Final Project, Week 2 – Game Brief Rundown

The last week of brainstorming comes to a close. We’re really at the tail end of this serious game class. Since all three of our group’s ideas were fairly similar, we decided to make sort of an amalgamation. But we still need to flesh things out. It’s clear that we want to focus on the player interacting with a number of characters, and we should put facial emotion recognition in the headlights.

But we can’t forget the fun. That’s the tough part for some reason. We had considered mini-games, not unlike games such as Freddi Fish or the Jump Start series. But that is a needless complication, to be honest. We can keep the main game simple, but it’s gotta be fun and reach the goals the entity set out for us.

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Needless to say, we need to meet as a group and parse this out. Unfortunately we didn’t meet due to Easter break and not all of us showed up to class on Tuesday. This should be rectified soon enough.

 

In terms of the game brief, I can make guesses on what I might cover. Personally, I want the game to focus on exploration. A simple action-based combat system should overlay the NPC-interaction focus of the main game. That way it isn’t just forcing kids to sit thought text and make choices to proceed. Six year olds certainly won’t cling fast to such engaging gameplay.

 

Here’s the link to our game brief, which is still underway: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1hq6pUfE7lW-oLiUfsq9LqL9ho9aUSuILVhqQrLhFpk0

And links to my group members’ blogs, which I will hopefully update eventually.

Justice –

RJ –

Matt –

Mike –

 

Final Project, Week 1 – Emotional Intelligence

The final project is upon us, and this time we must ultimately produce an actual prototype, so that must be taken into consideration during brainstorming and beyond. The topic is an interesting one; the entity is looking for a game targeted at children ages 6-10 or so, and the game must teach them to recognize emotions in themselves and others. There’s a lot to consider here, and I’ve been grappling with this idea for the first week.

I have four younger siblings, two of which are actually six and ten years old at the time of writing, so that’s a pretty strong starting point. Our group tossed around some ideas, but I had a think about what my sisters liked to play, and what sorts of games they could handle. With six year-olds in particular, the level of reading comprehension needed to enjoy the game cannot be too demanding. At the same time, the physical requirements must be similarly approachable. It has to be fun and colorful and not seem like education is the primary focus. Some kids are willing to play such games, but we want to ideally reach as wide an audience as possible.

So I considered the games kids typically like: Minecraft came to mind immediately, but to be honest, that’s a game that any age can enjoy, and I see it as more of a toy than a game. My sisters like to play a few games; Smash Brothers is fun but a little sophisticated for them physically. Yo Kai Watch has a colorful look and simple story, but the battle system and RPG elements confuse even the older one. The game that struck me for having the most potential for this prompt was Animal Crossing.

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In this game, you spend time making money to build your dream home, and interact with your cutesy animal neighbors. You help them with their problems and befriend them. The characters emote in ways that even kids pick up on. I think this game has the potential to teach children about emotions more specifically.

The concept I had was quite similar, but the focus is on dealing with the other characters. They would have more variable problems and show a wider range of emotions, each one associated with a color. Animal characters was a smart move, as kids tend to latch on to animals more easily than human characters.

Now this idea, while close to Animal Crossing and in desperate need of fleshing out, is fine and dandy, but I need to keep some things in mind for the next week of brainstorming and concepting. Firstly that the game should abstract these concepts, and that they don’t have to be the focus. Secondly, I need to find the fun. This is a game for kids, they don’t want to take quizzes or read too much at a time. While it can’t be too complicated, it also can’t be boring if I can help it.

Moving forward, I think I can combine my idea with that of my group members, and we can keep these things in mind during the second week.

As per usual, here come my group members’ blogs:

Justice:

Matt:

Mike:

RJ:

 

Project 3, Week 2 – Exercise Bike Game

This week’s game idea became more fleshed out, and we honed in on Matt’s treadmill game. Since a treadmill might be too dangerous for seniors to use, we decided an exercise bike made for a better controller. The player character in the game also is riding a bike, and it’s sort of a racing game.

My contribution was across the board, touching up the slides and game brief all over, but my focused section was on the idea of player profiles and avatars. The advantage of this exercise equipment being part of a game, among other things, is the potential for each player to keep track of their best times and go head-to-head with those of their friends.

The account system has to be simple, but that shouldn’t be too hard. Perhaps we can collaborate with the places we install these machines, see if they use key cards or bar codes for members already, and build off of that. A user’s account lets them customize a simple avatar, not unlike a Mii, and choose from a number of bikes. Just little touches that let them express some individuality. Their times for each track are also stored here, but “ghost data” is uploaded to the cloud for other players to race against.

