Olin 20/20: Olin Legends

Two alumni laugh and smile during the Olin Legends game

Painful ice-breakers? Awkward small talk? Not if these Olin undergraduates can help it. A team of students took on the challenge of creating an activity for September’s Alumni Weekend as a way to entice graduates to interact and connect in a meaningful, fun way during the kickoff event.

Three students came together through The Olin Greenhouse, an independent study that works on design projects for internal and external groups. They considered all options – should they create something gimmicky? A structured event? They landed on a card game called Olin Legends. The idea was that it would allow alumni to interact with people they’d known in college in an authentic way, as well as forge connections with people they had never met.

The simple game involves a deck of cards that have prompts that act as conversation starters. Weirdest class project you did? Best faculty interaction? Worst project fail? Best teammate experience? “The idea was to create a loose structure that would give players a lot of freedom to let the stories go where the people at that table wanted them to go,” says Matt Brucker, a senior Engineering major, who helped create the game. 

Designing Olin Legends was conducted in true Olin fashion. There were several rounds of ideation inspired by junior Emily Nasiff’s concepts that she developed over the summer. “It was UOCD-esque, except that we didn’t have alumni in front us to do user-centered design,” says sophomore Riya Aggarwal. “Still, we tried to get into their head space. I thought about what I’d want on my own alumni weekend.” That meant a game that wasn’t about trying to win or lose, or overly complicated, but one that simply fostered good conversations.

Olin alumni play the card game Olin Legends

With that in mind, Matt, Emily and Riya devoted a weekend to coming up with 60 prompts. Matt took those and put together a card design using illustration with a simple logo to created decks of 60 cards. They decided that they’d station themselves, along with other students and staff, at each table of game players as they played the game to observe and to offer the perspective of current Olin students, as stories were told.

One of Matt’s biggest hopes was that talk would shed light on some of the traditions and urban legends that are passed down from class to class each year. And indeed, across graduating classes, certain stories came up time and again–many of which involved a fair amount of mischief making. “Some stories aren’t really fit to print,” Matt laughs. Alumni also swapped memories of more staid traditions and pontificated about the lingering rumor that a former student secretly is living in the wooded area next to the dorms.

An Olin alum animatedly raises a hand during Olin Legends

Amid the reminiscing about clubs and courses, college pranks and late-night shenanigans were some unexpected discoveries. Matt especially appreciated hearing about how students had programmed a light on campus that, if you press it for a certain amount of time, will blink in Morse code and relay a message, all for the amusement of future students.

Alumni laugh while playing Olin Legends

By all accounts, the game was a hit. “We knew it was going well when we saw so much laughter and people enjoying themselves,” says Riya. For her, this offered some perspective. “Having been a part of the event, I’m cognizant of what stories stick over time,” she says. “It’s good to see that college experiences have such a lasting an impact. I appreciate that what I’m experiencing now I will remember and laugh about in years to come."

View more photos from the event here or below...