What is Meet Me?

Kids seem to be easily and quickly drawn into screens these days. Some of that time is great, though it’s easy to spend too long or too often in front of the screen. A lot of that screen time is also either passive (watching, zoning out) or competitive (many games, even if just playing against the computer) – which is fine, if part of a balanced diet.

Meet Me is an attempt to create a fun distraction from the screen, in a way that gets kids interacting with each other while playing with technology, as well as encouraging them to apply creative and problem-solving skills to explore and master the game itself.

Meet Me – a cooperative game, made using Arduino.

Meet Me is a cooperative game for 2-to-3 younger players (though big kids enjoy it too!). The digital but non-screen-based nature of the game is surprising and (quote) “cool”. When players learn it’s built using the same electronics equipment that they have access to in school these days (or if not, could get started at home for less than $50, assuming you have access to a computer), it inspires them to imagine what they could create for themselves.

Features:

  • large illuminated arcade-style buttons,
  • speed-control sliders,
  • over six meters of LED strip-lights,
  • three digital displays (score and rounds),
  • an impressive curved and space-themed game board,
  • 5-volt power supply (i.e. a phone charger), and
  • it’s portable.

How do we play?

Suitable for two or three players, or one un-cooperative toddler.

Goal:

  • The goal is to reach a total score of 1000 points (collectively), in as few rounds as possible.

Rules:

  1. In each round, each player controls the firing and speed of one LED ‘bullet’.
  2. If a bullet reaches the top of the board, it will come back towards both other players (i.e. down their LED strips).
  3. When two bullets meet, points are awarded.
  4. Meeting closer to the top of the board gives more points.
  5. The Boost button will give you a momentary speed boost.

How does it work?

The game includes hardware and software components.

Hardware:

  • The main hardware is a couple of Arduino-electronics boards (tiny computers called micro-controllers). Arduino is a popular electronics prototyping platform, widely used in schools, universities and industry.
  • The inputs include buttons (for fire and boost control) and sliders (for speed control). There is also a New Game button and a reset button.
  • The outputs include three strips of LED lights (to animate the bullets), as well as three 7-segment number displays (to show Score, Current Round and Best Rounds). Each LED is individually programmable.

Software:

  • The game rules, modes and flow are programmed in Arduino language (a version of C++).
  • The program is uploaded onto the Arduino micro-controllers.
  • The program waits for user inputs (i.e. button pushes and slider movements), updates game parameters, then displays the current ‘bullet’ positions and Score/Round values. It completes this loop (input-update-display) a few thousand times a second.

How was it made?

The process involved iterative prototyping of both the game-play and electronics, as well as physical-structure aspects.

Game-play and Electronics Design Process:

  • Many play-testing sessions, with friends and family, and iterations to incorporate feedback, as well as a lot of program testing and debugging and experimenting with different electronic components to achieve desired effects.
  • Lots of frustrations, successes and learning by doing!

Physical-Structure Design Process:

  • Sketching and paper prototypes were used to explore options for the physical form of the game, before diving into more detailed design, material selection and construction.
  • The structure was designed in Adobe Illustrator, then marked out and cut by hand.
  • The points display panel was CNC milled, and the title text was cut in vinyl at The Makers community maker-space in Cairns.
  • