luke pirie

Marketing Manager | Design Generalist | Otago University Designer of the Year 2008.

Madflatter Game Design

Overview

Conflict in a Shared Spaceconflict

There are universally common problems and conflicts within a shared living space. Within these spaces different personality types come into contact and occasional conflict. Each of these personality types have different methods for dealing with these conflicts. Often the way individuals choose to interact with others effects many other aspects of the relationships in a home. If a person does not understand the effects of how they communicate, the odds that their message will be misunderstood greatly increases. Due to these complexities designing to suggest the best way to resolve these conflicts is a ‘wicked‘ problem. A number of additional issues and unknowns stem from the original problem. The design must be developed to address the huge variety and complexity present in these interactions.

By using education as a tool to help people aged 18 – 25 examine and understand conflicts we hope to give individuals a better chance of taking on these complex issues themselves. By shedding light on the effects of choices that individuals make to resolve conflicts; we hope to give a greater understanding of three things. How people personally solve disputes, how this may be interpreted by others and the importance of collaboration when trying to solve a conflict. Our teaching tool, an interactive game, allows the user to play through a conflict without any real life consequences. Watching the reaction and movement of a conflict, playing on both sides of right and wrong. However the game does not preach to the player, it cleverly hides a layer of subversive education within the complex style of a fun 1st person puzzle.

Formative Research

Key Elements

1. The most common personality types and the method that they commonly deal with resolving conflicts.
2. The value of game play in teaching and the best ways to use games to achieve reflective learning practices.
3. The existing programmes and games that aim to inform people how to resolve universally common conflicts.
4. Common conflicts within household environments that applied to the immediate target demographic.
5. The development of serial games and the benefits of this type of release.
6. How to share games and develop fans on social networking sites such as Facebook.
7. It is important to note that Madflatter is design driven and research informed.

Precedents

Looking into other existing ideas that shared similarities to our key objectives we found several related concepts.

Peace Foundation programme for resolving conflicts

Peace Foundation programme for resolving conflicts

The Cool Schools programme teaches individuals to use conflict scenarios as an opportunity to build positive relationships with others. Non-violent, constructive, cooperative, win/win solutions to a problem are negotiated. Agreements are made which are mutually acceptable to all parties concerned. Madflatter is more subversive in its method of teaching, as it lightens the tone through comedic game play to such an extent
that the morality of the message should only effect the user on an indirect level. This is an informed decision that came from research on the benefits of reflective learning.

Student learning through games.

Student learning through games.

With the ever increasing use of gaming consoles, home computers and online games, it is imperative that educators use these tools to reach the targeted users. Despite the vast amount of criticism that digital games receive, the reality is that simulation style games are here to stay so we need to harness their potential, not demonize them and disregard their potential for teaching. “There is a class of games that include an element of simulation … that is increasingly viewed as having educational potential (e.g., Mitchell & Savill-Smith, 2004: p. 20).

Virtual environment for learning.

Virtual environment for learning.

As Freitas and Oliver state “‘other worlds’ can indeed accelerate learning, allowing the learner to … Participate within the ‘world’ and to reflect upon their relationship when viewed from outside of it, reinforcing learning through empathy or ‘being there’, whilst allowing sufficient space for reflection.” This ability to create a fun learning environment outside of everyday life is the main advantage games have over traditional teaching methods. The user enjoys ‘playing’ while they are subconsciously learning, and later in real situations the user is able to reflect upon the choices they make in the virtual environment.

Facebook application for conflict sharing.

Facebook application for conflict sharing.

Due to the research gathered on game play it was essential that existing games were analyzed to find how they might be improved. Real Verdict, is a web site that uses the Facebook interface to advertise, the application itself is a web site link. On the site users with a dispute introduce conflicts to a virtual legal system comprised of their peers; or in this case, the site’s other users. Though this to a degree allows individuals
to have mediation from a third party, the site’s confrontational style of pitting the two sides against each other, in many ways only expands the scope of conflicts brought to the table.

Facebook application for your character profile.

Facebook application for your character profile.

The concept of the site is based on actually trying to solve the problems in a mock democracy, a massive undertaking. However the site’s low traffic and lack of serious articles suggest that people may not be willing to share actual conflicts, and the anonymity of the interaction seems to create a lack of serious responses in many cases. Essentially the concept of the site boils down to a medium for arguing and though it gives voices to both sides, it does not claim to resolve the conflicts, merely produce an outlet for fun.

Framework for evaluating educational games.

Framework for evaluating educational games.

