The Source

The Source was a game played on site and online from July 8th to August 16th as part of the Chicago Summer of Learning (CSOL). CSOL was sponsored by the Mayor’s office in conjunction with a number of partners including The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Mozilla Foundation, the Hive Learning Network, Digital Youth Network and the University of Chicago.

The Source Overview
A girl trying to find her father...

The Source, an alternate reality game created by Ci3’s GCC Design Lab at the University of Chicago, ran from July 8th to August 16th. Each week, students completed Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematic (STEAM) challenges through shared narratives and experiences. Students collaborated in small teams of 10, earned digital badges, and competed against other teams to win prizes. They also explored issues of civic engagement and social justice while helping to solve a mystery. Each team was assigned a Youth Mentor, a college-age guide who helped youth through each challenge and lead them around campus and other major Chicago sites.
My Role
For this project, I was the Production Manager and Lead Game Designer.  As the production manager I worked with other staff memebers to scout and secure playing locations, coordinated field trips across Chicago, and hired college/graduate student mentors to lead youth groups.  As Lead Game Designer I lead a team of 8 designers to create daily game activites, four board games, and15 webisodes that added up to over 120 hours of game content. 
Narrative
Adia, is a 17-year-old African American girl living in Chicago. Using a series of webisodes, Adia spoke from her webcam to the players of the game. Adia is a successful straight-A student who is focused on STEAM, but felt that her mother was overburdening her with extracurricular activities and keeping her from having a real social life. Though Adia was unable to leave her house after she got home from school, she began to crowd source puzzles to people will to help her through the game with civic- oriented objectives.
This was one of the first videos shown to the youth. Adia was played by the talented young actress Ava Saunders.
Game Play
Monday and Fridays were individual online activities. Players completed challenges bythemselves through our website: http://thesource.uchicago.edu/ Players met 3 days per week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00am - 3:00pm. 
We had 13 teams of 10-12 youth lead by two college/graduate students.  Team Shark had a lot of team spirit and a great artist!
Week 1 focused on the E in STEAM: engineering.  However, the goal of this week was to introduce players to the basics of alternate reality games and the idea that information is hidden.  Players had to work efficiently within the system to find the best solution and not the just the right one.
Week 2 turned its attention to Science. Our goal was to show a variety of health care perspectives ant to introduce players to loci and critical thinking inherent to the sciences.
Week 3 focused on Math and cryptography.  We manly focused on basic ciphers such as Caesar shifts to keep things simple and fun. 
Week 4  had games games that taught the principles of computing, such as algorithms, symbolic thinking, and if → then statements in a flexible way
Week 5  turned towards art, and, to our delight, our players continued to diversify their analytical skills while further developing a critical engagement with social issues.
Our youth playing Infection City.  This was Team Scorpion!
We had over 140 youth from all over Chicago playing The Source
Playing Fever Break at Washington Park.  Youth had to dodge pool noodle zombies and capture flowers that would help them figure out a cure for the virus. 
We had scavenger hunts around the University of Chicago where teams found mini safes during cryptography week!
Youth writing in code to their team mates that are in a different room. #TrustNoOne
The Source Game Design Team

GCC Co-founder: Patrick Jagoda & Melissa Gilliam
Project Manager & Game Designer: Ashlyn Sparrow
Platform Manager: Amanda Dittami
Writer: Seed Lynn
Game Designers: James Taylor, Phil Ehrenberg, Peter McDonald, Leslie Gailloud, Megan Macklin, and Chris Russell
Research Manager: Karriem Watson
Logistics: Angela Heimberger
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