Play allows us to explore materials mixing up unexpected things and make mistakes. We learn from these mistakes and take those lessons out of play into real life. Play is a state where we are in the moment, and this is a quality in interaction design and in the type of enchanting experiences I seek to create.
I developed a pilot project based on the table arcade game air hockey to further explore the qualities of play. I wanted to create a playful game that explored the materiality of real surfaces like floors and walls mixed with the immateriality of digital forms, like graphics projected on the floor. I also wanted to explore the use of our body movement and the relationship to our physical space, as well as the interaction between each other.
Sketching it out
I sketched out how AR Hockey would function, and developed a scoring system. This early sketches helped me visualize the game and by putting it down on paper, I made the first step to materializing it.
Setting up the Game
The game I created was a remediation of a remediation: a new version of an arcade game that builds from a situation played in the real world. This game would react to body movement: whenever a player kicked the virtual puck, it would glide on the surface. When it hit 90 degrees (encountering a wall, for instance) it would go up that wall, allowing the player to use their hands to pull it back down, or push it up to the ceiling and make it appear on the opposing wall.
I created a scoring system and the rules of the game. I tried out different modes: one player, two player and multiple players. I decided to focus on the two player mode to develop the game. There were several iterations during this stage of the process. I researched games that have to do with body movement and gliding on surfaces, like curling, or playing on walls like the prehispanic Juego de Pelota. I was inspired by Loren Carpenter’s Pong, and even looked at some AR Hockey games released recently. What I found in the latter, was that the interaction is reduced to thumbs: playing on the game’s console, rather than interacting with our physical bodies.
I started out with paper prototyping testing the game out. I went through several iterations until I found the way the game worked best with people. When playing AR Hockey with cardboard and paper, I was supposed to be invisible, running the game and moving the puck on surfaces. It was very fun to act it out and to see what people responded to.
After developing how it felt like I moved on to explore how it should look like using projected animations on a model. To visualize how the game would function I created an animation of the targets and the score changing as the puck hit them. I used two colors to differentiate players and projected the animation on to the model.
After testing out AR Hockey on the model, I projected the game on real surfaces, testing out texture and light in different rooms. This helped me visualize how the game would be played out in real life. Testing out in real spaces also allowed me to think about the setup (hardware, distances, etc.) that AR Hockey would require when completed.
I enjoyed the process of testing out the game, making the model and give shape to this pilot project. This creative part of the process was very hands on, and as a graphic designer, is what I’m familiarized with. However, to actually make this game I needed to gain new skills: learn how to program and try to build a system that could make this game happen. To do so I was very, very fortunate to have Peter Hellicar and Joel Gethin Lewis, from creative studio Hellicar&Lewis as my external tutors. From this point on, they have guided and helped me with my projects in this MA. Through online tutorials over Skype (their office is in London) they have guided me through the process of transforming the sketches of my projects into working interactive systems. Their help (they have an open-source approach to their work, and are very generous) and what I’ve learned deserves lots of posts on their own!
In the case of AR Hockey I learned how to go from idea to execution; from simulated video/sketches, to the real deal. As the next step in AR Hockey, I would learn how to program, and I began with Processing, a fantastic open-source programming environment.