The Psychologist in a Box application, creates a user personality based on user’s answers to a series of questions. The program is
designed to evaluate and display your overall personality type and mirrors a significant portion of our elements. However the application uses a survey based system to evaluate the user’s profile types and does not allow them to see how their behaviors affect others nor does it give an idea of where its estimation comes from. This sort of gaming experience is not interactive and certainly not immersing, so from the framework for
evaluating games there is a small likelihood that it would have educational merits.

Game Dynamics and Components

Game Play

Diagram shows an overview of how to solve the puzzle.

Diagram shows an overview of how to solve the puzzle.

The game play of MadFlatter is in the style of a 1st person adventure game, a genre which pits players against interactive environments and puzzles that advance a story line. This style of game does not have a scoring system, but rather rewards players by challenging them to unlock items in the environment. MadFlatter environments consist of two puzzles which coincide but must be solved in a specific order. The
first puzzle is an interaction between the player and a character, central to a conflict and consists almost entirely of dialogue. The second puzzle is with objects in the environment that become modifiable after completing the conversation successfully.

This method keeps a conflict and character interaction central to the game play, but does not make the entertainment value solely dependant upon it. It also supports dialogue that deals with elements in an environment that can be altered, appropriate because shared space conflicts are typically central to an item in that space. The first person style also places the character directly into the environment without using an avatar in a hope to provide a sense of personalization and accountability to the game play. The players interaction with the environment is primarily click and click and drag allowing the player to explore and interact with objects and make choices in an interactive manner. This form of interaction is both highly enjoyable and easy to learn. Allowing novice gamer’s the chance to enjoy the game. Since this style of game eventually reaches an endpoint, the end reward of the game is the player receiving a ‘key to their flat mates’ heart’ indicating their completion of the puzzle. For now these keys behave as merely a reward item but offer future potential to unlock additional content.

Environment from a level in the game.

Environment from a level in the game.

The environments that were chosen are the shared spaces in a flat. The kitchen, bathroom, toilet, living room, laundry and so on, are where we most logically felt the game would produce identifiable scenarios. However, these environments each have several different potential conflicts within them, and have further potential to change in scale and presentation. One environment could have not only different objectives but also different puzzle and game play altogether. Conflicts could occur within objects in the environment or combine environments together. For example, a refrigerator in the kitchen could contain an absurd environment and puzzle or the entire flat could host a puzzle with multiple rooms. Additionally, though the environments appear more or less realistic at first glance, they do host unrealistic items to increase their appeal. For example, the kitchen has a dwarf hiding in the cupboard, a possum hiding under the sink and a giant fly in the fridge. These
fantasy items help provide the imaginative and comedic elements that hopefully make interaction with the environment more entertaining and reward users for exploring.

The beta environment from the game.

The beta environment from the game.

The environments also contain interactive elements that form puzzles. The game uses an inventory system, which effectively allows players to combine objects in the environment when moving from one viewpoint to another. Also a series of interactive objects within the environment
can be dragged onto each other to combine them. These puzzles rely on changes or items gained from the conversation elements but are still interactive before resolving the conflict. In our example the player must finish the conversation to be able to see the opossum under the sink, then solve an environment puzzle to get rid of it.

Personality Types and Scenarios

From Shambolic Shane (Non - Conscientious) to Lonely Harry (Highly introverted)

From Shambolic Shane (Non – Conscientious) to Lonely Harry (Highly introverted)

The Big Five

Madflatter’s characters are based on ‘The Big Five’, personality types. Psychologists use these five factors to describe behaviors of individuals as it relates to their personality. Psychological studies looking at the way these five dynamics of personality: neuroticism, openness, agreeability,
conscientiousness and extraversion, affect the way in which people approach conflicts, guided our scenario and character development.
By exaggerating these personality types in the game’s characters, the player experiences the way in which these personality types may interact or react to the user’s attempts to solve the conflict. The exaggeration also makes the characters more recognizable and hopefully more assignable to user experiences.

Characteristics of the big five were also considered in the creation of a likely scenario. Characters will stem conflict playing off of traits of their personality. For example, an individual lacking openness, characterized by stubbornness and insisting that they know best, in our second scenario, wants to keep the television remote in a dinosaur mouth, an exaggeration of a solution likely to cause conflict. The player’s puzzle
then revolves around the user retrieving the remote from the dinosaur. This kind of humorous exaggeration allows for certain aspects of the character’s personality and their behavior to be focal in the puzzle.

The diagram above is known as the slippery slope model.

The diagram above is known as the slippery slope model.

