EDTEC Projects

EDTEC 670 - Exploratory learning through Educational simulation and games

This joint is jumpin'!

Manuel Oliverez, Jess Sanders, Teresa Richards, Aurora Velasco

Image of Harlem Renaissance Game Board

Instructional Objective

The instructional objective of this game is for the players to learn about noteworthy people, places, and events of the Harlem Renaissance. The game is for high school seniors and fits into the Language Arts and Visual Arts curriculum for grade 12, as noted by the following national standards curricular frameworks:

Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.

Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

Students differentiate among a variety of historical and cultural contexts in terms of characteristics and purposes of works of art.
Students describe the function and explore the meaning of specific art objects within varied cultures, times, and places
Students analyze relationships of works of art to one another in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture, justifying conclusions made in the analysis and using such conclusions to inform their own art making.

Learners & Context of Use

This game is aimed at twelfth grade students, ages 17-18, in the Multicultural Literature class at Granite Hills High School. Students in this class will study the Harlem Renaissance from an English and social science perspective. This game can serve as an introduction to people, events and ideas from the Harlem Renaissance before an in-depth study of the era. This game can be played in homes or in classrooms. This game could be played more than once, as players may receive different objectives with each play. As players may or may not have learned much about the Harlem Renaissance before playing this game, the game is designed to create enthusiasm and curiosity for learning more about the time period.

Competing Products

There are a few board games out there that share similarities with our proposed game. The most similar in terms of content is Harlem U.S. All™, which is a life size board game based on Harlem politics, culture, and personalities created by a doctor from Harlem. The content is learned through fun facts, as ours is, in addition to trivia questions and activities. The description mentions “3 foot high houses” so it seems like the board also incorporates physical landmarks of Harlem, as our game does with the board layout. Our game is of a better design, though, as it will be much more portable than the over-sized version of Harlem U.S. All™. Designed on a smaller scale, it will be much easier to use on a table or arrangement of desks. Also, there is no specific goal of Harlem U.S. All™ other than earning the most points, whereas we have our players working on their assigned “objectives” and trying to throw the best rent party.

Other similar games include Black Heritage Trivia Game for Kids , FUNDA Black History, and African American Discovery which are all “trivial pursuit”-style games. While there is quality information being delivered with this format, our game idea is more effective, as the learning is taking place DURING play. The players pick up fact cards located at geographic locations on the board, forming connections between people, places, and events rather than merely recalling trivia. In FUNDA Black History, the goal of the game is to travel around the board answering questions to receive a Doctoral degree. That goal is not providing any additional immersion or information to learn in the subject of black history. Our game does this by incorporating the historical concept of a “rent party” as part of the game players' overall objective. Also, the board for FUNDA Black History is simply numbered squares that the players move through, devoid of educational content. Since our games is played on a map of Harlem, complete with famous landmarks, all players constantly have the exposure to the time and place of the Harlem Renaissance, even when it is not their turn. African American Discovery does well, as it incorporates visual cues on its game board for learning important terms, and each player actually role-plays as a famous African-American figure. Again, however, with the “trivial pursuit”-format, it doesn’t allow for the kind of experiential learning we have in our game idea.

Object of the Game

It's 1927 and tonight you'll be throwing an old-fashioned Harlem Rent Party. There will be lots of great food, music, dancing, and gambling, but if you want the entire neighborhood to show up, you'll need to ensure the appearance of some special VIPs. Travel around Harlem in order to meet and "collect" guests, noteworthy cultural figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Be the player to form the guest list worth the most points at the end of the game and you'll have the "most jumpin' party on the block."

Content Analysis

Facts Names of historical figures
Names of historical places
Historical events
Images and information on historical figure cards
Images and information on chance cards
Images and labels on game board
Concepts Life in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance
- rent parties
Connections between historical people, places, and events
Points are awarded for forming connections between historical figure cards
Regions on the game board reflect various historical landmarks.
Probabilities The players will use dice to move around the board and whoever makes it "Home" first with all of their cards wins bonus points to be used in determining the winner. The cards they are collecting are in random order at each location on the board. Dice
Randomly drawn historical figure cards
Context Harlem, a neighborhood in New York City, during the 1920's and 1930's. Game board with notable locations as places player tokens can stop on.
"Home" or finish location which represents a Harlem neighborhood.
Vantage Points The players assume the roles of Harlem citizens preparing to throw a rent party. In order to throw a successful party they move around the board collecting important guests. Player tokens
Role of Harlem citizen throwing a rent party

Game Materials

35 personality cards
1 die
4 player tokens
1 board

Image of playing cards

Time Required

The game takes fewer than 5 minutes to set up. With four players, one round of the game will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. The game may be played more than once, as multiple outcomes are possible. Additional rounds will expose players to new personalities and new possibilities for building connections. (Optional: Scores from one round may be carried over to additional rounds).


1) Each player selects a player token and places it on the Home space.
2) The guest cards are shuffled, and placed face down on the "This Joint is Jumpin'" space in the middle of the board.
3) Each player rolls the die to see who goes first. Player with highest number goes first, with play continuing in the clockwise direction.

The Rules

1) At the start of your turn, roll the die and move the amount of spaces shown.
2) Follow directions on the space you land on.
White 'Invite a Guest' Space – Draw 1 card from deck.
Black 'Cultural Landmark' Space- Draw 2 cards from deck.
Yellow 'Steal a Guest' Space – Without looking at the card faces, select one card from another player and add it to your own set of cards.
Purple 'Swap Guests' Space – Select one card from your set and give it to another player. That player must select and give one of their cards to you.
'Trolley' Space – Choose either to move backwards to the nearest black 'Cultural Landmark' space and draw 2 cards, or stay on the trolley space.
3) After you have performed the action on the space you landed on, your turn ends and play rotates to the next player.
4) If you land by exact count on a space already occupied by another player, you share the space and get to steal one card from that player.
5) The first player to make it back home is awarded 10 points. Reaching home does not protect a player from steals and swaps initiated by other players.
6) Play continues until all players have made it back home to prepare for their rent party. At this point players can create pairs, or runs of cards that show a connection between the guests. Each card may be used only once.

Image of card connections

7) Use the table of Point Values to determine the number of points earned by each player. The player with the most points is the winner of the game.

Point Values
Getting to Home first - 10 points
One card - 1 point
Two card run - 5 points
Three card run - 10 points
Four card run - 20 points
Five card run - 40 points
Six card run - 70 points
Seven card run - 100 points

Motivational Issues


In order for an activity to be challenging, it must provide goals such that goal attainment is uncertain (Malone and Lepper, 1987). The goal for this game is to obtain the best "guest list," symbolized as a set of personality cards organized into 'connection chains.' Longer chains are worth more points than shorter chains, or individual cards. Which player will obtain the best guest list is uncertain, since a player's guest list will depend on the luck of the draw with their cards, as well as individual choices made during game play. Since cards may be swapped or stolen right up until the last player has returned home, there is always uncertainty regarding the final value of a player's set of cards.


Much of the game involves events, where a player can not control the outcome, such as drawing cards and rolling dice. We wanted to incorporate some elements that involve player choices, as control is considered an important part of learning motivation (Malone and Lepper, 1987). Control is given to the player in two areas: 1) the decision they must make when landing on a trolley space and 2) the creation of their card matches/runs.

  • Trolley Space: When landing on this space, the player must decide if he or she wants to move backwards to a Landmark space, which allows them to draw two cards, or maintain their current spot. This decision can have great impact on the success of the player. Additional cards increases the value of the 'guest list.' However, moving backwards to obtain those cards could allow a competing player to earn the points resulting from returning Home first.
  • Card Matches/Runs: It is completely up to the player as to how they want to match their cards up. It will take some keen reading and thought in determining the combination of cards that will get them the maximum possible points, which again leaves the player in full control of this aspect of the game.


