I had the pleasure of being a participant in this year’s DASH event. If someone doesn’t know what DASH is, it’s Europe’s largest design hackathon organized by a great team of volunteers and professionals. Aaltoes is a big part of organizing DASH as well as many other partners. DASH is not just an individual event, because this year they have also organized a couple of cool seminars before the actual hackathon.
The whole shebang with the main event kicked off in the prep event on september 29th. Juska J. Teittinen gave us a great shove in the right direction with his speech on design and the design process.
We also got to hear which challenges we would be attending and I was super excited to be selected in EA’s game design challenge. My not so secret dream is to someday land an awesome job in the gaming industry, so this was a good start to learning more.
EA’s challenge was not an easy one though, because they wanted us to create a new category in the mobile games market or come up with a mobile game that would meet the needs of an underserved audience. We had the research period of approximately two weeks to look into the design problem and find information to help us solve it before meeting our teams on the first day of DASH.
DASH, day 1
Before meeting our teams and starting work on friday we listened to an awesome opening speech about designing for the future and the challenges we as designers face with the climate change and all of these big questions hanging over everyone’s head. We have the responsibility to start taking our designs towards more humanity-centered solutions.
Finally time to meet the team. We had an awesome and diverse team of 5 people. Two of the guys were studying computer science at Aalto, one guy was studying game design and other cool things in Aalto, I was studying for my MBA in digital services at Laurea and the other female besides myself was studying vehicle design in Lahti. We instantly hit it off great and had a relaxed atmosphere amongst the team during the weekend.
On Friday we spent a good amount of time getting to know each other and building up our team spirit. The rest of the time was spent going through thoughts and notions people had found during the research period and starting the ideation based on that. We were pretty scattered with our ideas on the first day, just freely throwing thoughts around and trying to map them out under some kind of headers to get some ounce of clarity.
DASH, day 2
On Saturday one of our team members had woken up with a clear idea on what would be a cool concept that would meet the needs of an underserved audience. To kick the day off right and get some focus we took the time to go through the top grossing and best selling genres on PC/Console/Mobile and see what the mobile market could pick up from the other platforms. We ended up with the survival genre and amongst the team was also noted that Little big planet-type DIY games were yet to make their big break on mobile (well, Minecraft is kind off diy-typey). So based on those two genres we did the crazy 8 ideation technique, which means that all team members came up with 8 ideas in 8 minutes on both genres. Then we placed our votes on which ideas we found most interesting.
After talking with the mentors from EA we decided to make a mash up of some ideas from both the DIY and survival genres and also develop further the idea of a DIY storytelling game one of our team members had. After further development within the team on the two ideas we placed a final vote and decided on the idea of a storytelling DIY game based on its uniqueness.
After deciding on our winning idea each team member started working towards the pitching taking advantage of their individual strengths. This part really rolled smoothly since one team member took initiative in making the prototype, our artist started working on the concept art and logo and the rest of us divided time on working with the pitch materials, the materials for our design process and contents for the prototype.
We heard a really helpful speech about pitching your ideas on Saturday and that eased our minds because we had a clear check list to follow when preparing our materials. I also wanted to get good tips for future reference, because pitching is something I think everyone could use learning.
DASH, day 3
So come sunday morning we were well on our way to finishing our concept. I had the honor of pitching our design to the judges from EA. I had three minutes to go through our material and Izzan had two minutes to show the judges our prototype and we did great! Right on time and had good feedback on our pitch and on the unique approach we had to mobile gaming.
We didn’t end up winning our challenge, but we were happy with the concept we created and the feedback given by the good folks at EA both on the pitching day and even afterwards. Thank you team Conte, thank you EA for the challenge and mentoring and thank you all the folks behind DASH for creating this awesome event.
What would I do differently or what were the main takeaways from my very first hackathon
- Do your research – make use of the time between the prep event and the actual event to really dig deep on the challenge so you can start off right away with the insights
- Use ideation techniques – brainstorming is great, but to make sure you come out with something tangible use techniques from service design or any other good resource
- Focus on the problem – each step of the design process should take you closer to solving the right problem for the right focus group, never lose sight on your challenge
- Practice the pitch – make sure your materials are clear and cohesive so that they best support your pitch. Choose a person who is a natural speaker to present the idea
- Polish the prototype – make sure your concept is the best possible representation of the final product
Author, Laura Manninen