Star Quest is a mobile application that gamifies everyday activities. It turns unmotivating daily tasks into fun and engaging activities that children enjoy doing through rewards, quests, and level upgrades.
I worked on the Star Quest project while studying at Cornell Tech's startup studio with a team of Cornell Tech students.
User Research, Problem Definition, Ideation, Wireframing, Prototyping, Usability Testing
Johnway Yih, Katie Donahoe, Eva Esteban, Austin Li
January - May 2020
During quarantine, on one hand, parents struggle to engage their children while maintaining their own work. On the other hand, children are challenged both physically and mentally, unable to go out means that they are disconnected from some of their friends and many other things that excite them.
According to the CDC, COVID-19 can affect children directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many children’s social, emotional, and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic.
During Pandemic schools are closed and school closures have meant that children stayed at home with parents and caregivers who had to juggle caretaking, learning supervision, and potential telework responsibilities.
We started our initial research by joining parenting groups on Facebook in order to understand what challenges parents face during quarantine, we observed what questions parents ask others and what the concerns they have. Here are some quotes from the parents we observed.
From the initial research, we noticed that screen usage and ensure their children do to other activities are concerning for parents. We then sent out a survey through Facebook and the Cornell Listserve. The goal of the survey is to find out the commonalities of these frustrations among parents, why these are hard for them, and what have they done to resolve the challenges. These were our main findings:
In order to find out how to effectively resolve the challenges parents face, we contacted child development experts from Weill Cornell and researchers in developmental psychology. They suggested methods that worked in the past and things to be aware of.
Behavior reinforcement is an effective method to motivate children
Gamification methods worked well in the past
Parents should be parts of the game process
Be careful with rewards
We selected a few parents from the survey and conducted interviews with them, we also contacted families from our own connections in order to better understand who they are, what are their goals, pain points, the context of how they encounter the problems. After consolidating our findings from the interviews, we created user personas to better illustrate the profile of the users.
Different children are motivated and challenged by different things
Rewards could come in different forms and ways
Sometimes with external rewards can be good for children
Kids enjoy playing with their friends when they can't meet them in person, seeing them virtually make kids feel engaged
We conducted market research, in order to find out what is being offered on the market that would help solve the problems. We noticed that there are many products that allow people to track goals that are quite generic, and the products that are designed for kids are not engaging enough.
Many parents and children are experienced with the star charts. From talking with the experts, we realized that it is still an effective way to motivate children, but the chart itself might not be enough to engage kids nowadays, thus we want to expand on the star chart idea and create a gamified experience.
In order to come up with effective gamification methods to motivate children, I read the Actionable Gamification book by Yu-Kai Chou. In his book, he introduced the Octalysis Framework is a human-centric gamification design framework that lays out the eight core drives for humans motivation.
When people are lack of intrinsic motivation, they need extrinsic rewards to keep them motivated
For mundane tasks, people perform better with extrinsic rewards
Balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to create engaging experiences.
Knowing that the star chart method worked well in the past, we know that we wanted to expand on this idea and come up with a modern version that addresses the needs of our users. We began asking ourselves design questions and tried to ideate possible solutions.
How can we bring more excitement to real life and encourage children to achieve more?
How to ensure different types of children are engaged and motivated?
How to include parents in the process and allow them to engage with them children?
Gamify everyday tasks, make things children do in real life more fun
Find a form that is engaging for children and allow them to define their own rewards
Allow parents to be part of the gamification process and enable them to help children achieve things
After setting some design goals we want to achieve, we begin to think of the possible forms of our product, and went through the pros and cons of each form.