Design-Centric Solution

Design-Centric SOLUTION


Big School USA is the collaborative, cross-cultural game-based simulation for higher education professional development. Playing as either a Chinese international or American student, each participant must maintain their grades and their health in order to survive their first year at the eponymous university.

Players: 2–6 (+1 Moderator)

Duration: 20–45 min.

Recommended Ages: 17+


Tokens are the main resource in this simulation. Each of the three types of tokens— Health Points (HP), Grade Points (GP), and Lingo Points (LP)— corresponds to important factors in one’s collegiate experience.


Being a card-based simulation, Big School USA’s core gameplay centers around three types of cards: Encounter, Lingo, and Confucian. These cards will affect the player’s token pool—and, in some cases, even their actions.


10-sided dice add a calculated element of chance into the gameplay. Instead of numbers, these Encounter Dice are inscribed with the letters A, B, and C. The letters correspond to possible results of each Encounter.

Meet Your Class

Wenli Shen (沈文利)

Nationality: Chinese
BFA Studio Art

Victoria Zhou (周群飞)

Nationality: Chinese
BS Business Analytics

Frank Bao (鲍岳桥)

Nationality: Chinese
BS Computer Engineering

Marisa Ramos

Nationality: American
BSN Nursing

Steven C. James

Nationality: American
BS Marketing

Ashley J. Williams

Nationality: American
BA History


Survive your Freshman year at the Big School, divided into 16 rounds. Keep track of your Health Points (HP), Grade Points (GP), and Lingo Points (LP) as you go through this formative period of your academic career.

Be careful—Lose all your Health or Grade Points, and you’ll be packing your bags and heading home. Try again next year!

Sample Turn

1. Turn Start

At the beginning of his turn, Frank Bao (BS Computer Engineering) has 3 LP. He spends 1 to draw 1 Lingo Card, Speak Up!, which he adds to his card rack. He now has a single card on his rack. 

2. Encounter Card

He then draws the Encounter Card Lecture Hall. This Encounter Card presents 3 different responses that will correspond to his Encounter Die roll: 

  • A) Stay focused and write down the bolded names and terms. 
  • B) Try copying the notes on the slides verbatim. 
  • C) Take a nap. You just pulled an all-nighter, and the professor’s monotonous voice is not helping. 

3. Encounter Die Roll

Frank Bao rolls a “C” with his Encounter Die — the worst result. According to the Encounter Card, he’ll have to lose 1 GP.  

4. Intervention—Player Skill

Before he gives up 1 GP, though, Wenli Shen (BFA Studio Art) announces that he’ll be using his Player Skill Studio Mates. Because Wenli Shen has 8 GP, he can afford to lose 1 GP so Frank Bao won’t have to. 

Additionally, since Wenli Shen used Studio Mates to resolve another player’s Encounter, he gains 2 LP, putting him at 10 LP. 

5. Turn End

Before Frank Bao‘s turn ends, he still loses 1 GP because he has 2 or fewer LP. He now has 2 GP, so he’s still in the game. The turn then ends and passes clockwise.  


Following the simulation, the Moderator will guide the participants’ discussion about their experiences in the Big School USA simulation. Individuals should be encouraged to ask questions and share the challenges they faced.

Regardless of the character they played as, all participants should understand the themes and objectives of Big School USA.