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A loosely academic framework coupled with a playful activity to help fill the gap in daily social interactions between students.

Photo of Howard Won
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Written by

I am a.....

  • Game Designer

Tell us about your idea

Play is vital for building relationships and a sense of community among people of all ages. We were inspired by Idea Starter #3 (Community) as a provocation to imagine ways for students to keep socially interacting. We chose a loosely academic framework coupled with a remotely-playable game to help fill the gap in their daily social interactions with each other.

For the concept of the game, we were inspired by a series of videos called Narrative Telephone on YouTube, posted by a group of voice actors (who are also friends!) As seen in their videos, taking the game of telephone and adding a narrative element to it gives rise to hilarious, memorable stories. 

In addition, we were also inspired by the increased resources and accessibility to video creation tools available to teens and tweens now, via apps like TiKTok and Adobe Rush. This allows for the game to branch out from just being stories narrated to a camera, as not all students might want to participate in this way. TikTok also has a popular hashtag, #edutok, where a number of educational videos created by teachers and students alike reach the app’s large audience.


The game is kicked off by one person, who records themselves telling a short story, and passes it on to another person in the group. This person can only watch the video once, and having watched it, must record themselves retelling the story for the next person in line, and so on, until everyone in the group has recorded their version of the story. The final version, like in the game of telephone, usually ends up as a hilariously distorted version of the original.

To ground this concept in schoolwork, we tested the idea by running the game with a historically significant story. To stimulate the students’ creativity, we created a list of different ways students can author their version of the story (Inspired from Global Game Jam's diversifiers). For example, you may choose to tell the story via drawings for a 5 point bonus.


The game can be run in a classroom by splitting up the students into groups of 4-5 each. The teacher acts as a facilitator while the students play the game.

Phase 1: Work

  • The facilitator assigns the subject to each team. 

  • The team selects a specific topic / concept / section / chapter within the subject..

  • The facilitator selects the player who goes first in each group. This may be done randomly, or with any method of your choice!

  • The selected player then works with the facilitator to select the exact story they will tell. E.g; events leading up to world war II.

Phase 2: Play

  • The first player records themselves explaining the event in a format of their choosing (see Diversifiers below for a list of possible formats). 

  • The second player may watch this video just once, and has to create a video retelling the story for the next person.

  • Points from the diversifiers are added to the total score. Each qualified Diversifier adds 5 points, and players can combine diversifiers.

  • Each video must be a maximum of 2 minutes.

Phase 3: Celebrate

  • This phase may occur immediately after all teams have finished, or on the following day.

  • The last video from each team is shared with the other teams.

  • Upon receiving videos from other teams, each team submits a guess about the story that is being told by the other teams.

  • For each correct guess, the creators get 3 points and the guessing team gets 1 point.

  • For each video created, teams are awarded 5 points for each diversifier they used.

  • Additionally, the facilitator may lead an open discussion at the end about 

Diversifier Awards

1) Minimalist - Traditional narrative telephone format, film yourself telling the story.

2) Artist - Actively drawing within the duration of the video. Use only a single piece of paper, or a maximum of 9 storyboard tiles.

3) Family Affair - Other people (or animals) make a cameo.

4) Substitute - Explain what you saw to a family member and have THEM record, adding an extra node in the chain

5) Director's Cut - Other people (or animals) are in the starring role.

6) Witness - Tell the story as if you saw it happen.

7) Protagonist - Tell the story as if it happened to you.

8) Wordless - Tell the story without using any words (whether written, typed, drawn, or spoken)

9) Maestro - Incorporate music beyond background music.

10) Globetrotter - Add a part in the video (upto 30 seconds) that is just you freestyling in a secondary language. The person who receives the video repeats that section with whatever they think you were saying, or anything they want.

11) Jack of All Trades - Hitting more than 2 diversifiers.

12) Powerpoint Pro - Make a quick presentation for the team.

Team Score

  • Diversifier(s): 5 points each.

    • For each diversifier a player hits, they earn 5 points for the team.

  • Correct Guess(es) received: 3 points each.

  • Correct Guess(es) given: 1 point each.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Like everyone else impacted by COVID-19, we are adapting to being physically separated from our family, friends, and co-workers, and learning ways to cope, and flourish, in this new lifestyle. In a way, this disruption has shown us just how flexible and adaptive we can be as a society. Considering the rigid education curriculum in most American schools, we feel that a more flexible schedule can benefit the students' learning experience and quality of life as a whole. Perhaps a take-home class, etc. We feel there is learning potential for the students to play and be creative with the way they learn and when they do it. We also feel that introducing more group activities will stimulate the students to practice and improve soft skills beyond the scope of the course subject, such as collaborative problem-solving in group projects. By balancing this with focused, isolated learning, we feel that the students can benefit from a more holistic education.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

We are game designers familiar with designing games for educational and medical uses. To cope with social isolation, we have tried different avenues for remote social engagement, through games, social platforms, etc. We were inspired by Narrative Telephone in how it brought people together through the act of storytelling, and we immediately saw a potential to apply this model of sharing to learning.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

We have recently moved to San Francisco Bay Area from Pittsburgh - where we attended graduate school - so we are pretty new to the community.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Rachel Siegel

Hello Howard Won and Ridima Ramesh , welcome to the OpenIDEO Challenge! (I was born about 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh and lived there for almost 20 years...hope you get to enjoy the community more now that the weather is nicer!) Feeling really inspired by your submission. As a huge fan of the power of play, I love that your idea leverages digital play as a community-building tool both in and out of school. And those diversifier awards are fantastic!

Let's imagine that Narrative Telephone has exploded in popularity, it's 2022, and now educators are asking your team for new, playful ways to support student learning. What might version 2.0 look like? Thank you for your contribution!