Project Name: Fishing With Friends
Company/Affiliation: Northwestern University
Role(s): Programmer / Co-Designer
Programming Language(s): Google Dart Language
Technology Stack: Google Dart Webapp compilied to HTML/CSS/JS for touch table application. Cordova used for iOS Port.
Fishing with Friends (FwF) is a multi-player game aimed to educate players about sustainable fishing. Tested with guests of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, FwF was made for a large touch-table environment and developed to foster competitive and cooperative play. FwF was also ported to iOS and is available on the App Store for use on iPads.
Design Challenges: One of the major challenges in creating a commercial fishing simulation game was developing an ecosystem model that effectively communicated the inter-weaved relationships between prey, predators, and over fishing. Initial prototypes of the game used complex ecosystem energy models to control fish population growth. These models, although accurate and reflective of real world behavior, they did not do a good job of visually highlighting the impact of fishing. In some cases the changes were too subtle for testers to notice, while in others times the fishing caused the ecosystem to collapse so quickly users were unable to recognize the impact of their actions. In the end, the complex ecosystem was scrapped in favor of a more user / educational friendly model that responded directly to user actions.
Programming Challenges: Although a rather technically simple application, one for the biggest challenges was creating a platform that allowed for easy iteration. The design of the game was constantly changing, including massive structural changes to the UI as well as a number of overhauls to the ecosystem simulation system. As a result the application was built in very compartmentalized manner. This approach proved extremely useful when it came time to port the web application to iOS via Cordova, as assets where easily swappable and required little code change.
The study on FwF educational value and topical impact was part of ACM’s Interaction Design and Children conference in 2015 and can be read here.
Keywords: dartlang, game design, education, research