Land of Lernin
As a graduate game design student at the Academy of Art University, I chose to do my thesis on creation a suite of educational and cognition mobile games. Through this project, it was my mission to create an alternative to traditional study tactics and to create a fun and engaging way to learn. The Land of Lernin is a fictional universe where the main characters of each of my games coexist. Uno from the Uno Toddler App, Mr. Sandman from Sleepy Sandman, and Pandie from Jetpack Pandie. The Uno Toddler App is a suite of toddler-suited game modes that focus on improving basic cognitive skills. Sleepy Sandman is a math game where players solve arithmetic equations. Jetpack Pandie is a Flappy Bird-inspired flashcard game where players can learn or study traditional Chinese characters.
Uno Toddler App
COGNITION SKILL APP FOR TODDLERS
I wanted to explore different types of learning and how an approach through mobile design and development can be adapted to fit the needs of the audience. At a toddler’s age, the brain develops quickly and absorbs information like sponge. In their simplest forms, games are binary- meaning there is a positive interaction and a negative interaction. The positive could be gaining a point, whereas, a negative could be subtracting a point. For the purposes of this app, I opted to not introduce any negative stimuli so as to not discourage users of the app, but instead to use the absence of the positive stimuli as the negative interaction point.
With any product, understanding a user is integral to a product’s success. My first version of the Uno Toddler App proved too difficult for the average toddler to comprehend. My mistake was assuming that a toddler would understand the difference between the frame that was Uno’s face and the buttons on screen. Because Uno’s face has animations, there was a natural reaction to try and touch Uno’s face, and not the static buttons.
On all the game modes on the first version, Uno’s face was always in the box in the top half of the screen. The second version of the Uno Toddler App only shows Uno’s face on the main menu screen and as a smaller mini-button at the top-left of each game mode to visually communicate that the main menu is Uno’s face and to navigate back, just click on the buttons with Uno’s face on it.
On the game modes, the top-half is used to show the results of the buttons that are pressed. For example, on the number mode, the numbers will show up individually as the user presses them and will read out the number as well.
CATCHING SHEEP FOR THE SAKE OF MATH
Sleepy Sandman is an endless runner mobile game that focuses on improving basic math skills for children ages 4-8. Users play as Mr. Sandman, who is sleepy and needs help counting sheep. To count the sheep, users will have to solve the equation that spawns at the top of Mr. Sandman’s hat and catch the sheep with the correct answer. The objective of the game is to try and collect as many sheep as you can and to build up the sheep train behind Mr. Sandman. However, there are rams that will run across the sky that will try to knock Mr. Sandman out of the sky and will also knock a sheep out of line. Some game mechanics that will be released are special shield power-ups and improved instructions or tutorials on how to play the game.
My goal, from a development standpoint, was to practice coding in Swift. My goal, as a game designer, was to help players practice basic math skills using reaction time and speed as indicators of player progress. The final stages of this game was to eventually ramp up the speed in which the avatar would "run" and increase the number values for more difficult math problems.
CHINESE VOCABULARY FLASHCARD GAME
A gamified take on the typical flashcard study process, this game is designed to help users memorize traditional Chinese characters in form of a Flappy Bird-inspired game. Like Flappy Bird, this game requires users to constantly tap the screen to make the character, Pandie the panda bear, fly higher or lower. Pandie is holding a chalkboard, where images will show up. Along the game level, various traditional Chinese characters will float around in bubbles. To get points, players will have to pop the Chinese character bubble that matches the image on Pandie’s chalkboard. Flappy Bird is a somewhat unforgiving game – I didn’t want to punish the player for colliding with the wrong bubble.
I thought it would be more beneficial if users could learn from their mistakes. When a player collides with a bubble that is not a match, that character bubble will turn into its image counterpart so users can see what that Chinese character matched. By revealing the answer, players can learn through basic visual connections and association. The game rewards the player for getting a match by using a basic point system. If a player matches five correct in a row, then Pandie will tell the player, “Good Job!” to encourage the player. Some features that are still being thought out are: special power-ups and game difficulty settings.