gaia concept

Sustainability Through Gameplay

Basic Interaction / CMU / Fall 2011

Gaia is a mobile game targeted to children grades 3-5 to promote sustainable behavior through a series of in-game and real-world quests. By promoting green practices in real-life, Gaia teaches children how to live sustainability, while an in-game narrative shows them the direct impact of their decisions and actions by keeping them engaged and educated.


User/Stakeholder Interviews
Scenario and Persona Development
Concept Development
Interactive Prototype (digital assets)


Ahmed Ansari (IxD), Parita Kapadia (IxD), Priscilla Mok (IxD)


Peter Scupelli, Clarence Yung

User & Stakeholder Interviews

We interviewed several parents and visited the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum for some insight into the behaviors and activities typical among children ages 8-10. Since children at this age mostly used their parents’ mobile devices to play games, we knew that gameplay needed to be involved in our final solution. The museum helped us discover what kept kids engaged, including activities like role playing, hands-on activities, and social play.
gaia site observations

Scenario & Persona Development

Using the findings from our research, I pulled together our main findings to develop personas of both our primary and secondary users (children and their parents). By crafting scenarios in which to place these personas, we could drill down on key findings and bring focus to our design process. As we generated ideas and began to develop our mobile game concept, details such as after-school activities and usage patterns became important considerations in the quests we designed.
gaia site observations

Visual & Information Design

To bring all our ideas and findings into a cohesive design, we collected a repository of reference images, created a mood board and color board, and created wireframes to solidify the navigational flow of the game.
gaia wireframes

Key Challenges & Lessons

Throughout the process, we often ran into the challenge of maintaining a consistent understanding of all the nuances of our game narrative and dealing with the transition from in-game and real-world quests.

Creating a Narrative

By crafting a master story, we ensured everyone was on the same page throughout wireframing and prototyping.

Bridging Two Worlds

Creating a seamless transition between the game and the real world was crucial for true immersion. An intuitive UI and an overaching system map helped us bridge the two worlds.
gaia system map

Final Concept & Deliverables

The resulting game, Gaia, creates a singular universe that shows how real world actions on “Urth” can directly impact the in-game world of “Gaia”. Through a system of incentives provided through biota points, children can ultimately witness their global impact translated through a world health meter. Not only does Gaia promote greener practices in a fun, educational way, but it also serves as a way to trigger conversation and awareness among children and their parents.

In our final presentation, we showcased our research findings and demo of our mobile prototype created with Adobe Flash. The demo steps through how our main persona Jacob would interact with the game in various scenarios.
gaia close ups

Concept Demo