Life Lessons: A New Card Game Creates Empathy for Youth

Brandon Carter at Very Productions
REVOLVE is a ninety-minute card game designed to help education leaders connect with the lives of young people.
When designing educational policy, adults often don't consider the actual experiences of young people, says Jessica Fuller, the director of project development and operations at RESCHOOL Colorado, an education nonprofit founded in 2013. So her group created REVOLVE, a card game that will help adults, from educators and policymakers to funders, better understand students.

The hope is that by creating empathy for students through the game, these leaders will develop better educational opportunities that aren't just driven by hypotheticals and theory, but also by young people's real struggles and opportunities.

In the game, each player takes on a different character based on an actual youth's experiences. Through REVOLVE, players explore how their characters' decisions are shaped by what's going on in their lives.

"I think it can be really hard to step outside of yourself, your situation and your lived experience," Fuller says. "The beautiful thing about REVOLVE is that you’re asked from the beginning to step into the shoes of someone else, but because it’s a game and you’re entering made-up scenarios, it feels like a lighter ask than if you were asked to do that in a different context. You’re empathizing without even knowing you’re doing it."

In 2016, RESCHOOL developed the first edition of the game with the design firm Greater Good and released an open-source edition. Hundreds of people played it through 2019, sharing their criticisms and ideas about how it could be improved.

Working with Rick Griffith's MATTER, RESCHOOL has now changed the game's design — speeding up the pace, improving how it highlights the skills young people already bring to their education, and building it so that anybody can play, from kids to adults.

There are no obvious winners or losers in REVOLVE, and that has befuddled some players.

"We’ve been intentional in our design of the newest version to explain that, just like in real life, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or a singular profile to thriving," Fuller says. "Success looks different depending on what you’re navigating and what your goals are. Everyone is on a different, unique, lifelong learning path, and they need resources that support them in that journey. That’s what REVOLVE is all about."

RESCHOOL has launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce multiple versions of the game. The group has raised more than $12,000 of its $25,000 goal; the campaign ends at 2 p.m. Tuesday, October 27. To donate, go to the RESCHOOL Kickstarter page