A project running a bit on the side of our diploma, “Rom Tennis” (Space Tennis) is a specially designed game for forskningsdagene, a place where researchers and educational institutes present themselves to the public. The theme this year was the poles and global warming. AHO was represented by interaction design from our Institute for Industrial Design, and we chose to design a game spinning around the theme that you should protect the earth from harmful UV rays. I volounteered for programming the game and also to work on the stand the first of the two days, as I saw it as a valuable event to evaluate as an experience.
The game itself was made as simple as possible, but still we had to make sure it lasted the use of hundreds of wild kids trying it out during the two days of the event. The idea was to make a game with big physical controls (the bigger the more engaging) that could be played alone but that would be better played together (to encourage cooperation). The game was programmed in Processing, the electronics in Arduino, and the physical switches was made out of magnet switches for maximum durability (they have no connecting parts). We used two big widescreens as displays and two customized controll boards in the same size as the screens, with three big chunky physical clouds as a controllers for each cloud represented on screen.
It was overwhelming to see the response from the first kids that visited the stand. They were absolutely wild, and playwise they caught the mission pretty quick. Anyway I found it was easy to explain for the ones who didn’t. We found out after a couple of game rounds that the difficulty level was too low on one of the screens (different resolution on the two), that it was too easy to get a really high score, so we had to adjust it by turning the clouds smaller. After that all worked fine, it was possible to get higher scores for the most dedicated players, who actually waited in line for a new round. Some of them seemed a bit dissapointed that there was no material rewards to collect, but it seemed like the high-score list just for the honor was a good alternative, as they often wished to be written up with their class name as well as their first names. The idea about cooperation seemed to work out like we intended, and the graphics, even though very simple, made the experience engaging for both the ones who played and the ones who watched others play. Some of the kids watching even caught that the skies was meant to be the ozone layer. The sound was really a big issue, lie we expected the environmental noise when we had a lot of visitors at the stand totally overrun the sound effects even if we turned the sound settings to the max. When the visitors was just a few, and had a more calm behaviour, 50% was an appropriate sound setting so it was very varying.
Another aspect that is important to point out is the durability, where it seems like you really can’t be careful enough. Kids are really brutal when approaching in big groups.. We had to watch out so they didn’t tip the tables over with screen and all. And this was for a game played under our supervision for two days. I can just imagine how durable the constructions for a more permanent exhibition must be..
(user photos by Mosse Sjaastad)