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We have to avoid borrowing too much from Mario Kart, but it really does set many standards for games of this genre. Of course our game is less about racing and more about setting your own pace. The extra layer of incentives to go faster and push yourself are gravy for those who want to get a little competitive. We aim to make physical activity more fun, and to introduce some more modern technology to the elderly. I think that what we have has the potential to accomplish both.

Here’s a link to our Game Brief: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1NWsFv0aJ0E3d8389kCdC2Xr3xkzAIOD8aTKNS24M-l8

And here’s are links to my group member’s blogs:

Justice – https://jibeawuchi.wordpress.com/

Matt – https://mattsseriousgameblog.wordpress.com/

RJ – ???

Mike – ???

 

Project 3, Week 1 – Games for the Impaired

The topic this week is serious games for the elderly or those with disabilities. Games are generally something they can enjoy, but they aren’t often catered to. There’s a lot of untapped potential in this area, and it’s a field where serious games in particular can shine. Physical therapy, helping with loneliness or isolation, and more are things that we have seen from games that could really help those without the ability to go to the gym or socialize as much as they might like to, for example.

For this week, I have been made part of a new group, and given the role of group manager. Admittedly, this was sort of a last-minute decision, but I’ve been trying to keep tabs on what we’ve done, especially during meetings. My other group members are Justice, who is our content expert this week, and Mathieu, who I’ve worked with before. As always, their own blogs will be linked to at the end of this post.

When our group met, we had some examples of games that had been used for physical therapy in the past. Pokemon Go is allegedly used to encourage hospitalized children to get up and walk around in a more fun way. Wii Fit was more accessible than going to the gym, and tried to keep things fun and lighthearted while getting you in shape. Both games were immensely successful, and I think in part due to their accessibility and the way they have reached out to this audience.

The group tossed a couple of ideas around. There was one posed that plays like the phone game Temple Run, but the controller is a treadmill. Likely one with some kind of button for jumping and a joystick on it to change lanes, unless we wanted to use three treadmills. My other group members shot this prospect down, understandably so.

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I think I would struggle to play a game like that, so it would of course be a bit slower paced than the original game.

The other idea that was proposed was something to do with VR. Mental and basic physical exercises in a gamified way. Our group communication hasn’t been great, in fact we still aren’t totally sure of who exactly is really in our group. This will be remedied in the coming week.

Here are the links to my group members’ blogs:

~Justice Ibeawuchi: https://jibeawuchi.wordpress.com/

~Matheiu Lafreniere: https://mattsseriousgameblog.wordpress.com/

~RJ Menconi: ??? (Will update)

Midterm Project, Week 2 – Game Brief

Poverty Tycoon (Working Title)

Audience: Potential volunteers for city service programs (high school-age and up).

Primary Objective: To raise awareness of the need for volunteers in the community that the entity works with. This game emulates a similar town, and the player will always feel the lack of volunteers hindering them, perhaps creating some empathy.

Introduction to Game: This is a management game where you are responsible for the well-being of a community. You have to spend your budget and use your volunteers to take care of the needs of the poor and keep morale high. Start programs, build facilities, run fundraisers or impose tariffs; whatever you must in order to make the problem as small as you can. Simple, pleasant art style and only implied story.

Game Control: All done with the mouse or touch screen:

-Click and drag to move the camera.

-Click the UI buttons to open menus for the various functions you have access to.

Score/Objective: The game doesn’t have a proper end point, it just sort of goes on until you quit. You can properly get yourself stuck in a corner by playing poorly, but you are never forced to quit or stop because of that.

Interface: MMO-style buttons on the screen to open menus, gauges for your statistics in the top corners, and other basic info. Drag and drop to move around town.

User Actions/Mechanics: 

  • Match: You must not allow morale or budget to be negative at the same time.
  • Destroy: The player is able to remove buildings or programs they have made.
  • Create: You get to chose where structures go, and what they are, as well as choose which programs to put in place.
  • Manage: Literally a management game, you have to keep track of various stats.
  • Random: Random elements include events, fundraising turnouts, and starting stats.
  • Select: Interface is mostly done with mouse control. Menus and buttons on-screen.
  • Write: There are elements of the game you can name (save files, generated characters).

Levels/Environment: A small community, fairly average but slightly urban. Basically, it’s supposed to be similar to the entity’s target community. Only one environment, but it starts underdeveloped, and players can take it in a number of directions. There are no proper levels, but things ramp up as you go along. More money, more volunteers, bigger projects and risks.

