The Tale of Trash

How might we help children to think about how to reuse trash?

Tale of Trash is a brain-teaser game to get students to think deeply about how to reuse materials in multiple parts of our life. The point of the game is for players to talk about and reimagine how we can reuse trash in our everyday settings, through past and new experiences. 

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How to Play...

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Set Up

This game can be played with at least four players. Each round, the participants take turns being the judge. There is only one judge per round. 

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Iteration 1: Tic Tac Toe

Awareness to climate change / water waste

We ideated on how the mechanics of the game would work


  • This game requires two players. Both of them play on a shared 3*3 grid.The first player try to fill in the blank on the board with one of the card he hold. If the symbol on the card is matched with the blank then the symbol will be placed on the blank.

  • If the card doesn’t match the blank then the card will be taken back. Another player do the same action as the first player. Repeated until someone wins. If three of symbols in a row, then the player win.

​inspiration came from tic-tac-toe + bingo = our game


  • We wanted to test if the mechanics of tic-tac-toe had a correlation with the message we were going to share.

  • If the staggering information about water waste was something that people were shocked about.

  • If the game became a guessing game and not really informational or educational.

In class testing with DSI students

Feedback :

  • It’s a memorization game. Which is a decent strategy but then you should think about what you want people to memorize and why.

  • It should have somewhat of a natural flow of how to proceed in the game. Like the “ship” game, people are unconsciously learning and engraving the information about how to get to the end of the game. The learning becomes somewhat voluntary and natural. You should strive for that.

Iteration 2: How can we reduce the use of trash bags?


inspiration for new game idea : origami style reduction of trash

The Pivot

Having had multiple feedback on how the game was not working we decided to pivot our plan to a game about the 3R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.


Seeing so much trash being thrown away we wanted to design a game where we focus on reducing the use of trash bags. We hear a lot about the 3R’s and we mainly put our focus on recycling and reusing but not too much on the reducing part.


We wanted to highlight ways to reduce the use of trash bags by focusing on reducing the volume of what goes in a trash bag. Having found out that domestically there are ways people reduce waste we wanted to teach individuals how to reduce trash in a fun way.

In class testing with DSI students

Objective: Learn how to reduce everyday use of paper and plastic bags. The team with smallest volume of trash wins!

How to play:

Round 1: individual learning experience of how to fold and reduce the
volume around trash
Round2: team work! Reduce the volume of trash by folding trash as a team!


Goal: The team who does it the fastest wins!

Testing: How can we best teach individuals to fold trash?

Iteration 3: Tale of Trash


Our professor Nick dropped the game Buffalo off for us in Tuesday. We played the game and love it!

We MEA’d it and this is what happened! We found 9 core mechanics and researched into the following dynamics and aesthetics to better understand the game. We were trying to figure out why Nick wanted us to play this game and hence we broke it down.

Getting inspired by Buffalo we wanted to incorporate the mechanics of the game into our game. We really like how it evoked thinking creatively about the two key words given. It provided cultural context, a space and time to think about the general knowledge we have as people in the same cultural sphere.

However, our friend teammate, coming from China, had difficulty with coming up with ideas and cultural knowledge. She felt excluded and knowledgeable within the American context and this was somewhat of an insight for us. Because Buffalo makes you think and use your inner creativity on the basis of your past experiences within culture we wanted to use the “evoking” part of the game to help people ideate upon reusing trash within a certain context. We tested with different kind of context to see what worked and what didn’t.