The Lightning Bug game is a two-person interactive game experience, using costumes embedded with technology, projection on a half dome surface and custom software. The game is designed to have two distinct, interdependent roles — one player shoots and the other collects power — and they both must hold hands in order to transfer power from one player to the other. This is a working prototype of various themes explored when considering costumes as game controllers.
What “Costumes as Game Controllers” addresses and explores: When we play video games, we often play through characters in a story. We control the avatars, create a relationship with them and experience the game through them. But what happens when we dress up in costume? Can we start to play the role of the avatar? And what happens when we then embed technology into the costumes that allow us to navigate and play through the game experience through the costumes? Would it draw them into a more compelling, fully-realized world? I believe costumes can be a powerful tool that can help the player play a role and posses characteristics and behavior the player normally wouldn’t.
We can already see examples of this kind of immersive experience in live-action role playing games and cosplay—an expression of the desire to fully inhabit a character in the story. While, of course, the mechanics of a game are also important, I believe that this act of stepping into a role, transforming from regular person to fantastical hero with superpowers, is also a crucial process to consider when creating an immersive experience. Culturally, the act of putting on a costume is often seen as a process of transformation; costumes can signify sense of power that wasn’t there before — think of Superman and Wonder Woman. In combination with costumes, ritualized gestures can also help the process of transformation—as in this transformation scene from the “Kamen Rider” Japanese television series.
Gameplay and Physical Interaction: For the last several years my objective has been to make games which utilize technology to encourage face to face interaction. While many digital interactions of today are face-to-screen and can seem isolating, I ultimately believe that technology is a tool that it can be harnessed to enhance face-to-face interactions. The Lightning Bug game requires two players to cooperate with each other in order to battle the Dark Clouds. During the game, players will rely not only on communicating through talking, but also through eyes, body language and touch. It can be said that in this game, technology becomes a secondary element that helps to amplify the ultimate objective of the game — to create an exciting, immersive face-to-face game experience.
Both players have distinctively different roles they are fulfilling in the game. One player plays the role of the shooter, wearing a spikey gauntlet, while the other player plays the role of the collector, accumulating power in the power capsule back pack. In order to distribute the power from the power capsule to the shooter, the players must hold hands. In order to detonate bombs which momentarily stun the enemy, the players must embrace to charge. These examples of physical interaction in order to execute certain actions in the game is a key feature to emphasize the interdependency needed to win the game.
Collaboration between Art & Science: I am collaborating with Dr. Katherine Isbister, Director at the NYU-Poly Game Innovation Lab and Associate Professor in the Computing Science Department, on this project. Her area of expertise and research is in Human Computer Interaction (HCI), especially in the video game context. Our collaboration explores ways in which Art and Science can work together and be mutually beneficial. Katherine invited me in 2012, to become the Artist in Residence at the lab.
Documentation of Process:
- Notes regarding the process and various adventures in development can be found here.
- Fabric half dome making instructions will be found here (not posted yet!).
- Some initial brainstorming sketches:
- Mobile phone photos of process: