Parrot: a game for Ipad
Parrot is a two player collaborative iPad game for children with learning differences. Created for my 4th thesis project, it is an iPad game that utilizes the touch screen with quick and fun games. The games all include components used in the classroom setting optimized for reading, spelling, and writing difficulties.
Jake and Chris test the first version of Parrot
One of the more common methods of practice used to familiarize children with the alphabet is letter recognition games. As a child I remember we rubbed shaving cream on our desks and drew letters into the cream with our fingers while saying the letter out loud. From the beginning of this process, I knew I wanted to utilize the touch capabilities of the iPad to outline letters.
The user sees the letter and must outline it with their finger. However, after implementing I found that the user struggled to outline the entire letter properly due to missing certain parts of the letter area. This broke the user experience, it made the user feel like the game was broken and get frustrated.
Have the outlined result be the same colour as the background. By making the letter essentially “disappear”, the user felt the urge to outline the entire letter and the game would continue on. An additional aspect of this was that the user loved the feeling of essentially “erasing” the letter.
Final solution with erasing effect and timer
To compete or not compete?
Children who experience difficulty reading, writing, and/or spelling tend to have lower self esteem. This is usually a result of feeling behind in the classroom and not relating to their peers. I wanted this game to be fun and not make any child feel as though they were worse or better. So how do you make a 2 player game for children, with learning differences, and not make it competitive?
Make a two player game that utilizes collaborative learning by having the children play together to reach a common goal. With both children on either side of the iPad, 2 player Parrot flips the puzzles back and forth between the two children. They’re both under the same timer and are working together to get a high score as opposed to working against each other.
The image below was taken at the Emily Carr grad show. The three boys were, to my surprise, taking turns playing 1st player Parrot and seeing who could complete the most games in the 30 second time period. So even with two-player collaborative learning capabilities, the boys wanted to compete with each other for the highest score.
Positive vs Negative Feedback
Positive vs Negative feedback. How do you help a child improve when they answer something incorrectly or make a mistake with out making them feel as though they’ve failed?
The “negative” reactions in the game are gentle. When a child drags and drops a number in the incorrect box or clicks a wrong letter .. the number will move back to its original spot and the letter will just be replaced with an x. My goal was to minimize the amount of negative feedback. To further this, I wanted to create tons of positive feedback. Every time a child answers a single game correctly, they’re greeted with “awesome!” “great job!” etc responses. Mainly just to ad a bit of personality to the game and show the user they’re on the right track.
Timing is everything
How to have a game that basically has only positive feedback and little to no competition, while keeping it entertaining? A timer.
During my research phase, a number of users asked me “Why would you make the game timed?” “Wont’ this make the child feel rushed or nervous?.”
I felt as though a timed game in a demo setting would further the feeling of gaming. However, wanting to avoid kids feeling uncomfortable, I decided to take out the numeral counter. Nothing is counting down and nothing is counting up. Instead, I created a fluid white marker that slowly moves up the screen as the user plays. It’s hardly noticeable and in my user testing, many users did not see it until they had played it a few times.
Quality over Quantity
With limited resources and a strict time frame to build the game, I wanted to have a set number of games the kids could play. I created seven individual “brain training” games. Each of these are different in the way it utilizes different aspects of Dyslexia and each one brings something new to the table. The issue was, how do you have seven short games repeating over a 30 second period and have the user still feel interested?
Each game cycles through five to ten different variations. I found that by having the games repeat but change in subject matter was solving a few issues. 1) This method kept the users attention. 2) Most importantly, this method helped the children learn the game though repetition. Once they realized they needed to outline the letter, it became easier to recognize the letter R or the letter B and enjoy the action of playing the game rather then the action of learning how to play the game.