tipping point

Augmented reality mobile game for disaster preparation


Tipping Point is a social and cooperative game used to teach the urban population food production and practical skills. The mobile app uses augmented reality to teach people food production skills within their community. Players can join forces to collect, hunt, and make foods based on their surroundings in the case of a natural disaster.


We focused on solving primary problems identified by behavior change, game design, and theory research. We ideated broadly which generated a total of 40 ideas, out of which we narrowed down to 3 based on factors such as viability, feasibility, and impact.


UX Designer

UX Researcher


7 weeks


Bert Zhang

Branden Keller

Shravya Neeruganti

Sponsored by

Electronic Arts





Popular Media Scan

Cognitive Theory

Behavior Change

Game Theory

Player Motivations

Player Expectations
Case Studies



Mind Map

Visual Brain Dump

Action Verbs


Concept Sketches




Interaction Flow


Style Guide


From our disaster problem space we picked 3 major themes within the space to investigate: resource adversity, disaster preparedness/response, and social cooperation. We decided to move forward and explore social cooperation in the context of resource adversity and disaster preparedness/response. We looked into what gamers want, the context of a game, and game theory. Along with this we did extensive research on behavior change in regards to teamwork and cooperation. We identified phases of a disaster and how people behave in each stage before, during, and after the disaster. We created a mind map, a popular media scan, a 2x2 matrix, and looked at case studies to explore the space.

Game theory

Strategic games take two basic forms: non-cooperative or cooperative. In a non-cooperative game there is either no opportunity for cooperation because one agent’s gain comes at the expense of the other agent, such as in tic-tac-toe or chess, or the possibilities of alliance are limited to those that are self-enforcing (through credible threats, etc). In contrast, cooperative games allow agents to develop externally enforced alliances (such as legal contracts) and achieve the greatest outcome by fostering cooperation and consensus within the group. In such alliances cooperation is fostered through mutuality, altruism, coordination, voluntary-contributions, arbitration, or trust.

Phases of a disaster

According to researchers, people’s emotional reactions to disasters have predictable patterns. Beginning from left to right, this graph illustrates the general progression of disaster effects and reactions of communities.

Pre-Disaster Impact
During the Pre-Phase, the community receives warnings and perceived threats. The impact of the natural disaster correlates with the amount of destruction and personal losses that aff ect the community and that results in greater psychology effects.

Heroic and Honeymoon
In this phase, the emergency responders are put in an altruistic altercasting position and they start their search/rescue missions, and give aid and other resources to people. Victims of the disaster struggle to stay alive in this phase and the goal is to prevent any losses. During the honeymoon phase, the natural disaster victims will feel optimistic briefly. People will be appreciative of help. 

Disillusionment and Reconstruction
During the disillusionment phase, optimism begins to fade away and survivors go through frustration and disappointment as they begin to grasp the reality of the situation. Some events can trigger survivors to re-live the experience and cause negative feelings and emotions. In the reconstruction phase, people slowly come to terms with the reality and begin to accept the outcomes and slowly rebuild life.


After examining game theory, behavior change and natural disasters, we identified 3 theme topic areas that we wished to explore for behavior change interventions. These 3 topic areas included, resource adversity, disaster preparedness/response, and social cooperation. We then began to generate concepts around these three topic areas and select up to 6 ideas for each area for a total of 18 to discuss and generate feedback. We used methods such as Visual Brain Dump, Action Verbs, Generation Matrix, and Storyboards.

Mind Map

We created a mind map for each theme and later compressed intersecting areas into a single mind map to understand different areas of interest. The Mind Map summarizes the understanding of the space we are exploring: social cooperation, natural disaster preparedness/response, and resource scarcity.

visual brain dump

Each member of our team created three visual brain dumps independently so we could explore multiple directions of the problem space, disasters and resource adversity. We then came together to share our ideas and identified several overlapping themes: teamwork, mobility, technology, and economic stratification.

Action Verbs

Our team went out to create our Action Verb activities using different frameworks to follow. We each utilized a different method for generating our verbs: One of us used words assigned in class, another used words taken from our themes, and the last used a random list to draw inspiration from. We then worked independently to generate ideas and reconvened to discuss new facets of our themes like utilizing novel communication methods and improvised collaboration.

Concept Generation Matrix

After completing the Visual Brain Dump and Action Verbs exercises, we used a Concept Generation Matrix. We chose a set of factors we discovered during our research (communication, mobility, and economic stratification) and compared them to six different resource/disaster-related contexts to begin narrowing to a specific disaster problem space. This allowed us to generate questions about our space that led directly to our concepts. We worked initially as a group then broke apart to further explore and emerged with thirty-three concepts. We then began eliminating, combining, and refining concepts as a team until finally reaching eighteen concepts.

18 concept thumbnails

After completing the previous ideation activities, our team sat down and sketched out different ideas we had. In total we came up with 18 concepts and narrowed down to 2 concepts which are highlighted in pink. From there it was time to narrow even further.

From 18 ideas to 1

An important part of preparing for an earthquake is understanding what items to pack in a disaster kit and knowing when, why, and how to use those items effectively. This concept is intended to teach civilians and children these skills by placing them in a simulated environment in which they have to pack a kit quickly and then run through a scenario to test their preparedness. The scenario can happen at any time and is intended to draw their attention to gaps in their knowledge or expectation so they’re ready to react and make decisions more confidently in the event of a real earthquake. This concept led us to narrow down further to our final design proposal.


We determined that one of the goals of our game is to make players aware of their local environment in a new way. This is reflected in our development of the interaction flow, placing the map screen as the main hub from which all other activities launch from. Besides collecting resources from the augmented local reality, trading and managing resources are also core gameplay tasks. These core tasks persist in the bottom overlay, reminding the player of these tasks’ importance and giving access to do these tasks at all times. We created a mood flow, interaction flow, and user flow to further detail our mobile app.


Using a storyboard, our team conceptualized our game’s features and plot. We visualized how the gamer would interact with the game.

ui designs

Each member of our team created three visual brain dumps independently so we could explore multiple directions of the problem space, disasters and resource adversity. We then came together to share our ideas and identified several overlapping themes: teamwork, mobility, technology, and economic stratification.

Next Steps

Tipping Point, the final solution, is a game that uses social cooperation to teach practical skills. 

While the solution has a lot of potential, there are some factors that need to be taken into consideration, such as feature refinement. 

Moving forward, the next steps would be to create a prototype of the game to put out and test with users. We would also like to identify the types of information that each stakeholder group needs to know and what features should be implemented for optimizing cooperation and keeping players engaged.

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Made with love in San Francisco