Isha Agarwal

Designer. Artist. Creative Technologist.
Isha is an interdisciplinary designer finishing her Masters at Parsons School of Design. She has known she wanted to be a designer since she was a little kid, although the exact field has varied over the years. Through her work — from her experiences in architecture to her time in design and technology — she has learned how to bring together different disciplines of design to create solutions that are greater than their sum.
Thesis Faculty
Chao Hui TuEthan SilvermanJesse HardingFran Hoepfner

Invisible New Yorkers

New York is an ecosystem made up of a complex, interconnected web of urban fabrics. Everyone living in and around New York interacts with different intersection points on this web every day. Hidden within this web are communities of people who work to actually keep these systems running. Invisible New Yorkers is a project that explores the intersection of these ideas within a city: first, New York City: a rich tapestry of thoughts, interconnected layers, and communities; second, urban fabrics: the multiple layers that make up a city, consisting of systems that connect with each other; and last, people: cities, systems, and structures do not function without people. This project translates these structures into an interactive tabletop game. The goal of this thesis is to increase awareness and appreciation for the people who make these experiences happen, and to help foster a sense of community and connection between audience and community.

The Game

The aim of the game is to run and operate a subway system in New York City for the length of the game. The game is collaborative, so all players strategise and work together to run the subway. Players win or lose together, as a team. Players play as managers of the subway, and solve problems by moving through the board.

The Board

The game consists of a board that describes different train lines in New York City and selected playable stations. Players can move through these lines with their game pieces.

The Cards

There are four kinds of cards, divided into three decks.

  • Character cards: Character cards describe one shift of different characters, as well as their skills and abilities. There are four kinds of characters — train operators, train conductors, customer service agents, and train cleaners.
    • Event cards: Part of the gameplay deck, these cards describe different scenarios that could happen in your subway system. Each card also outlines the skills required to handle it.
    • Gameplay cards: These cards detail in-game actions that can speed up or slow down gameplay. These cards go in the gameplay deck with event cards.
    • Transfer cards: These cards give players different instructions in the event that they want to transfer train lines.

    The Play

    Each turn. players pick up three cards: two from the character deck, and one from the gameplay deck. Character cards are added to ‘teams’, and any event cards are placed on their appropriate location on the board.

    Players then have three moves to perform. Moves can take different forms:

    • Moving game piece: Players can move their game piece on the board by one station along a line group.
    • Transferring lines: Players can switch to a different line group. To transfer lines, players have to pick up a card from the transfer deck and follow its instructions.
    • Tackling events: To tackle each event card, players have to travel the board to its location and assemble characters with the skills required to handle it.

    Winning (or Losing)

    If all event cards have been removed from the board, all problems have been solved and the players win! If players are unable to draw a new card from the gameplay deck and there are still event cards on the board, players lose.

    As it stands right now, my project broadly portrays the intent that it set out to while maintaining an enjoyable gameplay experience. The goal of the project has never been to educate audiences about the finer points of the city’s urban systems, but rather to illustrate how teams of people have to work together to keep it functioning — and based on feedback, the game gets illustrates its intentions. I would still like to keep working on final details of the game, refining it into a comprehensive product.

    Learn more about the game here!