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Eroi dell’Ignoto (Heroes of the Unknown) Board Game Design by Chiara Pucci

Eroi dell’Ignoto (Heroes of the Unknown) Board Game Design by Chiara Pucci

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), published by the American Psychiatric Association, defines Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a neurobehavioural disorder involving difficulties in managing attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

ADHD is not an illness, it is an impediment, an attention impairment in the absence of any disease or pathology; however, it is often confused with other disorders, such as the autism spectrum. ADHD is due to a different conformation of the brain, its activities and connections.
A person with an ADHD-type brain is called neurodivergent (of this type), while one without is called neurotypical.

There are various subtypes depending on the predominant features.

Secondary features of ADHD, related to the primary ones, include:
– hyperfocus on activities of interest, where other impulses, needs and responsibilities are shut off;
– addiction, so a person with ADHD will be more likely to become a workaholic, alcoholic, compulsive shopper, or other;
– ‘time blindness’ (Dr. Russell Barkley), i.e. an immature conception of the passage of time and the future, due to which the individual will always be late.

Nonetheless, ADHD is situational, namely its expression may vary greatly, in the same individual, from one circumstance to another.

In the words of Dr. Chiara Saccà, whom I’ve had the honour of interviewing, an ADHD person is someone with hyporegulation and lives in a general perceptual confusion, in a simultaneous and disordered sensorial overload. The person experiences his or her mind as a never-ending, non-stop moving machine that constantly distracts him or her, causing frequent and frustrating daily memory lapses. The neurodivergent person of this type lives perpetually with a background noise, both visual and auditory, and lacks the ability to select salient stimuli.

It is for this reason that I created Heroes of the Unknown, a board game with the aim of making players identify with the features of ADHD, simulating the state of perpetual confusion, distraction and anxiety, with consequent impulsivity and hyperactivity, which a person with this disorder experiences everyday.
According to data collected by Asmodee Italia, a board game publisher, since 2021, Italians’ interest in board games has increased between 50% and 70%, particularly for brief but highly entertaining ‘party games’ and role-playing games, such as the famous D&D.
Heroes of the Unknown is a good compromise between these two genres.

The overall appearance of the game recalls craftsmanship, with bright and distinct colours also designed to help people with visual colour disorders (CVD) enjoy the game.

Heroes, as defined by Campbell, i.e. neurotypical gamers, go beyond their own limits and knowledge and explore to understand what is unknown to them, i.e. the ADHD mind, becoming better people, helping with social inclusion, and sharing their experience with other neurotypical people.

The packaging includes the box containing all game elements, including the Hero and Deck cards, a small box for the Symbol and Unit coins, the dice (DaGO and DAIM), the Token, the Summary cards, the two boards Map and Aim (Mira, in Italian), and the Instructions manual.

There are 9 Heroes, characterised by three different Qualities: Strength, Intelligence and Mystery. The Basic Special Quality, the one with the most Units, determines the colour of the Hero card, each of which having a different history and origin.
To win, the players, and thus the Heroes, must cooperatively defeat 3 Shadows, which represent, in the life of a person with ADHD, the moment when they are faced with a task for which they are not fully prepared or an appointment to which they are late, due to poor time management and distractions. Shadow cards can be found in the same Deck as the Object and Surprise cards. Objects help the Hero to have an advantage in defeating the Shadows, while Surprises provides both rewards and penalties. In general, Surprises recall sudden elements that pop up in our minds (such as songs, old advertisements, sayings), creating confusion and distraction especially in a person with ADHD as they are unable to put aside the less important information inside their mind. Some of these cards are to be read aloud while others are not, thus creating sporadic surprise effects.

At an agreed ‘Go’, the first player to draw their character will be the First Player to start the turn. Each player places their Symbol coin, after having tossed it in the air to draw either side, and the Unit coins in the appropriate spaces on their Hero card.
To create the feeling of anxiety which a neurodivergent ADHD person is constantly subjected to, leading to hyperactivity and impulsivity, a 7-minute timer is used to determine the time needed to complete a round, i.e. until one Shadow is defeated.
The map visually depicts the concept of perceptual confusion typical of the disorder, as there are many rich colours, both from the tiles and the design. As soon as the first player activates the timer and simultaneously rolls the DaGO to move the Token on the Map, the other players can grab as many of the cards on the table as they like, until one finishes moving the Token to the last tile. Depending on the colour of the tile you have landed on, you have to hold different stances. Afterwards, the players that have drawn the cards from the table have to read aloud the Cards that allow it and the Objects that one intends to use.
If instead a Shadow is drawn one must declare it immediately to stop the turn. Now the Aim board replaces the Map, and each player arms themselves with their own DAIM. After calculating the damage points, each equal to three units of the same quality as the Shadow’s, one must hit one of the circles on the board, depending on which there will be different outcomes.
One damage point equals -1 unit belonging to the Shadow. If one doesn’t succeed in defeating it the first time, one can subtract three units from qualities other than that of the shadow to roll back the DAIM.

In case of victory, the Map and DaGO are given to the next player, the timer is reactivated and the rounds begin again until a new Shadow is encountered.
Victory is final when 3 Shadows are defeated, i.e. after 3 rounds.

The game ends if players fail to defeat a Shadow by the end of their Quality Units or within the time limit.

The anxiety one feels when trying to defeat the Shadow within the time limit, the impulsivity resulting from this, or the confusion one experiences in these 3 rounds are only a part of what a person with ADHD experiences on a daily basis.
The players have thereby understood the challenges that a neurodivergent person faces every day, and in doing so have become true Heroes. Now that they have conquered the Unknown, they can go out into the world and help it become more inclusive.

CREDIT

  • Agency/Creative: Chiara Pucci
  • Article Title: Eroi dell’Ignoto (Heroes of the Unknown) Board Game Design by Chiara Pucci
  • Organisation/Entity: Student
  • Project Type: Graphic
  • Project Status: Non Published
  • Agency/Creative Country: Italy
  • Agency/Creative City: Rome
  • Market Region: Europe
  • Project Deliverables: Game Design
  • Industry: Education
  • Keywords: Making people empathise with ADHD features

  • Credits:
    Art Director, Graphic Designer, Game Designer: Chiara Pucci

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