Role-playing game to help students get through a year at EPFL
10.07.17 - Summer series - students works:
A group of Master’s students at EPFL developed a fun app for their Humanities and Social Sciences class. The point of the assignment was for groups of students from different fields to plan and complete a project together.
For students to successfully complete their studies at EPFL, they have to balance competing – and complex – priorities. Twenty-one Master’s students rose to this challenge, not only in the real world but also in virtual reality, when they created the role-playing game EPFL Survival in just a few months. The game is a free smartphone app that puts the player in the shoes of a student navigating the ups and downs of a year at EPFL.
The purpose of the assignment was not to showcase the students’ programming skills – although it did accomplish that. It was the culmination of a semester-long course on managing organizations, offered as part of EPFL’s Humanities and Social Sciences teaching program. “The students were given free rein when it came to choosing the subject of their project,” says Samuel Bendahan, who has been teaching the course for the past few years. “The catch was that they had to run a project from start to finish as a large group, with all the attendant difficulties.”
Just like in a startup
The theme this semester was games, and the group of 21 students quickly settled on developing an app. The project could have turned into a real headache, since the students had conflicting schedules and weren’t all studying in the same field. “It took us three weeks to define each person’s role before getting started,” says Amanda Klaeger, a student in Life Sciences and Technology. “Just like in a little startup, we broke into sub-groups to handle game design, graphics, programming and communications.”
That was the key to their success. “The collective leadership approach they adopted meant that everyone could be involved and take turns assuming responsibility,” adds Bendahan. “The students also proved to be very creative.” They never lost their focus despite the hurdles they encountered. “It was really rewarding to know that we would actually get the game finished by the end of the semester,” says Arthur Sauvin, a civil engineering student. Their work paid off, since the game – humorous and full of references to life at EPFL – has been a real hit on campus and on the internet.
Escape room and innovation trade show
Other projects that emerged from the course include a temporary escape room at EPFL, a card game and a board game. Just a few years ago, one semester project for this same Humanities and Social Sciences course led to the creation of the Salon des Techniques et de l'Innovation de Lausanne (STIL), an innovation trade show.
EPFL Survival can be downloaded free of charge on the Apple Store and Google Play. For more information: https://www.facebook.com/EpflSurvival/