The game includes the element of competition in several areas. First, the players are in competition to reach Home first, as they will earn points by doing so. Second, players are competing for the goal of earning the highest number of total points. In addition to these forms of competition, there is a more endogenous type of competition in regards to the swapping/stealing of cards between players. It is possible for a player to unintentionally give a helpful card to another player when doing a swap or steal, increasing the value of their guest list. Alternatively, having a card stolen could destroy a valuable connection chain.

Design Process

Gathering Background Information:
Using Google Search, and the search feature within BoardGameGeek.com, we found games that addressed topics related to the Harlem Renaissance period in American history. This allowed us to see what competition our game would have in the educational game market. In the end, we found that there was a large need for a Harlem Renaissance game, because most similar games had a much broader scope.

To gather historical information, we each read a book on the Harlem Renaissance aimed at teens. The book covered notable figures of the day, as well as events and prominent locations throughout Harlem. We also explored web sites pertaining to the Harlem Renaissance period.

Fleshing out the game:

Eventually we agreed on a primary focus for the game. We came up with the idea of the players throwing a "rent party" and needing to travel through Harlem to invite guests. The guests, in the form of playing cards, would be notable figures of the era This activity would introduce students to Harlem Renaissance figures. In addition, the players would have the task of finding the interconnections between the figures, as revealed in a biography included on each card. In this way, students would situate these important individuals within a community that existed in Harlem during the early 20th century .

We met as a group to brainstorm game design and discussed options for structuring the game play, including timed/un-timed, linear/non-linear, inclusion/non-inclusion of chance cards, and the incorporation of role-play. We liked the idea of continually exposing the students to historical facts about Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance, so we decided on having our board be a map of the streets of Harlem, with various famous historical landmarks scattered throughout. Originally, we wanted to place the cards in separate piles, each categorized by genre (literature, music, art, etc.) and located at a specific geographic landmark. After more discussion, we chose to minimize the complexity of game play and rules, opting for one deck of cards that players draw from. Many of the design decisions originated from thinking about features of our favorite games. Ticket To Ride, Clue, Sorry, and Settlers of Catan were all inspirational during the design phase.

After coming up with our game design, we generated a sample board and a few sample cards. We had to tweak the design of the cards a bit because we initially wanted two-sided cards with different backs on each, but printing a set through the Game Crafter website was prohibitively expensive. In the end, we settled on having the same backs for the cards, with each card having the name, picture, and brief biography of a famous personality. Once these sample cards and board were finished, we had a playable prototype ready for testing.

Gathering Feedback:

The prototype was given to four high school students. The rules were briefly explained and play began. There was a note-taker assigned to each player who was responsible for recording what the player did and said, along with the emotions associated with each action.

This initial game lasted for 10 minutes, because the players could not complete the game. Our prototype included only 23 guest cards and the players ran out of cards before any of them made it around the board. The second game was played with greater success. We had well over 50 guest cards and the players were able to finish the game in approximately 15 minutes.

Each player used the play-testing rubric to rate the game, along with answering the following questions:

1) What was the game's best feature?
2) What is the game's weakest feature
3) If you could suggest one change be made to the game, what would it be?
4) What other games have you played that are similar?

Overall, students rated this game as fun to play. When asked about the game's best feature, the students agreed that the rules were clear. Most students agreed that the scoring was the game's weakest feature. Students also said they wanted to earn more points and lose fewer cards during their trip around the board.

Lessons Learned:

When the first prototype was tested, we realized that we needed more guest cards. Also, we reduced the number of spaces where players could lose cards.

We learned that players enjoy a game where the scoring system is easy to understand, and the winning score should be larger than a single-digit number.

We incorporated this feedback into our final iteration of the game with one final play-test. That resulted in much better game play, and we felt like we finally had a great game ready for submission to Game Crafter.


Books & Journals

  • Malone, T. W. and Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning, volume 3, pages 223-253. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N.J.
  • Gaines, Ann G. The Harlem Renaissance in American History. Berkeley Heights: Enslow, 2002.