The Handwavey Game

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Joshua Gabai
Matthew Berland


In this design case, we describe The Handwavey Game (Handwavey)—a tabletop, cooperative role-playing game created to study how people can come to converge on novel physical gestures around meaning. In Handwavey, players are novice wizards who cast spells through signaling abstract images with hand movements: success is rewarded in-game and failure has humorous in-game consequences. This case walks through the path of exploration and development from the starting point of a research question to the development of game mechanics and concludes with a set of design recommendations for people interested in designing novel games with specific research or learning meta-goals.


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How to Cite
Gabai, J., & Berland, M. (2021). The Handwavey Game. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 12(1), 34–41.
Author Biographies

Joshua Gabai, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Joshua Gabai is an instructor in Game Design at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He received his M.S. in Curriculum & Instruction (Game Design) from UW–Madison in 2019. His research foci include analog game design, role-playing games, and the design of learning environments. Coincidentally, those are also his interests.

Matthew Berland, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Matthew Berland is an Associate Professor in Curriculum & Instruction at UW-Madison. He is the director of the Complex Play Lab; the CPL uses design-based research to create and analyze tools and learning environments that support students’ creative agency and computational literacies through play.