CAPWIC workshop 2023

Title: Designing Mobile Games for the Outdoors: From Interesting Ideas to Working Games

Date: April 1, 2023

Theme: Approaches for crafting mobile games to help people experience or learn about the outdoors–with a focus on minority experiences.

Organizers: Scott McCrickard, Morva Saaty, Jaitun Patel, Virginia Tech

This workshop presents guidelines for mobile game development, with a focus on ways to develop games for outdoor settings.  It is open to people with interests in game design and development — with a focus on education, science, art, history, or just having fun — who want to learn about and design games for outdoor settings. The workshop will begin with an overview of gaming on mobile devices, to include discussion related to games that are engaging, educational, and enjoyable for broad and diverse populations. There will be many examples of games that succeed in supporting diverse audiences and games that fail to do so, with opportunities for participants to identify additional games.  The workshop organizers will discuss ways to generate interesting ideas for games, with a focus on ensuring a positive experience for diverse audiences.  Tools and environments for game development will be described, including an in-depth demonstration of ways to create games with three tools for mobile and web platforms.  Participants will have the opportunity to design and create a simple game on their own or with a team, using one of several sketching and drag-and-drop tools, as part of the workshop.  The games generated by this project, and the lessons learned in creating the games, will be showcased online and at professional events with permission of the attendees.

The workshop slides present an overview of types of games, examples of game categories and historically important games, and advice for crafting games with outdoor themes. Since the workshop took place at a conference that celebrated diversity in computing, there was also a focus on how games and gaming can embrace diversity, avoid stereotypes, and celebrate the diverse collection of pioneers that contribute to the field. Feel free to reuse and repurpose slides–let us know if you choose to do so: slides

Participants at the workshop used Marvel POP (prototyping on paper) to design their games. The slides detail lots of development platforms, and Marvel Prototyping has a more powerful platform, but POP is easy to learn and supports rapid development. POP is available free of charge here:

Games were created by 5 teams of 20 students and faculty from 8 different colleges and universities. The teams contributed fully functional games as part of the workshop, with one winner — Snail Sim — selected and announced at the closing ceremony. The games were fully functional, though obviously highly constrained in scope. The best part of the workshop was seeing the teams work together on an idea in a short amount of time: the teams often didn’t know each other at the start of the workshop but got to know each other through the workshop activity. Here are descriptions of some of the top designs, followed by pictures from the workshop (including wireframes and screenshots from some of the games).

Snail Sim was selected as the top game, due to its fun outdoor theme, engaging art, and multiple adventures.

Snail Sim

Life as a snail is pretty fun and simple! Explore, eat, and drink to make your snail happy or sad. Who knows? You might even find love along the way.

created by Elena Owellen, William & Mary; Laura Benner, Eastern Mennonite University; Chuck Tirtasaputra, Eastern Mennonite University; Maria Acosta, Eastern Mennonite University

The “Do You Know Your Friends” game exemplified how the workshop helped students who don’t know each other create bonds. The students answered questions about themselves within the game, then had fun guessing things about each other.

Do You Know Your Friends?

Join a group with friends and answers the generated question anonymously and then match an answer to your friend’s username. See who knows who best! Play the game at this link:

created by Maria Hernandez, University of Mary Washington; Rhea Saxena, Virginia Tech; Tanisi Tripathi, Virginia Tech; Hiba Akbi, James Madison University; Alice Milea-Ciobanu, James Madison University
Storyboard from the award-winning Snail Sim game
Workshop teams work on their game designs, as workshop co-organizers Morva Saaty and Jaitun Patel offer suggestions and technical advice
Workshop organizer Dr. Scott McCrickard makes a point about a game