Ashlee Metcalfe Burnout: University Edition

  • Tauira / Student
    Ashlee Metcalfe
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Karl Kane, Jason O'Hara

Burnout as an occupational phenomenon, is on the rise. It’s growing more common to prioritise being busy and successful over looking after wellbeing, which is only worsened by the pandemic. This unhealthy relationship with working led to a generation of people becoming statistically more likely to become chronically and emotionally exhausted - burnt out.

In this project, university students were a case study opportunity to educate about burnout before entering the workforce. User research with students, staff, and wellbeing advisors indicated existing solutions have been unsuccessful, as they’re not engaging. Stressed-out students won’t read about self-care when there’s five assignments, or go to a workshop about stress because they don’t think they need help. This identified a clear gap in the wellbeing space for a design solution more appealing to this audience.

Burnout: University Edition is a fun and competitive card game of survival and sabotage. It reframes how students view prioritising their physical and mental health by framing self care as a ‘defence’, and provokes accessible conversations about burnout. It combines education games with fun party games to subtly teach what causes burnout, and wellbeing strategies to minimise the effects. Initial user testing showed students were most engaged in sabotage games, which caused the most banter, laughter and conversation. The game has one player starting as ‘Burnout’, who fights to get other players onto their team. The entire gameplay is based on the ‘Demands Resources’ model, which reflects the relationship between demands, resources and wellbeing with burnout.

Playtesting throughout the design process ensured the game both functioned and met intended outcomes, with relevant audiences such as friends, students, and recent graduates. Stories relatable to the audience were sourced to let the gameplay be a conversation starter, rather than going in depth with wellbeing information. The game’s relatable content aided conversation about personal experiences with stress, what self care works for them, and encouraged teamwork and friendly competition. Key messages players got from the game:

• Stress adds up and gets harder over time
• Stress is worse when everyone around you is stressed.
• Helping others can help overall wellbeing.
• Self-care is a defence, which looks different for everyone
• Mental and physical health need to both be maintained.

There are 100 total cards, accompanied by simple fold-out instructions, 5 player mats, and a box that doubles as a magnetic ‘calendar’ for players to keep track of rounds. Bold visual style and tone of voice makes a clear differentiation from the typical calm and educational style wellbeing resources. The loose and strange illustration style makes the game more approachable and visually appealing for the audience, who will see it as fun rather than educational.

This project is easily scalable to create editions for different audiences as the core purpose is educating about burnout through relatable experience. Through style and content changes to keep relatability, core elements can be extended to other audiences, from tradies, to high school students, for a more educated and less burnt out generation.