Invasive Species

posted May 2, 2011, 5:59 AM by Steve Gurysh   [ updated May 2, 2011, 4:18 PM by Jen Mankoff ]
Anubhuti Jain| Andrew Gillespie| Steve Gursh

Our group set out to explore the discourse surrounding invasive species by designing a live action role playing game that served to educate users on the topic while allowing each player to develop a persona which embodied a particular invasive species that is currently impacting southwestern Pennsylvania.  Our game has been designed to be shared, played, and altered through networks of educators, activists, and gamers.  Aside from creating a rulebook, we designed a kit to disseminate the game, which include cards, such as the one pictured above which provide a brief narrative about each organism.   For our prototype, players can choose to inhabit 10 different invasives from the SW PA region, which include:  the emerald ash borer, European starling, stink bug, zebra mussel, purple loosestrife, kudzu, garlic mustard, tree of heaven, dutch elm disease, and chestnut blight.

The Game

Invasive Species is a role playing game involving 10-20 players divided into two teams.  Each player on either side is an invasive specie who is defined by the specie he or she gets casted as.  During the game, the important part for the player is to act his/her role out. For example if you are chestnut beetle, a mollusk you are tied down and limited in you activity and speed.  The goal of the game is to take control of the opposing territory by stealing their hanky.

Types of Lifeforms

Plants:     The plants’ powers lie in their ability to throw seed bombs. They are the stationary offense of the team who can destroy other team by tagging them with seed bombs. Also they can tag and kill the other team that invade their area in their turn. 

Insects/animals:     The are the offense of the team and the only one who can go into  the enemy territory to claim the winning flag. Also they can tag and kill the other team that invade their area in their turn.

Fungi:     They are the protectors of the flag.  The fungus must tag the other team that invade their area.

Once tagged the players go into jail and can be revived if a seed bomb is thrown towards them and they catch it.  If all the players in the team get tagged, the fungus/mollusk are allowed increased mobility. They have to guard their flag while also trying to grab the flag of the other side.

Set Up

1.       Create field boundaries defined by two equal areas

2.       Players divide into two equal teams

3.       From a deck of cards choose an invasive species to be your role in the game

4.       Players are to perform in character throughout the game and therefore should take the time to practice how              they should modify their behavior

5.       Two flags are set up on either end of the field


The goal of the game is to establish control of the field. That can be done by grabbing the flag of the team from the other side.