Ben Norskov + Marie Cieri + Nathan Phillips

The Process of Elimination

A family card game for four to eight players

The Process of Elimination Team

Game designer Ben Norskov playing his hand. Photo: Marie Cieri

Everyone wants to save the environment, but many people don’t know how they can make a difference in their day-to-day lives. The Process of Elimination presents easy-to-understand water management strategies through the medium of a family card game. The game approaches the subject matter from a light-hearted and universally relevant topic: bodily elimination. Developed in collaboration with scientists, artists and game designers, it’s not only fun, but also educational and scientifically valid.

People need water every day for a variety of uses. In the game, players compete to deplete the least amount of water by getting hands of cards that satisfy the four categories: washing, bathing, outdoor use and flushing toilets. If they fail to get enough water for any of the categories, they are penalized for the amount of human waste they have left, or become more unhealthy. If a player becomes too unhealthy, or has too much waste, s/he is eliminated from the game. The last player in the game who still has water wins.

The winning strategy is to carefully balance your water usage against your opponents’. Players may want to end a round early because their opponents have hands of cards that waste lots of water, or gradually reduce their water usage to almost nothing. The cards that help players to win describe real-life water practices connecting the joy of winning with efficient water usage. The learning moments in The Process of Elimination are worked seamlessly into the mechanics of the game, so the winning strategy involves learning about a pragmatic water usage strategy.

The Process of Elimination was developed during an October 2012 game jam and charrette organized by Artists in Context at Boston University, funded by the Barr Foundation and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre. The multidisciplinary team who developed the game idea consisted of scientists Nathan Phillips and Vandana Rao, policy makers John Bolduc and Claire Ricker, geographer and artist Marie Cieri and game designer Ben Norskov. The Process of Elimination is an unusual game in that, in addition to being fun, it’s also credible due to its creators’ expertise in the fields of science, social science and public policy.

The Process of Elimination: Eliminate Wisely, or Be Eliminated


Scientists Vandana Rao and Nathan Phillips mull over game strategy. Photo: Marie Cieri


Ben Norskov’s notebook. Photo: Marie Cieri


Game pieces. Photo: Marie Cieri