8 Applying Essence in the Small-Playing Serious Games

The goal of this chapter is to introduce the concept of Essence cards and card games as a facilitation tool in a variety of settings and purposes: for instance, to ease the process of reaching a consensus within a team, or to promote discussion related to the health and progress of their endeavors. In this chapter, the following topics are introduced and discussed:

  • the elements of cards and benefits of card games as a facilitation tool in team communication;
  • the benefits of card games as a learning mechanism not only for understanding the software engineering process and method, but also for developing basic mental abilities such as perception, attention, and decision making;
  • the connection between four specific card games and the issues in software engineering that they help to solve; and
  • the dynamics of state change during the software engineering process, including the fact that alphas rarely progress independently of each other (and rather progress in “waves”).

This chapter introduces four card games that use the alpha state cards:

  1. Progress Poker
  2. Chasing the State
  3. Objective Go
  4. Checkpoint Construction


After studying this chapter, you should be able to

  • name the elements of the information on Essence cards and explain their significance;
  • explain how the cards can be used to gain a shared understanding within a team;
  • name the key principles behind the card games, and explain their key characteristics and role in the process (e.g., the focus on cooperation rather than competition);
  • explain the four introduced card games (Progress Poker, Chasing the State, Objective Go, and Checkpoint Construction), together with the issues they help to solve and examples of their usage; and
  • explain the key concepts of the software engineering process important for the card games, such as the state change, checkpoints, and typical lifecycle phases.