This is my Exergame Generator. It is a board game designed to design exergames while iteratively exploring the playful qualities of a set of specific physical movements and exercises.
This game came about as a solution to playfully engaging experts in co-design workshops. The game was presented at the Games for Health Conference 2018. The research process behind the game is described in detail in this post and the following paper:
- Louise Petersen Matjeka and Dag Svanæs. 2018. Gamifying an Exergame Co-Design Workshop – Playful Involvement of Experts in the Design Process of Balance Training Exergames. In Segah, Vienna, Switzerland, 2018. DOI: 10.1109/SeGAH.2018.8401343
A game for designing exergames: Exergame designers are often challenged when implementing training exercises for specific training purposes and end goals and working creatively with experts and end-users can be challenging. So how do we facilitate a co-design process for involving experts and end-users to join the creative work?
The design an exergame game is a way of working playfully with specific physical training exercises or movements for playful exploration and application in exergame designs. Whether it is the game designers themselves, experts, or end-users. Or a combination of all.
The game is a multiplayer analog board game incorporating physical exercises in various ways. As such the game design process itself also works as an exergame. Playing it, the players play an exergame, while they create their own exergames. Over, and over, and over again, as many times as they wish. This feature makes the design game an exergame generator.
The game was initially developed for the second co-design workshop with physiotherapists to yield more playful interactions during the work on training exercises. While turning the workshop into a game in itself yielded playful behavior among the experts, the game itself required a lot of help and moderation. However, because it yielded playful engagement and showed a potential as an exergame in itself, I decided to refine the game. Leading to another prototype. This prototype was showcased at the Games for Health Conference 2018. The responses were very positive.
The second prototype was tested with fellow colleagues in a workshop seminar. Based on their responses and my (ethnographic) observation of them playing, I went through yet another iteration leading to the design of The Move Maker. The following is a description of the Exergame Generator before it turned into The Move Maker.
A set of exercises.
A set of objects voluntarily chosen by the players. They can chose whatever objects they wish; toys, phones, cutlery, clothes, accessories etc.
A set of rich images; images with stories or of particular aesthetic character, print them and glue them to the back of the story cards.
Print a set of (empty) exercise cards and (empty) story cards (soon available for download here). Glue the exercises onto the exercise cards and the rich images onto the story cards.
Print a set of game type cards (will – once finished – be available for download here).
Print a set of constraint cards (will – once finished – be available for download here).
Print a set of conditions cards (will – once finished – be available for download here).
A set of game element sheets (soon available for print here).
A set of game design documents (soon available for download here).
A set of avatars (requires a 3D printer).
An hourglass (5 minutes).
Follow round the path of the board game:
- Work in pairs (help each other, but take turns to make your own avatar). Create your avatar in the first part by making game elements: draw an exercise and combine it with the use of an object into a game element – on time (use the hourglass). Fill out a game element sheet attaching the exercise, draw the object and describe the new version of the exercise. Put back the object in the objects pool for other players to use it. For each game element you get a limb to your avatar. Only when you have a whole avatar can you proceed to the next part.
- Each person draws a story card.
- Form new pairs.
- Each new pair draws a game type card.
- Create a game objective inspired by the (individually interpreted) themes emerging from the story cards with the game goal (also called game objective) from the game type card.
- Enter the path of the third part: choose freely a game element – but not your own! (created in the first part), enact it and twist it to fit your game objective (created in part two)
- Define the physical play space of your game from one of the constraints cards. Try it out with your game elements and the game concept.
- Rules: Make a rule for your players to advance in your game – or to enhance the difficulty, from a condition card and combine it with the rest of your game.
- Continue around the path until you have created elements that can advance you to reach your game objective.
- Fill out the game design document and you have a game. If you are not satisfied, you can always play the game again.
In each step, you can either expand your game – or replace the new challenge with the old (replace a game element/condition/constraint card with the previously drawn card – or you can add a new game element/condition/constraint). Use the hourglass for each step. Each step must be enacted – acted out. If you do not, within the timeframe, physically verify a step by acting it out, your avatar loses a limb. For each round in the path your avatar gets back possibly lost limbs. Only complete avatars can finish the game.
Further Development of this prototype and research
The exergame generator was the successor to the Move Maker. The exergame generator also led to the formulation of the goal of developing a customizable exergame generator to be used independently of external guidance – or at least with as little guidance as possible.
The work on the Exergame Generator exposed a need for researching play behaviors and preferences among elderly people and subsequently their grandchildren as a joined target group.
Design games can be a useful way of facilitating a co-design workshop as a playful frame. As one of the participants said; “There was no pressure on our work because we were only playing.”