Clean Slate

John Miller
Avni Vyas
Justin Kennedy


is now on sale for $29.95


Game Overview
Clean Slate is a game about choices and consequences for kids living in communities with gangs and the social pressures they face in those communities. Throughout the game, Players will encounter a variety of challenges and unpredictable events, all based on real life situations students face every day, and rely on their own problem-solving skills to to negotiate through these obstacles. Will the Student cave-in to the wrong influence and give up on their goal? Stand-alone against overwhelming social pressure? Or perhaps find support in friends, family and role models as they develop a plan for graduation and their future... Along the way Students will encounter friends, foes and "Interested Parties," all vying for their time, attention and loyalty. It will be up to the Student, their wit and their wisdom to choose what's right, who's wrong, and most importantly – how to keep their slate clean all the way to Graduation!

Instructional Objectives
  • Demonstrates problem solving and decision making in life challenges
  • Collaborating with a team of peers
  • Communication and Reasoning Skills (through advising other teams)
  • Understands the path to a post secondary education
The audience for Clean Slate are middle school students (11-13 year olds) who are potential recruiting targets for organized street gangs. Many in our target audience have self esteem issues, live with abusive families in conflict and face tremendous daily peer pressure to conform. Most come from the working poor and see few alternatives for their future other than becoming involved with a gang.

Context of Use
In order to better define a cultural context, this game will focus on children living within a Hispanic community and who are attending a public school. The game can be played in a typical classroom with a teacher, or in a smaller setting with a guidance counselor. In a larger classroom setting, a digital overhead would allow an entire class to better view the game board.
Although the game may be played more than once by the same group of students, care must be taken to ensure that students do not receive a previously used identity at the start of the game. A teacher or counselor will need to prepare the game board and potentially match the identification cards with specific students if so desired. After the game ends, the instructor will help students draw conclusions about similarities between game characters and themselves and work with students to design a plan for making the right choices in their lives.

Clean Slate will be played in a classroom setting with 15 to 30 students. The game itself can be played over the course of different time periods (it does not all need to be played in one sitting.) The total time it should approximately take is five to seven classroom sittings.
The mention of buzz words such as "gangs" have been intentionally left out as to not lead the students. What has been intentionally included are life challenges and choices as well as the students ability to advocate for their peers. Branches will be a part of this game. There will be multiple branches for various secondary education paths as well as obstacles that will potentially stop the player from reaching their goal if they are unable to make correct decisions.

Object of the Game
The game begins by distributing Student Character Cards and Game Pieces to each Player/Group. The Players guide their Student through the trials and tribulations of middle school and high school, with each round representing an academic year in the Student's life. The goal is for the Student to Graduate High school Prepared with a Complete Plan for the Next Phase of Their Lives.

A variety of Challenges and Unpredictable Events will present throughout the game, all of which are based on real life situations middle school students face every day. These events will require Students to rely on their problem-solving, negotiation and communication skills to make smart choices. Some circumstances will require the Student to seek advise or guidance of "Interested Parties," like peers, authority figures and family members. These Interested Parties will be represented by Players from Opposing Teams. Each Interested Party will have a predetermined role and agenda, and it will be their goal to convince the Student to follow their advise. Points will be awarded to both the Interested Party's team who's advise is chosen as well as to the Student's team based upon the consequences of making that choice. These points can be used to acquire credits which can be used to meet certain goals related to the Student's Post-Graduation Plan.

The game ends after seven rounds. Game Facilitators (GFs) may also opt for a shorter versions ending after either three rounds, if exclusively playing middle school years, or four rounds if focusing only on high school. Winners are determined through a combination of points (credits) earned for completing various tasks related to their plan, and successfully navigating the game challenges and exiting the board with goal in hand. Multiple winners are possible.

Competing Products
We were unable to find any game similar in scope to what we will be creating here. A game called Choices from 1976 includes some similar elements of gameplay such as decision making and values assessment, but was not marketed to education. Grouping and character interaction were also not components of gameplay, nor was it designed to be competitive in nature. The Game of Life. also has similar elements regarding choices but chance plays a much larger role.

Content Analysis
Content Type

Content Elements

Game Elements


Job qualifications

  • "Job" skills needed to complete the game


Different decisions led to different outcomes

  • Skills "earned" improve chances for success


Tenacity, Logic, Self-reliance, Self-expression, Responsibility

  • Game piece moves, Earn credits


Problem solving, Resolutions,

  • Each game piece movement mirrors passage through MS and HS.


