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Incorporating Tabletop Games into Data Visualisation Education

Last September, a paper from a group of educators was published that explored the use of nine different strategies for teaching data visualisation. Titled “Reflections and Considerations on Running Creative Visualization Learning Activities”, the paper documents the observations of these educators during their dataviz training sessions. This was done to provide a foundation for best practices in dataviz education and to initiate further development.

A couple of methods mentioned in the paper were to make it fun and to incorporate different learning materials to facilitate learning. This included using LEGO or games such as Sketch the World, but also tabletop card games that have been developed, such as Charty Party, You Name It! and the Graphic Continuum: Match It Game.

Since I designed the last game, I’m more familiar with how it works and therefore how to incorporate  it into dataviz training. I would also mention that I developed another dataviz card set previously, but these cards just function as flashcards and have no game system behind them.

All of these games provide a low-tech solution to training people on data visualisation. You don’t need to worry about everyone having a functioning computer with the right software on it. You don’t have to worry about having a technician available to fix any technical issues. All of the worries associated with modern technology can be forgotten about when incorporating physical learning materials into your training. Also, students are not required to have any technical skills in order to participate.

Adapting your training methods and incorporating diverse learning styles ensures that learning is effective since not everyone learns the same way. Some people turn off after a while from long lectures and don’t learn well just through auditory methods. As an alternative, tabletop games provide a more interactive and visual way to learn.

Incorporating a tabletop game is also a more social and fun way to learn about a topic. When you learn in a more enjoyable and engaging way with other people, this can help the information stay in your mind more effectively.

Let’s look at The Graphic Continuum: Match It Game and how to incorporate it into training.

The Rules and Incorporating the Game

The Graphic Continuum: Match it Game is a fast-paced card game where you have to have to match identical chart icons displayed on the cards. Each game pack contains 34 cards with 31 different chart types each represented with their own colourful icons:

Scattered throughout the 31 game cards are all of the chart icons. Each game card contains 6 icons, which are displayed at varying sizes to challenge your ability to match them:

So you can see that there is plenty of variety available that goes beyond the typical types of charts commonly used. This makes the GC Match it Game great as a tool for expanding visualisation vocabulary in your training.

But how do you play the GC: Match It Game? The object of the game is to be the quickest to spot the identical chart icon between two cards and call it aloud. Then, depending on the game mode, the player takes the card, puts it down or discards it. The default game mode, known as “The Towering Inferno” plays as follows:

1. Shuffle the cards and deal one card face-down to each player. The remaining stack of cards is placed face-up in the centre of the table to act as the draw pile.

2. When the dealer declares “Go!”, all players flip their cards face-up at the same time.

The first player to spot and call out the name of an identical chart icon with their card and with the first card in the draw pile wins that card and adds it to their pile.

This player receives a new card to match. A new card is now revealed on the draw pile and the process of matching chart icons is repeated.

3. After all the cards in a draw pile have been taken, the player holding the most cards is the winner!

In order to be successful at the game, students need to memorise each chart icon as they will need to be fast in identifying and saying the chart name out loud. This is a great method of reinforcing new chart types into peoples’ memories. 

Another reason this game is great for training is that the rules are simple and don’t require a few games to properly grasp the mechanics. Students can start playing right away and benefit from it. If you want some more variety, there are four other game modes to choose from: The WellThe Poisoned GiftCatch Them All, and The Hot Potato. You can read more about their rules here.

Each game pack of the GC: Match It Game is only 10.5cm in diameter, so it’s small and easy to transport around multiple packs. Making it practical to include it within training.

But it’s not only training and workshops you could play the game in. In a company setting, the GC: Match It Game could be a great tool for team-building activities to foster collaboration, communication, and problem-solving amongst your data-focused team. Who knows, it might give you inspiration or help you with a current project.

If you want a copy of the Graphic Continuum: Match It Game you can order from the store while stocks last.

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