Meaningful Play

From a card game designed to build empathy and advocacy skills in aged care workers to a mosaic-builder designed to capture the fragile stories of those in the early stages of dementia, the QUT Design Lab have engaged in a range of projects around meaningful play. Using participatory and co-design methodologies, we collaborate with researchers, centres, industry, and other stakeholders to reimagine possibilities for engagement with meaning and playfulness. Here we display some of the concepts born from these projects and collaborations, illustrating the valuable and evolving role of designers and design thinking in shaping the future of meaningful and playful engagement.

Meaningful play are actions or activities built with either a designed or inherent intent, such as data collection or therapy.
Meaning is the underlying purpose of the topic or subject at hand, while play itself is a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities normally associated with pleasure and enjoyment.


Advocate: A game for people who care
Advocate is an interactive card game designed to stretch your imagination, grow your empathy, and develop your persuasion skills. Through gameplay, Advocate is a transformative learning experience that will ensure you will never think about aged care the same way again.

Memory Mosaics: A collaborative game of remembering
Memory mosaics is a gentle game for families and carers who want to take some time and opportunity to sit and remember together. The game is designed for families where memories are understood as precious and vulnerable and there is a desire to save some of them. The design is based on a notion that memories belong to the individual, but they are also shared and often remembered best as a collaborative endeavour.

Ologies – a research methods TRPG
This project is developing a research methodologies tabletop Role-Playing Game (TRPG) to help HDR students and researchers work through their beliefs and research project needs, to help them design and deliver better and more methodologically-aligned research projects and outputs. The project uses Moon and Blackman’s (2014) social science research guide as the framework for developing a tabletop RPG activity using the Fate system. It involves up to 12 player characters profiles (aligned to research ontologies and epistemologies), along with at least 20 situations (aligned to fictitious research problem spaces). The project is currently at the prototype stage.

Speculative tables: World-building methodologies for more-than-humans as story makers
Speculative tales is a micro tabletop Role Playing Game that challenges players to take on the very real lives of denizens of a Morton Bay Fig. Each role is defined and limited by the real attributes of the creature chosen. Read about it here or see the 2021 workshop site.

Rolling Stories
Rolling Stories: Table-top RPGs for engaging students in science is a project which offers scientists opportunity to tell their ‘stories’ and communicate their practice and process through table-top RPG game design – building story worlds for students to play within.

Kinning with the Unseen – Barrambin cards
The Barrambin project is an initiative of the More-than-Human Futures group. It explores local parklands and seasonal creeks from the perspective of the multiple More-than-Humans who occupy the site. The Barrambin cards are design for workshop activities (walk-shops) that actively engage participants with the place.

Encouraging Empathy of Neurodivergence
This research project seeks to take advantage of the discursive nature of narrative board games as an environment that fosters meaning making and empathy about the challenges for those with low level encounter in an undergraduate context. Read about it here.

Research exploration board game workshops
The research exploration through board games workshops introduce participants to the basics of creating their own board games as sites to engage with their research area and materials in a completely different way.

Multispecies Baobad (Moreton Bay Fig Life)

Where the Wild Things Are

Image of Memory Mosaics cards and potential gameplay