Choosing a pathway through school, weighing options

  • Problem solving with team mates


Each new day brings random challenges to overcome, as well as consequences of decisions

  • Random events with cards
  • Advice from team mates
  • Advice from peer groups


Life of a teenager

  • Life changing decisions

Vantage Points

Characters include athlete, veterinarian, police officer, doctor/lawyer, game designer, mechanic, fashion designer, counselor, illustrator, parent, best friend, etc.

  • Different characters/professions
  • Points of view

Game Materials

The Board layouts multiple winding paths, that lead players along an obstacle laden academic route, beginning the first day of 6th grade, twisting and turning from the outside edges of the board towards very middle, culminating at high school graduation. As players wind their way towards their ultimate goals, they gain points as they pass a series of bench-mark achievements represented on the board as grade advancements. But to do so, they first must overcome a series of obstacles to these achievements, that require players to contemplate and respond to challenges posed by cards selected exclusively for each team based on both their grade level and personal goals. In large settings a projected version of the board in the form of PowerPoint slide(s) or images designed using might also be included. This would be particularly beneficial to keep track of player positions for games that are played over a period of several sessions.

At the beginning of the game, each team will choose a Character. This particular Character will have a specific long-term goal represented by a piece/avatar that reflects those goals. In the simplest form these would likely be represented by colored pawns; though a more sophisticate version of the game might include miniature figures representing careers like Police Officers, Teachers, Professional Athletes, Scientists, and other careers that represent a teams’ character’s long-term goal.

Three Sets of Cards guide the characteristics and movements of players in Clean Slate:
provide the essential qualities teams will use as guiding parameters to accurately play and “stay in character” during the game. These cards reflect principles similar to the Player Categories and Alignment used in RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. Here are the Character Cards:


  • Image or Silhouette of Police Officer
  • Defined Goal: To become a police officer that works to protect people and property.
  • Pathway: middle school general education, high school language arts, science and physical education, and training after high school.
  • Personality: You are organized, honest, reliable, and a good communicator.
  • Things to Think About: The job can be very dangerous and you will need to work odd hours.
  • Education Needed: Complete high school and graduate from a police academy. To become a detective you will need experience and may need to go to a college or get other special training.

Teams can be awarded or penalized points by the Facilitator based on how accurately they represent the principles they help establish for their PCCs.

CHALLENGE CARDS place players in scenarios reflecting ethical and socials challenges their particular demographic frequently face. These might include academic problems, relationship or conflicts with peers, or personal/growing-pain issues. GCQs play a large role in player advancement in the game, by both awarding points and advancing players towards their next benchmark goal depending upon the choices their character makes and how well they verbally defend those choices to the Facilitator. GCQs not only require your team to respond to a challenge, but also to thoughtfully contemplate the advice you receive from Interested Parties (IPs).

As is often the case in real life, students either seek or receive unsolicited, advice on tough decisions from a number of sources In Clean Slate we call these sources Interested Parties or IPs. They might include.
  • Parents, Siblings
  • Friends, Classmates
  • Teachers, Coaches, Counselors
Three opposing teams will be chosen to represent IPs. As IPs, it is the job of the opposing teams to briefly step out of their own characters and offer suitable advise to the Challenged Player (CP). Advice must accurately reflect how their IP would likely advise the CP under the circumstances, Though the Challenged Player is not required to follow the advise of any IP, opposing teams can still be awarded points based on how well their advise reflects the IPs role in the CPs life and how thought provoking it might be. GSCs, often provoke discussions not only among the teams involved but also feed into larger discussions amongst the class related to these issues. An example of a GSC might include:
Scenario: You and your friends are brand new middle school students. There are a lot of things that you need to get used to on a middle school campus. You are making new friends and are experiencing new freedoms. You like your classes and teachers, but your grades are not nearly as good as they were at your last school. It’s progress report time and you need to have your mom or dad sign the paper before it’s returned to your teacher. You know your parents will not be happy with your low grades. What will you do?

PEEPS: Before you decide, let’s hear from your Counselor, your Best Friend, and a New Classmate that is in the same situation.
Examples of IPs advise might include brief arguments suggesting things like: 1) Give it to your parents to sign and accept the consequences, 2) Forge a parent signature, 3) Don’t do anything and ignore the progress report., etc.

