This project began as an exploration of interaction design. Sam Bazalo and I decided to team up, realising we could bring unique skillsets to the team, and ultimately understanding that collaboration was a powerful asset. In the broadest sense, our mission was to create an engaging state of play which aimed to introduce some of the fundamentals of code to New Zealand children.
Research
A huge part of our investigation explored the context of programming within an education curriculum. Teaching code to kids is becoming more and more popular with platforms such as Scratch and Google’s Blockly. These examples present lines of coding syntax in bite-sized, colourful and approachable puzzle pieces. We identifies that what makes these tools so successful is the creative output kids can control. While these tools are great a what they do, we wanted to come at programming from a different angle and add playfulness to logic and decision making.
Why Play?
The abundance of research surrounding child development stresses how important play is in how it stimulates children’s learning ability. We identified Lego as a successful play model as there is no right or wrong way to play, you learn both through curiosity and by doing, and on a social level, you can play by yourself or with others. These founding principles have been imperative to the progression of our project, as our game mechanics have been designed with these concepts at the core.
Shadow Play
Our first iteration, aptly named Shadow Play, saw us experimenting with physical and digital spaces. We wanted to explore how unusual game mechanics would cause participants to react and interact in an unfamiliar setting. Using Lego blocks to cast shadows in a physical space, users had to solve a relatively simple problem. We were amazed by the high level of participation, the variety of solutions that were proposed, and how long people played within our space.
Rapid prototype: Shadow Play
As we dove deeper into the shadow mechanics, we saw limitations with the gameplay and the technical implementation.
We went back to the drawing board, but wanted to keep some of the key ideas that we really enjoyed, and tried to implement them in a different way. As a team, we were still very intrigued and excited by the physical and digital medium, the tactility of play and the ideals of collaboration.
Second prototype: Grid based game board
The Result
The Interactive Tabletop Game has been designed to harness the imagination of child’s play. With no written or visual instructions, children are encouraged to play the game in order to learn what does and doesn’t work.
Situated within a collaborative and learning environment, the digital display is accessible from all sides, allowing multiple children to play. The children learn to play together, using strategies that are not achievable alone, as they work towards a common goal.
How to play:
By placing the physical blocks onto the digital display, children are able to create physical paths that a digital character will detect and continuously loop itself around.
Collectibles and obstacles related to the theme will randomly spawn on the digital display. The objective is to collect as many as you can, in order to beat the high score. The fast-paced nature of the game creates an energetic and enthusiastic atmosphere that encourages replayability.
Themed Play:
The Interactive Tabletop Game currently offers four different themes: ‘Underwater’, ‘Outer Space’, ‘Safari’, and ‘Zombies’. These themes cater to diverse audiences and add an extra layer of incentive, as more themes are unlocked as you progress.
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