We made an online Get Out The Vote game for Planned Parenthood Votes

In September of 2020, in the middle of a pandemic and election year, we were approached by Planned Parenthood Votes to help them engage their “get out the vote” volunteers through a digital, online game. They had three main issues they had in mind when they came to us. 

First, phone-banking and text-banking volunteers will typically reach out to prospective voters for hours at a time, which can become monotonous. And while they often reach appreciative voters through calls or texts, they can also interact with people who are, well, hostile. So Planned Parenthood Votes wanted an online game to make their “get out the vote” sessions more fun and engaging, while also having volunteers feel appreciated and respected for their time and efforts. To us, this seemed like a fantastic and doable idea.

The second issue was that it was already September, and if they were going to have a game to share with their volunteers, it needed to be completed by October 15th: the launch of their massive get out the vote campaign. The timeline was tight, and we were happy to take it on.

Finally, while “get out the vote” volunteer sessions often normally happen together in groups, that wasn’t possible during this pandemic. As such, the game needed to be an online, real-time game where volunteer groups as small as three people or as large as three hundred people could engage with the game together at once in their own groups. We excitedly applied our game design expertise to this challenge. 

Planned Parenthood is one of the most important institutions in this country, and we were honored and enthusiastic to collaborate with Planned Parenthood Votes on this important work to fight for democracy and get out the vote. 

Testimonial from Planned Parenthood Votes

“As a busy non-profit, we were looking for a partner who could take a vague idea for a game and make it come to life. The TESA Collective team did just that. Not only are they affordable, they’re passionate about what they do and they delivered a product beyond our expectations. TESA brought creativity and innovation to our project, while sticking to a tight timeline. We’re beyond excited to continue partnering with the TESA Collective to develop learning tools and games for our network.”

-Nick Savelli, Deputy National Training Director 

How We Made the Game

Right away, we jumped into conceptualizing and building Planned Parenthood Votes’s digital, online game for their get out the vote (GOTV) volunteers. Together, we came up with the idea of using the concept of a bingo framework. The reason for this was clear: this game was going to be shared with hundreds of people at once all over the country, and it wouldn’t be easy to have people together to explain the rules to them all at once. In addition, we wanted to enhance the time volunteers spent getting out the vote, not taking away from it – so the game had to be quickly understandable. Thus, we settled on a bingo framework, which would be familiar to most people. We began calling the game Get Out The Vote Bingo, or GOTV Bingo. 

The idea was that as players engaged with potential voters, they would check off boxes on their bingo board that corresponded to what happened during their calls or texts – whether it was something they experienced (Healthcare comes up) or something specific the voter said (“I love Planned Parenthood!”). 

At the same time, there were some issues with just having a straight-forward bingo game. Namely, volunteers/players would be interacting with the game in their own time as they made calls and texts. A normal bingo game ends when someone gets… well… bingo. Everyone’s cards are finished, discarded, and they get new ones – and the game starts over. For the GOTV volunteers, we didn’t want them to be in the middle of making calls or texts and then to see someone else had completed their own bingo card, and thus all of their progress was discarded. That would be deflating, distracting, and go against the point of making volunteers feel excited and appreciated. 

To solve this, we came up with a scoreboard system: players score points as they make progress. Any time they click on a box in their bingo board, they score one point, which the game registers on a scoreboard viewable to all. But what about bingo – right? That’s the most exciting part of the game. Well, in GOTV Bingo, when players complete a row (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal), their reward is scoring five bonus points AND getting a new, randomly generated bingo board for themselves – making it easier for them to start completing boxes again while keeping the content fresh throughout their entire session. And instead of just having the game end and the boards cleared when one person completes bingo, the GOTV Bingo game only ends when the GOTV session is done. At that point, the game displays a final scoreboard and shows all players what place they came in.

We also worked closely with Planned Parenthood Votes to generate the content for the bingo boxes, based off of their experiences making get out the vote calls and texts. We wanted to make sure these were actually things players would experience during their GOTV sessions.

Here are some other features we developed for the game:

  • Randomly generated boards, from more than 200 pieces of content, so no two GOTV bingo boards are alike. Each player has a different bingo board, and any time they score bingo and get a new board, the new one they get will be randomly generated again and thus completely different. This keeps things fresh and interesting. 
  • Before players enter a game, they choose if they are making get out the vote calls or texts. Their boards are populated with different content depending on what they’ve chosen.
  • Real-time responsiveness: The scoreboard as well as view of other players’ boards is updated as volunteers click on squares, score points, and complete bingo rows. This makes it feel like you are part of a team, and keeps things exciting and interesting as players vie for first, second, and third place. 
  • Organizers can easily create their own GOTV Bingo games and share links to them with other volunteers they have recruited for their sessions – so it’s not dependent on Planned Parenthood Votes staff. This makes the game have wider application and usability, and minimizes the amount of time PPV staff needs to dedicate to deploying the game. 
  • Any number of games can take place on the server at once. Organizers all across the country can create their own simultaneous game sessions and they can be played at the same time. 
  • There is no maximum number of people who can be in a game at once. If a GOTV session has only a few players or hundreds of players all at once, the game is designed to scale to accommodate this. 
  • And more!

Here, you can watch an overview video of the game we created for Planned Parenthood Votes’ GOTV organizers who want to use the game with volunteers they have recruited.

If you want to check out the game itself, you can do so here. But it’s designed specifically for Planned Parenthood Votes. So if you want to play it, sign up to volunteer with them here! The game has already been played by lots of volunteers all around the country, and we’re so delighted it’s helping motivate, inspire, and appreciate these people.

The work Planned Parenthood Votes is doing is vitally important. We feel grateful to have had the chance to use our game design skills and expertise to help them build this digital and online game to support their efforts!

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