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NewsApr 20, 2018

Students rethink retro with Cardboard Arcade

Undergraduates prototype arcade games through interactive design course

People look at the Plinko-esque "Diddly Discord."

By Georgia Sparling

A magnetized Plinko, Twister/ball toss mashup and a two-person full-body maze were among the innovative games at the third annual Cardboard Arcade.

Each year the Introduction to Interactivity course hosts the event, inviting the Lesley community to test the games. Students were tasked with creating user-friendly games, which they brought from concept to prototype in approximately three weeks.

“It’s a way to get students excited about interactive design, to see what’s possible,” said Associate Professor Heather Shaw, who taught one of two course sections along with faculty member Bryan Rodrigues.

A mother and daughter smile while playing a game.
Zahra Prasad and Nilou Moochhala play "Swimmin' Pigs," a two-person racing game using magnets.

Shaw gave each team in her class a user persona to which they tailored their game. One team was challenged to design a game for a 5-year-old boy with a short attention span. The result was “Pong-It!” Players tried to get rid of all their ping pong balls by rolling them over a hill to the opponent’s side.

It was “wicked fun,” said sophomore Hope Sutton. “There was a lot of hot glue and a lot of trial and error.”

The original idea for the arcade came from Caine Monroy, a 9-year-old arcade enthusiast, who made his own city of handmade cardboard games one summer. The concept went viral and more than 800,000 people have participated in Caine’s cardboard challenge since.

Of the cardboard Rodrigues said, “It’s cheap or it’s free. It’s a good prototyping material. It gives (students) a chance to think about how the game is structured.”

A student points a toy gun at a game while another male student looks on smiling.
Hope Sutton aims at dangerous suspects in the "Just a Walk in The Park" game.

The ultimate goal of Lesley’s Cardboard Arcade, held in the lower level of the Lunder Arts Center, was to test and receive feedback on the designs before the teams translate them into mobile apps.

“I thought it was really fun and creative,” sophomore Thomas Couelle said of the project. “It got me to think about what other people like.”

His team’s Plinko-inspired game, “Diddly Discord,” featured an angled board populated with posts, some magnetized and some not. The goal was to prevent a magnetized ping pong ball from getting caught on the obstacles.

“We added a twist, which is what is getting everyone excited,” said freshman Annabel Sharrin, who also worked on the game.

Two students play an interactive maze game.
Students play the athletic maze game "Expedition: Cosmos."

On “Expedition: Cosmos,” a tabletop-sized maze, players used their whole bodies to maneuver the board back and forth and to tilt it side to side to direct a ball from the start to the finish line. Another game, “Twist n Throw,” had a mini-Twister board. Players rolled dice to determine the color of the square where they would place their feet and then had to crouch down and contort their bodies to throw balls into cups of different sizes.

A girl crouches down on several colored Twister cirlces and throws a ball.
Hope Sutton crouches down to throw a ball for the mashup game "Twist n Throw."

The students and others who dropped by to play were enthusiastic and competitive game testers, and Shaw said she was proud of the teams’ designs.

“Every year I’m blown away,” she said. “They get more complex.”

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