay

Three players are CDC members. Take one third of the remaining number of players – they are now the virus. The rest of the players are survivors. Give the virus two minutes to disperse into the play area. After two minutes, the survivors may start moving and the game begins.

The Survivors have 10 minutes to find all three members of the CDC, who will be standing somewhere in the play area, gather the code, and send it to the CDC's phone number. If they do, they win. If not, they lose. To get the code number, they must get within arm's reach of the CDC member and ask for the number. The CDC members will not move during the game.

All players must keep moving at all times, the only exception being when having to cross the street. Survivors may only walk with traffic while the Virus players can only walk against traffic. On Broadway and University Avenues, both teams can walk in any direction. Movement is limited to the sidewalks. If a Survivor is caught walking on the street they are converted into a Virus (except during crosswalks).

When a Virus and a Survivor encounter each other on the street, they must stop and play Rocks Paper Scissors. If the virus wins or there is a tie, the Survivor is converted into a Virus and must immediately start walking against traffic. If the Survivor wins, they keep moving in the direction they were going prior to the mini-game, without any changes. If all Survivors are converted into Viruses, the Viruses win. Survivors cannot be captured in crosswalks.

After ten minutes, all players should return to the Survivors’ start zone.

Playtest Observations

We tested a few key points of gameplay: 

  • How players would interact on the street
  • How players would move in the space

A key point we noticed immediately was the safety concerns; for example, crosswalks were a bad spot for people to try and interact in since it risked people being hit by cars. We then made sure to include the point that crosswalks were a safe spot to prevent this. We also kept gameplay restricted to sidewalks to prevent people from running into the street to avoid interactions. But safety was not just a movement issue; in the initial draft of the game we wanted people to tag each other if they crossed paths. However, it was pointed out that this would cause problems for passerby and may cause injury to players if they weren't careful. We replaced this with the Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic to introduce some level of randomness in success as well as to replicate the idea of infection sometimes skipping over people. 

The other main thing we noticed was that we ran into problems with restricting people to walking either in the direction of or against traffic - this may be unique to the area we were working with surrounding Tisch, but we found that if we kept strictly to this idea that people would get stuck in certain spots. We then decided to make one street two way to prevent this. While it introduced a complexity that a player would have to remember, it was the major street in the area whereas most of the other streets were smaller in comparison. We later evolved it so that all borders would be two way. 

Initial sketch of movement through the space. The numbers indicate how many moves it takes to get to that crosswalk from the starting spot.

Final Playthrough

Here is the final map of the movement directions: 

Map of space and movement directions courtesy of Jingjin (click to expand)

Map of space and movement directions courtesy of Jingjin (click to expand)

We set up a Slack channel for Survivors to post the codes to when they got them. Three of us served as the CDC workers so that the rest of the class would have an opportunity to play. In the end, the Virus team won as the Survivors ran out of time.

Observations and Feedback from Final Playthrough

  • Walk away, walk away! - players ended up walking during the game instead of running, which was surprising. But it turned out to be strategic; in fact, I saw two Virus players slow down as much as possible without coming to stop when they saw me on my block so that they could cut off any Survivors. 

  • Fate of the group in the hands of one - the Survivors technically could have won because one of their team mates found me but didn't post the code into the Slack before the time ended. It might have been a technology goof since we were forcing players to post codes to Slack; we might need to find an alternative means of having Survivors communicate with each other that a code has been found in a method that would alert the rest of the team. 

Lessons Learned

People will surprise you - it's funny how people acted in ways I didn't expect, from walking slowly on purpose to not being too active on the Slack. We couldn't account for all of these things, but that's why edge cases exist. Plan for surprises and let people have fun with them.