Career Goal Questions often reflect on the issues discussed in the Grade Specific Challenge Cards. GCQs might make a statement related to a fact, principle, theory or impression of the Character’s career goal, and follow with a question regarding how that statement might support or contrast with their answer to their previous GSC. Points are awarded to teams based on how thoughtfully their answer reflects upon the question and what, if any adjustments there character might make to stay on course and keep their slate clean!


You can download the Clean Slate Rules here.

Other Materials

Tokens reflect the number of points a team has accumulated and put towards their Career Goals. Tokens cab be collected, cashed in or co-opted by other teams.

Templates might be included to allows the facilitator to project a version of the board on a screen or wall, where it’s easier for all participants to see. This would also require either software or internet access as well as a PC to run it.

Motivational Issues

Clean Slate is designed to provide a safe playing environment for students living in at-risk areas where they can openly discuss goals and challenges kids face in communities where that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to do. By assigning students to teams representing Characters with positive career ambitions and also require students to accurately portray a variety of personalities, often ones that offer positive alternatives to kids, Clean Slate inspires frank discussion on Choices, Consequences and Alternatives. The goal of Clean Slate is to offer students the opportunity to experience living their lives working towards winning scenarios by making choices in a simulated environment and reflect on the their consequences before they face them in real life, Ideally Clean Slate helps build problem solving skills and encourages students to exercise the same thought process and reasoning skills in real life that they exercise Clean Slate.

Design Process

Our idea for a game was the result of a discussion on adolescent behavior in middle and high school. We were discouraged by the prevalence of violet behavior among teens and wanted to create a game that addressed this issue. We determined that our target audience was likely middle schoolers that were not yet embroiled in gang life as deeply as their high school counterparts. After further discussions we settled on designing a game that would be played in a classroom that indirectly addressed gang issues while focusing on the challenges early teens face in communities where violence and destructive behavior are commonplace.

Initially our thoughts were to place students in situations that required them to envision a problem solving strategy and state it publicly to the other players. We rejected this idea as being to personal for our target age group and developed the idea of having different groups offer suggestions as characters in the game. We felt that this would provide more anonymity for students. A set of player characters were developed, with each one assigned to a group of students.

To add another dimension and to enhance the flow of the game, the PCs were given personalities that reflected common goals and professional aspirations of middle school students. We feel that this component generates buy-in from the students and allows them to connect with, and ultimately relate to, their characters. As their characters proceed through each challenge and each grade level, students will learn that even though life often presents significant challenges, they can be overcome and goals attained through wise decision making and by surrounding oneself with appropriate advisors.

Information was gathered by interviewing a middle school counselor and administrator. A SME was also in place with the team of developers. These experts did not know of any game that was similar to what we described. An Internet search was conducted of several boardgame sites. We could not locate an educational game that specifically focussed on the issues we determined to be most important, specifically; ethics, principles, and goal setting for early teens.

After meeting with our advisor and while creating the first half of this design document we modified the game further. We added elements of competition and revised our scoring system to encourage more participation. We also determined that our game could be played with a small group and a school counselor as well as with an entire class and a teacher/facilitator. We wanted groups to contain no more than four students to encourage the exchange of ideas.

We put together a prototype with approximately half of the characters and challenges, designed a game board, and engaged a class of middle school students to test it out. The team's SME was the facilitator and a colleague acted as observer in the back of the room. The game was played over one hour and both teachers completed the testing rubric immediately after. Students were asked to comment the next day. Results indicated that the team needed to add more details on each PC card as requested by the students, determine ways to speed up the gameplay so that as many as eight groups would be called on to participate in one period as requested by the teachers, and clarify the point system at the beginning as requested by all.

These improvements and additions were made to our game over the following two weeks. The result is the game we have presented here. The development process was thorough and time consuming. It took us quite some time to see the "big picture" and even more time to make adjustments. As of this writing, we are still discovering gameplay alternatives, extensions, and additions that could be made at a future date. For the next round of design, we will begin with Schell's "Lens of Needs" rather than discover through prototyping that we had misplaced some of our intentions.


Books & Journals
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.
Farr, J., Malone, T., Lepper, M. (2001). Making Learning Fun: A Taxonomy of Intrinsic Motivations for Learning. In R.E. Snow (ed.) Aptitude, Learning, and Instruction (pp. 223 – 253). Philadelphia: Lawrence Erlbaum Inc.
Schell, J. (2008). The art of game design. Boston: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.