The Waiting Game

Maybe it’s because I’m in Big Games or maybe I’m just on a gaming bend, but I’ve been working on developing another game as well. For our class in Spatial Media, my friend and I decided to build a spatially aware installation called the Waiting Game to help pass the time for those people stuck in line at some location.

During the design process we considered the different types of places and experiences you might have at those places while waiting in line. My friend Mark Kleback and I were originally inspired by the long lines at the Post Office near NYU, but we quickly decided against designing any interaction for the Post Office simply because the space was so charged as it is that an interactive game might inflame passions rather than provide a fun diversion.

So instead we set our eyes upon the waiting lines at check-in counters at the airport, specifically JFK’s JetBlue check-in terminals. Mind you, we love JetBlue, but we could do with waiting less in line anywhere. So with this in mind we designed a simple interactive piece where little airplanes would take off at the beginning of the line and fly in determined flightpaths through the line and then land in the end while circumventing objects along the path.

Mockup of our waiting line game
This Sketchup mockup made by Mark Kleback details how we envisioned the game to be played by travelers waiting in line at the check-in counter.

Using the Kinect we tracked people as they walked through the line and had the planes divert around the object until they could return to their flight plans. Travelers can interact with the planes by sticking out their hands and feet and gently guiding the planes through the line. The code has a few bugs that we need to fix, but for the most part the code works wonderfully. Unfortunately due to bad projector selection we had to scale down our design as you can see in the video below. With the right equipment however we don’t see any reason why we couldn’t implement this at JFK.

The code was written with OpenFrameworks and OpenCV. You can find the code online on github.

Mime Tribe

This term I’m enrolled in a game design course that deals specifically with high level game design theory. Big Games as it’s called, is an incredibly enlightening and fun exploration into a medium I have spent an enormous amount of time in (playing games of course). Instead of just playing games (and we do play a lot of games) we also read a lot of theoretical texts to help break down what it is about games that makes them such a compelling story telling medium. In order to aid our understanding of game aesthetics, dynamics and mechanics we design and build our own games, like Mime Tribe.

Mime Tribe is a round-based social game where the participants are split into teams and then individually they play the rounds to gain points for their teams. At the start of each round the players all get a card with a word they must try to mime. The goal of the round is to try to find the other players that are trying to mime the same thing as yourself. At the end of each round teams are awarded points based on the number of their members who were able to find the correct “tribes.”

The team dynamic is what was really important to us. We wanted people to be playing for each other as well as themselves, that way we hoped we could encourage different strategies in playing the game. By the end of a few rounds we had people trying to sabotage other teams.

Mime Tribe Cards
These cards carried a variety of noun's that players would have to try to mime.

Below is the document we drafted to define the game and the rules in case you’d like to try and play it with your friends:

The group is divided into 4 color teams. Teams will have 30 seconds to strategize before each game.

Each player will receive a card designating their TRIBE.

Players look at their own card, but may not show anyone else.

Upon the instruction to begin, players have 15 seconds to silently find other members of their TRIBE

Once you are confident that someone is in your tribe you must form a circle by holding hands.

Each player in a correct tribal circle will be awarded points for their team based on the number of players in that circle. Two members of the same tribe will each win 2 points for their team. Three members will win 3 points. And so on.

If just one player is in the wrong tribal circle, everyone in that circle receives zero points. Players that are alone at the close of play will also receive zero points.