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visual communication practice

Life & Debt - The Board Game


Description of idea

Describe your idea and concept of your work in relation to the festival outlines:

Debt is all around us. It consumes our lives. It defines what we do, how we do things, makes decisions for us, sneaks up on us, surprises us, grows with us. In some form or another, every single person on this planet has faced a debt in their lifetime whether it be in the form of luxuries, slavery, economical, financial in either a large or small way, debt affects everyone. Conceptualizing the word ‘Debt’ and what it means is difficult, there are many ways to define it, describe it and see it. I realized the best way to convey ‘Debt’ and what it is representative of is to literally lay down an ‘average’ person’s life from when they leave their teenage years and enter into adulthood in the form of a board game.

A Board Game seemed an interesting medium for this subject. In life we ‘play’ out our lives each day, minute by minute. Every move we make, every decision is like the roll of a dice, one option leads one way and the others are just the possibilities that could have been. Sometimes the ‘move’ we make ends up landing in a bad situation, money unwillingly and unintentionally spent furthering our individual descent into more and more Debt. More often than not we are making moves that result in money spent. But with the bad comes the good to, the moments in lives, careers, relationships where money is earned.
This way that we live our lives was reminiscent of the very popular and age-old board game ‘Snakes and Ladders’, and this is how I approached this subject of Debt. Also with this game as the structure of my game, I combined other games such as ‘Monopoly’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune’ into my game to enhance chance and luck.

My Board Game aptly named ‘Life and Debt’ follows the life of an average person and their financial situation from approximately 20 years of age to around 50 years. The layout of the board is reminiscent of the milestones in a person’s life and common accomplishments that a lot of people go through or experience. The bigger the reward in life equals a bigger advance in the game but this concept is the same for luxuries or necessities that we need or want to spend equals a bigger setback in the game. These milestones are a problem that a majority of people would have or will face in the future and these are permanently on the board. But just like in everyday life there are various elements and surprises that sneak up on us and will either set us back financially or surprise us and might give us an edge on our money. Named cards such as ‘Suck It’ (Negative) and ‘Good One!’ (Positive) represent these spontaneous squares on the board. These are to be picked up when the player lands on either of these squares.
On the board there are also various rainbow coloured wheels and red/yellow wheels placed randomly to surprise the player. When the player lands on a Rainbow Coloured Wheel they are ‘transported’ to the ‘Fate or Fortune’ Spinning Wheel. The wheel is constructed into 10 wedges that correspond to a square on the board and wherever the player spins the wheel that is where they must start their next turn. The name of the feature comes from the fact that if the player is low on the board and they roll a higher placed square on the wheel then that is their ‘fortune’, but if a player is nearing the end of the game and the player lands a low scoring square then that is their ‘Fate’ and they must go back. The other wheel coloured in Red and Yellow is named ‘Debt Collection’. This wheel is constructed with 6 wedges that each have a number on them, this number corresponds to the turns they miss after this one. The player automatically starts from the start but must also wait 1, 2 or 3 turns before resuming the game. The idea behind this feature is that the players Debts have been called in and they are now in a dire financial state so therefore they must begin refreshed and without debt.
The ‘Snakes’ of the board are represented by a corporate hand in a suit aggressively gesturing the player to head back on the board while the ‘Ladders’ are represented by a more welcoming hand the gestures the viewer to advance to that space by offering.

This game is designed to be very hard to complete, resulting in the player to go back many squares but unfortunately not being able to physically change their chances. This difficulty is symbolic of the difficulty that we all face with finances, managing debts and circumstances. Debt is all consuming in our lives but if we can play the right moves then we might be able to reach a point of financial clarity and peace. This game offers the player a realization of the difficulties of life and our finances and may give the viewer a potential glimpse at what is ahead or been, and an ability to reflect how they can change their circumstances.

What kind of communication approach do you use?

I chose a Board Game with the idea that the player plays out their lives on a board. A board game can bring people together and especially with this theme, the board game could collectively remind people of the debts that everybody faces and find ways to overcome this. I liked the idea that with the roll of a dice, your fate and your position on the board becomes unpredictable, just like in life, where we dont foresee our moves too far and we dont know what could happen to us, especially financially. A Board Game is also fun and comical and this is how I wanted to represent this theme, not in a stressful or demeaning way because we already face a real debt in this way, so I wanted to make the game fun whilst playing.

What are in your opinion concrete benefits to the society because of your communication?

Society could benefit by this game and the way I have depicted Debt in the sense that the game could bring people together, and together they can talk about the pitfalls and successes they face together, on the board and in their individual lives.

What did you personally learn from creating your submitted work?

I learnt that life is full of unexpected prices to pay, but that their is also hope and if we can manage our debts and our money correctly, we can prosper. The game made me really realise that we do pay a lot of money in life and that a lot of it is unnecessary as well. If we can buy only necessary items then I think we would be a lot better off.
The game has also taught me that if we can play this together and get talking about our problems as a group then the idea of Debt doesn't seem so scary or daunting, and that we can really figure out how to proceed.

Why is your work, GOOD communication WORK?

The Board Game brings people together and they can discuss their debts as well as how the board game relates to their lives. It does this is in a not stressful way so the player can realise what they are playing and how they are playing too.

Where and how do you intent do implement your work?

This board game was created with the idea (not actually able to be done) to be mass-produced and placed on the market for people to buy. The game can be played by people above the ages of 12 because there are some adult terminology in the game but it is a game for adults in the sense that they can relate to others about it and their lives.

Did your intervention had an effect on other Media. If yes, describe the effect? (Has other media reported on it- how? Were you able to change other media with your work- how?)



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Entry details


Life & Debt - The Board Game


A Board Game on Life and the Debt's We Face

Concept author(s)

Tom Miatke

Concept author year(s) of birth


Concept author(s) contribution

Designed, Created, Concepted, and Structured the entire project.



Competition category

visual communication practice

Competition subcategory


Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

University of Ballarat - Graphic Design and Multimedia