 

Sixty Seconds of Play: The player begins a new town, which they then get to name. They survey what facilities they have and their current budget, and where their income is coming from. There’s a good amount of business and cash flow, but a decided lack of places to live. They decide to begin building a shelter and start a fundraiser at the park, canvassing for volunteers. Three show up, so they are set to work on operating at a soup kitchen.

Video of Similar Gameplay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqtm6tYnXv8


 

Midterm Solo Project – Brainstorming

For the third assignment, I am working on my own, which means carrying all the responsibilities of the content expert and the designers. And this time we are to choose from a number of potential clients to work with. In this post, I hope to hone in on the idea I will ultimately be fleshing out more fully for next week.

The bulk of the choices could lead to game ideas if I forced myself to come up with one, but since we have a choice, I can go ahead and axe the less interesting ones right off the bat. State politics? I’m not from Massachusetts, so I won’t bother. Theater isn’t something I’ve ever had any interest in. That leaves the World Health Organization, Law School certification test, the local poverty organization, and Tufts Vet School.


Continue reading “Midterm Solo Project – Brainstorming”

Topic 2, Week 2 – Building Empathy Through Play

mock-screenshot

During this second week, we honed in on a single idea and fleshed it out a bit. The initial concept was a block building game where the blocks were alive. A bit of a cheap shock effect, really. What we ended up with is a game where the player and onlookers see things differently. Perfect for an art installation game if you ask me.

When you’re waiting for your turn or just in the same room, there’s a screen where you can see the game and what the player is doing. It looks a lot like the given mock screenshot I’ve posted above; colorful, pleasant and innocuous. The player is given a VR headset to play with, and they see the “real game”.

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A bit dramatic, but this is only for the sake of example. The blocks are alive and don’t like being stacked up and thrown about. Is there artistic merit to doing this? Maybe, but it’s mostly just a cheap shock. Only with games can you re contextualize a participant’s actions like this. I think that’s superlative.

My focus on the game brief and slideshow was parsing out the game’s mechanical building blocks. Figuring out what the player can do and how the game is played, that sort of thing. I used the ten building blocks from gameclassification.com, and determined which of them we had in our game.

I also worked out the interface, which ended up being very minimalist. The game’s presentation is very simple overall, and it’s quite short. There’s a menu where you can pick a building to attempt to create, and it adds an outline of that shape onto the field of play, but it’s not a requirement by any means. The game is meant to emphasize play and make the player consider their actions.

The mock screenshots posted here and on the slideshow were my doing as well. It should help give a clearer picture of what we mean. They aren’t exactly art, but they ought to do the trick.

Here’s a link to our Game Brief: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Q7xm14UFHqYMNTXAFh-7kQegVDXEveXyz8n-N3x_idk

And my group members’ blogs:

Mathieu Lafreniere – https://mattsseriousgameblog.wordpress.com/

Zachary Larkin – https://zachlarkin.wordpress.com/

Joshua Robitaille – https://joshrobitailleseriousgame.wordpress.com/blog/

Nicholas Kruzel – https://seriousfailure.wordpress.com/

 

Topic 2, Week 1 – Games as Art

inside-game-playdead_1050_591_81_s_c1The debate of whether or not video games are art has been raging for almost as long as the medium has existed. There are various arguments coming from both sides, each valid. I’d like to start this post by going over both sides in a general sense.

The major proponent of games not being art is Roger Ebert, a film critic and jornalist. He has this to say:

“One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.”

His claims have been refuted by a number of games advocates, and that aside, games have been legally protected by the First Amendment since 2011, after the decision for the Supreme Court case, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. Games are an evolving and somewhat new medium, and thus are going to be met with resistance from the people who preceded them.

For the intent of this project, I think it’s safe to assume we believe games can be art, even if not all games are art. We were given a working definition of art to go by, and it goes as follows: Something that creates an affect (Feeling or emotion/An expressed or observed emotional response). That’s all fine and dandy, but how can we apply that to games specifically?

In my research, I found a great number of working definitions of art games, some more specific to sub-genres. In a scholarly article, Professor Tiffany Holmes defined the art game as “an interactive work, usually humorous, by a visual artist that does one or more of the following: challenges cultural stereotypes, offers meaningful social or historical critique, or tells a story in a novel manner.” and that an art game needs two or more of the following qualifications:

1. A defined way to win or experience success in a mental challenge.

2. Passage through a series of levels (that may or may not be hierarchical).

3. A central character or icon that represents the player.

You can get more and more specific, and get into subgenres like “feminist art game” or “aesthetic art game”, but in the most general of senses, our game should focus on artistic intent. Since this is to be a museum installation, expect there to be a short playtime and perhaps no real goal or conflict. These games can just be interactive experiences, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. I’m certain our team will come up with something compelling and fun.

