939 Steps – A Youth In Care Art Game

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939 Steps is an interactive art installation, puzzle, and game that gives the public a unique experience  to see and hear the lives of youth in care in the state of Utah. Nearly 150 school students that fall under the umbrella of Utah’s Department of Human Services have decorated game spaces on large puzzle pieces. The project is a state-wide partnership between Youth Care Arts & Spy Hop Production, with funding support from the Utah State Board of Education.


Youth were asked to pick an archetype that best described their current state of mind, or where they felt that they were on the journey through the ‘system’. Choices ranged from ‘Innocent‘ and ‘Caregiver‘ to ‘Magician’, ‘Destroyer‘ and ‘Fool‘. Images were then added that represented some part of this archetype, or symbols to show strength or weaknesses in that youth’s life.

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Participants were also asked to create a path with color coded placeholders, each one representing an experience that occurs on the journey through treatment. The spaces are positive risks, negative risks, hopes for the future, as well as some instructional spaces that require choosing a ‘community chest‘ card for an unexpected circumstance, a la Monopoly.


One of the immersive aspects of the gameplay is that several of the gameplay instances require the players to turn on an MP3 player to hear that particular youth’s actual voice describing their hope for the future, or a risky decision they have made in the past that had negative repercussions. When participants from Salt Lake County Youth Services worked on the puzzle pieces with Spy Hop Production, they created a short video accented with the voices that they added to the game.

After members of the public play the game, they will have the chance to leave feedback on blank puzzle pieces that the youth will get to read. Participants can play for five minutes, or spend hours playing across all 150 tiles. The game board itself covers a 20’x20’ square-foot area. It is intended to break down stigmas about delinquency and begs the question, how can the general public be helpful?

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Ultimately 939 spaces represent the number of weeks in an eighteen-year-old life. The choices that the public will make during the game mirrors the effects of parents, teachers, and social workers on Utah’s delinquents. The 939 Steps installation will have it’s opening reception March 3rd at 6 pm at the Fairview Museum of History & Art (85 N. 100 E. Fairview, Utah) before moving to the Promising Youth Conference in May. Come and Play!

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