Heart of the Argument

Watch. Play. Learn.

heart of the arg 1.JPG

Role: User Researcher, Usability Tester, Education Designer, Game Designer

Skills: Cognitive Task Analysis, Think Aloud, Experience Design, Visual Design, Instructional Design



Heart of the Argument is a multiplayer card game that introduces players to the common rhetorical fallacies that appear in political speech and allow players to identify those fallacies in real political discussions. Gather a group around a television or other screen where you can watch a debate or other political event and use the card deck to get to the heart of argument.


Beyond gaining fluency in defining and identifying fallacies, students will become more aware of the presence of fallacies in their lives. By focusing on real political debate (hopefully in real time), students will become more attune to the speech they encounter every day. The game is designed with high school, college, and graduate students in mind.


Early brainstorming shaped the development of this process. On my own and in several small group settings, I created lists of topics, game mechanics, and scenarios for a game about logical fallacies. From these ideas, I chose a debate-watching mechanic as the core of my game. Early rapid prototyping sessions with a small group of game designers led me to introduce a deck of fallacy cards and debate elements into the game. 

From there I created a medium fidelity prototype, which I used to test the concept. I conducted three playtests of Heart of the Argument, working with students at Carnegie Mellon University. My game also benefitted from early prototype testing with classmates while creating the first iteration of the game. Overall, the playtests were successful at identifying unnecessary complexities that improved the game substantially. In every test players reported that they thought it was fun and in two, players felt they had learned more about fallacies. In each playtest, I gave players all of the materials necessary to play the game, including a debate to use, and let them work through the rules, set up, and game execution while I observed. If they asked a question, I had them decide on the answer and recorded the decision and the consequence. These interactions were especially helpful in streamlining the rules.

For more on my process, findings, and final design, see the documentation section below.

Future Work

I plan to continue iterating and designing this game. Specifically, I would like to do more playtesting that includes learning assessments. While my early testing showed some evidence that learning took place, a formal study will clarify the game's effectiveness.  The mechanics and dynamics of the game also make it an excellent candidate to become an online social game, and I would like to prototype a digital version that leverages social networks, such as Facebook, and the political discussions that naturally occur on them.