In Intro to HCI our class formed teams of 4 tasked with finding a problem space within the theme "Connected Campus." Our project chose to explore a set of games we termed "Mass Spatial Games" referring to their in person gameplay over a large spatial area. We specifically focused on a week-long variant of tag called Humans vs Zombies. We first researched the game itself, then developed designs to help increase players' immersion, ultimately building a prototype that we tested with a mini-game on campus to gather feedback
Humans vs Zombies (HvZ) is a campus wide game of tag played over the course of a week. Each game has a slightly different backstory, but all follow the same thread of a viral outbreak affecting humanity. All players start out as humans, as denoted by a yellow bandanna on their arm, except for one who is infected. As they tag other players, the infection spreads. The humans, armed with socks and marshmallow guns, stun zombies and complete missions throughout the week to try and survive until the finale, in which they have one final mission to escape the infection!
In our group of four, I was the only person who had played HvZ before, so to the group HvZ was relatively unknown. Our main task was to find a problem in the space we identified using a User Centered Design approach, and that means our first step was user research.
To get a better sense of the space we were researching, we started by interviewing 5 game "admins" - these people are in charge of running the game. The interviews were semi-structured meaning we had a set of questions to start with, but were focused on exploring the space and learning as much as we can. We took the insights from all the interviews and collected our thoughts in an Affinity Diagram
Diagramming surfaced several interesting insights. We found we originally assumed that all players would play both sides of the game as intended: instead we found that some players would "rage quit" once tagged, or "suicide" in the beginning of the game to become zombies earlier. Stress is a major factor of the game and careful management of stress is key to a successful experience. Finally the admins expressed that the tagging interaction was sub-optimal and had room for improvement. Armed with this information, we got ready to play the game itself.
For the game week itself, we chose to use as many methods as possible to gather data about the game. Two of our researchers volunteered to ethnographically study the game by playing it themselves. One was tagged the first day, while the other made it to Thursday, giving us a pretty good sense of both sides as the evolved. In addition to ethnography, we deployed a pre-game and post-game survey, as well as a diary study which yielded amazing quotes among other things: see the personas. Additionally myself and another research conducted interviews and observed players interactions during the week. At then end we had a mountain of data which led us to our second affinity mapping to make sense of it all.
After getting a sense of what themes had emerged, we individually generated approximately 10 unique ideas that we then shared with each other and brainstormed with. The process led us to filter the themes down to four major categories: Audience Participation, Communication Wearable, Stun Tracker, and Location Control. We presented posters with these four concepts to our class mates, and with their feedback chose to move forward with the Stun Tracker, coupled with elements of Location Control.
The main idea with the stun tracker is to give the humans more agency in their game play. That is, currently the game only rewards humans for avoiding play as much as possible. Our persona for this time of play is the Human Mole, and while it generally allows the player to survive, we found that it wasn't as fun for the mole, or the zombies. Our solution has two parts. First we will give all players stun coins to carry with them. Humans will receive one, where zombies will receive a fixed amount for the day. When a human is stunned, the zombie will take their coin, simplifying the tag interaction and keeping the players immersed. When a human stuns a zombie, they can (at their own risk) collect a stun coin from the zombie. The "Kill Board" for zombies, which tracks the network and number of kills for each person, is a central feature of the game that has a huge appeal due to bragging rights. The stun coins allow humans to have a similar board, showing who is the best "Zombie Killer." Additionally, the limited number of coins that zombies will have will serve to limit their lives, causing them to be more tactical in their attacks.
The next phase of our project is to prototype the coin collection interaction, and then to test it with a miniature version of the game. Please check back to see the results of our prototype and evaluation!