Main goals accomplished in the Fall 2017 semester were to
1) Reconsider design of games - the size of blocks, forex, or trying to make things flatter pack.
2)Find ways to incorporate more math learning by:
a)Making the games like the team activity-friendly (but also single player version compatible)
b)Making games more interactive (ex: giving kids the chance to make their own setup cards/other challenges)
3)Gather beta testers.
4)Gain knowledge of if and how math abilities were strengthened through diagnostic tests and testimonials.
5)Source materials and find manufacturers.
Hop & Waddle
The appearance of the game changed a lot - it became a few inches smaller, making it easier and lighter to transport. The blocks became cubes as I realized sourcing wooden cubes is more feasible than rectangular prisms like I had previously designed, without taking away from the physical feedback I wanted them to provide through their natural heftiness. I also made illustrations of the characters, revised the instructions, and chose new textured paints for blocks.
After redesigning the game, I found 10 beta testers through the museum and personal connections. As 10 was not a large enough quantity to have them manufactured, I hand made them and mailed them out to the families. Before mailing them out, I made diagnostic tests that tested for skills such as spatial recognition, logic, and puzzle solving abilities. These tests were sent out to assess how strong their skills were before playing the game. I did not give the test to 4-year olds, as most 4-year olds have never taken a test before and I thought those results would not be valuable. Instead, their progress was measured by their reactions to problems that arose in the story of the game.
After a few weeks, I sent out a survey to assess feedback. In an effort to make the game more interactive, I also sent out blank set up cards for the children to make up their own levels. The make-your-own-setup cards were a success for about 50% of the kids, and as such, I believe it’s a feature worth keeping. Most parents reported that their kids did seem to get better at the game as they kept playing, but stayed interested as the setups were continually changing. They also found that the levels each card was labeled did match the difficulty of the said level.
Some negative feedback included the fact that instructions were difficult to understand, even for the adults. My plan to alleviate this concern is by making a how-to-play video that parents and kids can access the first time they play. Visual demonstrations are almost always the best tool for learning, as it is a sensorial experience. Another problem is the magnets I used for the blocks. The adhesive was not strong enough and two parents reported that the magnets were falling off.
While waiting for responses from Hop & Waddle I began redesigning what was previously known as “Number Matching.” I consulted a few other designers to get their opinions on colors and fonts and made changes accordingly. I researched how much pricing and materials would cost, and settled for a smaller, thinner design that made the most sense for delivery and functionality. I also gave it a fruit theme and made it competitive and somewhat of a race, which added challenges. Finally, I increased the number of cards from 16 to 49. The one factor of the game I kept the same was the goal of matching consecutive numbers along adjacent borders of cards.
I am testing this game with 15 parents. The first round of responses said that some people ended up tying in their games, so I added new rules to try to prevent that: a) Don’t all draw cards when a player finishes their hand. Instead, only the player who had emptied their hand draws the card. I am waiting for feedback to see if that helps. People also really liked the design and art of the cards!
Another common response was that the 5-year-olds had trouble with the game when they first started. This came as a shock to me:
My guess pre-delivery and while designing was that having lots of numbers on the cards would be overwhelming. People tend to get confused when they see a lot of symbols, and that’s exactly what the cards have. However, I saw this an opportunity. I took a chance thinking that 5-year-olds, who are just like the adults and are easily overwhelmed by the sight of lots of symbols, do ultimately know how to identify numbers and count consecutively. I know that they are capable of doing this from talking to teachers, parents, and studying common core curriculum for this age group. I decided to trust their ability and hoped that if they took a few minutes or a few rounds to slowly deconstruct the symbols (numbers) on the cards piece-by-piece, then they would realize it’s not so hard and ultimately get to focus on the learning goal of the game: to create patterns from numbers. Overcoming this challenge can also help them to look at future problems in a piece-by-piece method.
After several tries, a couple of parents reported that their child did, in fact, grow more accustomed to the game. Not all parents have provided feedback yet.
To further help with number recognition, I decided to slow the game down so that kids have the time to work with parents and really look at and pick apart the cards. I made a collaborative activity with smoothie recipes: You create a continuous chain according to the recipe (no branches), and most chains have between 6-12 cards in them.
While waiting for more feedback from Fruit Wars and Hop & Waddle, I began work on HiBearNation. First I worked with an artist to recreate illustrations from scratch. I am also working with manufacturers to find pricing and get prototypes. Then will send them out to five families - I don’t think this game needs feedback from too many people. I am also working on sourcing character pieces.
During some gaps, I worked on branding Toys 4 Thoughts. I created a logo, which underwent some changes according to feedback from people who were both familiar and people who were unfamiliar with my project. I also created business cards, stickers for each game, and a website. I also have social media accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr where I try to gain followers by posting updates and pictures of beta testers. At the moment my Instagram has the most followers of all three accounts at 50+.
Goals for Spring semester
Nail down materials and manufacturers for HiBearNation
Get in touch with organizations that I can partner with to help raise money and donate games to through crowdfunding.
Gain a larger following for my work through networking with parents, schools, museums, libraries.
Set up online shop or Kickstarter page.