In this MasterClass you’ll discover the art of designing games to solve real-world problems in a playful, engaging way.

The class will begin with examining case studies of games with this ambition, followed by activities in small groups where you will have the opportunity to explore real-world issues and apply game design to solve this problem. In your groups you will:

  • dissect the problem as a team
  • make choices and frame the problem appropriately
  • find a common language and point of view on the topic
  • connect together (or not)
  • find creative solution(s)

Finally, each team will present to the rest of the group and receive collective feedback and evaluation, with the winning team taking home the prize!

Key takeaways include:

  • Learn how a game might be a solution to a real-world issue
  • Learn how to explore a real-world issue and create a playful solution
  • Experience how play invites and elicits creativity and facilitates a meaningful dialogue

TARGET AUDIENCE: Everyone has played a game before! So if you’re curious to create an impact by using games as a medium then this is the class for you. As a result we recommend that you do not need any prior knowledge of experience to get the most out of this workshop.

With that being said, this MasterClass may be suitable for some specific professional backgrounds including producers, product managers, developers, artists and designers.

Meet the Mentor

Throughout her career, Ellis Bartholomeus has been intrigued with the value of play. She graduated from the Design Academy in 1996 as a product designer and realised that to have audiences own a message they need to interact with it. Since then she has been designing play as a method/tool to amplify self-motivated learning and enable rich social interaction.

Ellis has co-developed more than 50 games and playful interactive products on a wide spectrum of topics. For example, she created a tool to help kidney malfunction patients adapt their lifestyle and cope with the disease and a puzzle platform for the elderly to stay cognitively fit by becoming more familiar with technology and the internet.

After years of developing products, Ellis wrote Apply Play, a book on the art of play (translated to four languages). She gives talks and facilitates workshops on the value and power of play and how to make a change while designing and driving intrinsic motivation. Her work has impacted groups around the world.

Content breakdown

Part 1: The Problem

In this first section of the MasterClass, we will examine a minimum of five examples of real-world issues including wildlife preservation, education without schools and gender equality. We will attempt to frame the problem, identify a solution, discuss how that might be created, and evaluate what impact it will have.

Next, we will get hands-on in smaller teams to explore and address one real-world issue while playing a game. In teams of three to five participants, on Miro they will play through the role of a ‘fixer’ and play together a process where they dissect and discuss the problem and define a useful solution. Each team scores points based on their performance.

Part 2: The Solution

In this section we will work through how to create a format that enables us to co-create a solid solution to the problem, framed as a game.

All teams will present and evaluate all results, each team will then vote for who they think has the best, most funny, most grounded concept - and show how that approach can really help to effectively resolve the identified real-world problem.

Finally we will explore how to consider, not only the results, but also the evaluation of the process itself. Throughout the process what did we notice, see, feel and think about how this approach can be applied for other projects? This will culminate with a look at possible next steps.

Teaching Format

Part 1:

  • Presentation lecture (20 mins)
  • Group activity (40 mins)
  • Presentation results (10 min)
  • Review (10 mins)

Break 15 minutes

Part 2:

  • Instruction (10 mins)
  • Group activity (40 mins)
  • Presentation results (10 min)
  • Feedback and review (20 mins)

Looking for more MasterClasses in game design?

This MasterClass is part of a wider series of deep-dive workshop sessions, covering practical game design topics, brought to you by in collaboration with some of the finest minds in the games industry.

If you’re interested in attending another MasterClass, you can find more information at

Monday 13 September (10:00 - 13:00)

Lessons with a Growth Hacker: Successfully Scale a Living Game, with Oliver Kern

Monday 13 September (14:00 - 17:00)

Save Your Game From Disaster: Playtesting Secrets From a Former Ubisoft Expert, with Pascal Luban

Wednesday 15 September (10:00 - 13:00)

The Right Balance: Connect Gameplay & Monetisation Effectively, with Glyn Fairweather

Wednesday 15 September (14:00 - 17:00)

Get Your Shit Together with Player Behaviour, with Kelly Vero

Thursday 16 September (14:00 - 17:00)

Game Design: How to Benchmark, Create and Measure Fun, with Javier Barnes

Friday 17 September (10:00 - 13:00)

Building an Audience: Marketing, UA, & Creative Production, with Mobile Game Doctor


Don’t forget, we have some superb multi-booking discount deals...

  • 3 for 2: book three MasterClasses for the price of two!
  • Corporate discount: bespoke offers available for large groups and/or multiple MasterClass sessions (please email to discuss discounts)

To arrange any of the bespoke packages above, please email for more information.

Please note the final ticket price is in £UK, and conference tickets can be subject to UK VAT at a rate of 20%. You will be sent a VAT receipt by email along with confirmation of your booking.

For all other questions, please contact

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Register for MasterClass: Make a Change: How to Apply Game Design to Real-world Issues