Developing the conversations between the player and the character requires a balance of teaching and game play components. The concept for the conversation was drafted from a combination of two conflict models. The first, the ‘slippery slope’ conflict model, allows players to observe the effects of highly unproductive choices by steering the player into them. For example if a player shows a small amount of aggression toward
the character, the next set of responses will increase in aggression, thus forcing the player down a path away from the solution.

However, the slope model only encompasses two types of responses: aggressive and avoiding. Our second model includes four total methods: competitive, accommodating, avoiding and collaborative, selected from studies that linked the big five personality types to these four methods of conflict resolution. Personality types that intuitively seem linked, or were shown to be linked, to one of these methods, will respond according to that behavioral connection. For example, a conscientious-lacking individual like Shambolic Shane will not respond competitively to competitive inputs by the player because this personality type was shown to be unlikely to use competing as a method of conflict resolution.

Lastly, the dialogue was aimed at poking fun at commonly found, yet generally ineffective techniques of addressing conflicts. Hopefully including these examples in the game will cause the player to reflect on their uses or responses to these techniques in their own real life situations or conflicts. All these components together combine to make an entertaining interaction that models conflict between you and the character.

Game Interaction

This storyboard details how the player would interact with the game in order to solve the puzzle.

Picture 1

The Madflatter home page where the viewer enters the game and is greeted with a range of options typical of games. This page allows the user to change their options, controls and to read about the objectives of the game. Alternatively the user can just jump straight in and play the game.

Picture 2

The user is then shown the available conflicts they can play. Each conflict has a different character with a different personality type within a different environment. The personality types and their behaviorism have been chosen from our research. The scenarios and environments are based on typical households and the issues that the majority can relate to.

Picture 3

The user is then placed in the virtual environment where they are free to interact with Shambolic Shane or any of the clickable items in the kitchen. Shane however has a behaviorism where he attempts to avoid speaking to the user. So the user must explore the environment and try to figure out how to get Shane to interact with them.
The user may find out from the dwarf in the cupboard that Shane does not converse easily when he is hungry, or they may stumble upon the pie in the fridge by accident. In any case, they will then need to click on the pie in order to add it to their inventory. Once the user leaves the fridge, they are able to drag the pie onto Shane and begin to interact with him.

Media

Diagram gives an overview of our production and distribution.

Diagram gives an overview of our production and distribution.

Creation

The implementation of our application will involve the animations, user interface and functionality being made in Macromedia Flash™. Adobe
Flash, or simply Flash, refers to both the Adobe Flash Player, and to the Adobe Flash Professional multimedia authoring program.
Adobe Flash Professional is used to create content for the Adobe Engagement Platform (such as web applications, games and movies, and content for mobile phones and other embedded devices). Flash is commonly used to create animation, advertisements, various web- page components, to integrate video into web pages, and more recently, to develop rich Internet applications.

Distribution

The flash files are embedded into Java script, allowing us to host our application on social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and
Myspace, as well as a stand alone game. The game would be released in stages as a serial on these social networking sites, but the full version (including bonus stages and characters) would also be available for purchase for educational institutions and consumers alike.

Strategy and Opportunity

Serial Releases

The Simpsons television serial.

The Simpsons television serial.

By releasing Madflatter as a serial game we are giving the users the opportunity to provide feedback that can help to develop better scenarios
as well as giving them an opportunity to let the developers know what they like about the game. This is also highly beneficial for keeping up to date with technology improvements.

Serial releases also maintain a high level of interest because of their fresh subject matter, whether it be political or social. Because this
game has such potential for universal appeal, it is important that there is room for the game to grow to the point that it can become an iconic learning tool world-wide. A comparison to the television show The Simpsons would be an apt parallel to the way this may occur. The subversive morality of their messages is disguised by humour that is common the world over, making it a piece of popular culture that has come to be studied for what lessons it teaches us.

Based on the three weeks taken for three people to develop one episode, the game would be released on a monthly basis.

Potential for Adoption

The subversive style of reflective learning this game provides is one that could be adopted by designers for a wide array of different social
conflicts. We wish to continue to develop this game from a prototype into a full serial if we gain the appropriate demand and backing. However it is likely that this form of game will continue to be made for teaching purposes and we hope that our game may be called upon as a valuable example of subversive learning.

Educational Institutes

Madflatter would also be a highly valuable learning tool for people from 14 to 17 years of age. This is due to the fact that these people are only a few years away from coming into some social conflicts with their peers. They are probably already having inter-personal conflicts at home with their family’s as well, giving them an immediate resonance with the game. The games wit and absurdity should also appeal to this demographic.

Appendix

AppendixAppendix 2Appendix 3

Information

This entry was posted on February 2, 2009 by in Interaction Design.

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call: 021 264 9299
email: pirie616@gmail.com

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