Proteus, Mother 3, and The Unfinished Swan are games referred to in some contexts as art games, either by critics or developers.

As always, here are my (new) group members’ blogs:

Mathieu Lafreniere – https://mattsseriousgameblog.wordpress.com/

Zachary Larkin – https://zachlarkin.wordpress.com/

Joshua Robitaille – https://joshrobitailleseriousgame.wordpress.com/blog/

Nicholas Kruzel – https://seriousfailure.wordpress.com/

Works Cited:

http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/video-games-can-never-be-art

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-1448.ZS.html

Holmes, Tiffany. Arcade Classics Span Art? Current Trends in the Art Game Genre. Melbourne DAC 2003. 2003.

 

Topic 1, Week 2 – Final Product

The time has come to present our first serious game project, and the topic was migration. Our group had a number of ideas to share, but ultimately we settled on Kevin’s concept. Our game, tentatively titled Naturalization: The Drawn Out Process of Uncertain Immigration (not my idea), is a game where you take on the role of an immigrant to the US with your family. You have a number of documents you need to fill out, in character, so there’s a lot of information that must be kept track of.

In a lot of ways, it’s a reverse of the game Papers Please, but more rooted in contemporary America. Perhaps the familiarity of of the setting could serve as a grounding point for the game, as Papers Please uses its parody of Soviet Russia as its main character. Our game seeks to be more clear and up front about our message.

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In taking on the role of the immigrant, there is more pressure on the player, and they are more likely to empathize with their character’s struggles. Players must manage their info, and that of their family, as they fill out the forms needed to enter the US.

As for my contribution to the group, in filling out the brief I focused on the actions of the player in the game world. I used the building blocks to describe player actions, and parsed out some of the game’s mechanical interactions. My slide in the PowerPoint is on this topic as well.

Here’s a link to the Game Brief we filled out: https://drive.google.com/open?id=15hOxrSf4TZDVcRRLenrl_KWPDj6KnnrVNBLBagvM7oY

And, as usual, the links to my group members’ blogs:

Luke Carpentier – https://lukecarpentier.wordpress.com/ (Links to an external site.)

Kevin Larson – https://kevinlarsonblog.wordpress.com/ (Links to an external site.)

Sierra St.Onge – https://sierraphantom.wordpress.com/ (Links to an external site.)

Nolan Aldridge – https://noiceguy.wordpress.com/ (Links to an external site.)

Khuong Truong – https://dysfunctionalthinking.wordpress.com/ (Links to an external site.)

Week 1 Ideas: Migration

The first week of proper class set our first topic in place – migration. Definitely a pretty hot and heavy subject as of late, and something that is so essential to the formation of the country I live in; and yet, it often goes unnoticed. The process of moving between nations, especially from less fortunate places in the world, is full of difficulty and pain.

As a group, we came up with a few common ideas. A brutally difficult resource management game in the same vein as Oregon Trail is certainly one option. It’s familiar to many people who have played games, but may be too dry to capture the attention of anyone else.

On my own, I have thought of another game idea, somewhat inspired by Animal Crossing. Hear me out, I know that sounds a bit fishy. The game takes place on a boat that transports migrants from a place like Vietnam and makes the long journey to the US. The player takes the role of a worker on the ship, and has various daily tasks to handle during each day. They can also take the time to speak to the passengers, get to know them and learn their stories.

Ship carrying hundreds of migrants sends distress signal near Corfu

It will take some coaxing to get the full story out of most passengers, you may have to win them over with some favors. Since this is a ship on a voyage, there is also a certain number of days for the player to experience the trip. Multiple playthroughs are needed to get to know everyone, so there’s something there for completionist types. The game’s strength will have to be in its writing, and in being able to present human characters that tell authentic stories of the struggles of foreign people trying to enter the US.

I feel that a game with a message so core to its design needs to be simple enough that it can reach as many people as possible. I imagine the aesthetic would need to be carefully chosen to properly portray the mood and tone of the content, but also draw people into it as a game.

Here, you can see what the rest of my group members had to say for themselves on this week’s topic:

Luke Carpentier – https://lukecarpentier.wordpress.com/

Kevin Larson – https://kevinlarsonblog.wordpress.com/

Sierra St.Onge – https://sierraphantom.wordpress.com/

Nolan Aldridge – https://noiceguy.wordpress.com/

Khuong Truong – https://dysfunctionalthinking.wordpress.com/