// Social Design, Branding, Web Design, Bootstrap Development

Koru: The Game of Struggles

Koru is a card game that promotes the discussion of mental health in a light-hearted, fun, non-judgmental environment.

The card prompts lead players through the stressors and hassles of everyday life, taking everyone through phases of self analysis, reflection, empathy, connection, support, and—of course—struggles! Koru is all about storytelling and struggling. It’s crazy how much you can get to know the people around you (the best and worst of them) through telling stories. This is how we bond as human beings: we admit and we relate. The idea is to struggle openly. The more a player struggles, the further they advance in the game. Being able to share, relate, and assist gives players the upper hand and adds to the larger narrative.

The goal of the game is for each player to achieve a new sense of self; to come together and grow stronger as a community by admitting our personal stories and struggling together.

Koru was created by myself and Faridah Adam for our senior thesis project at MICA. We started out with a broad dream: to promote the discussion of mental health in an exciting way. Through a ton of research and a social design approach, we found that a game would be a fun way to bring everyone together—whether they have a full-on mental disorder or college stress—and just talk about it.

The koru (Māori for “loop”) is based on the shape of a new unfurling silver fern frond. The circular shape helps to convey the idea of perpetual movement while the inner coil suggests a return to the point of origin. Immediately after discovering this symbol of new life, growth, strength and peace, we knew we wanted this to be the name of our game. The O in the logo mocks the shape of the koru, while the colors give off a playful, welcoming vibe.

One of our top priorities was to make Koru as accessible as possible. We realize not everyone has the money to spend on a physical card game, but we don’t want that to stop them from playing. Using JSON and a little bit of JavaScript, we were able to create an online version to play. To select a new card, all you have to do is refresh the page or click on the current prompt.

Otherwise, everything else is the same! We nested the online version of the game on the Koru website, which acts as an insight into the game, the categories, the designers, and how to stay updated.

At the end of the semester, we put together an exhibition to display our final project. We curated a very comfortable, homey space for people to play Koru. Using a CNC Router and Laser Cutter, we built and hand-painted a custom floor table for people to sit around on a shag rug and floor pillows. As an additional element, we covered the wall in speech bubbles with examples from 40+ people who answered our prompt questions as an introduction for how the narrative might go.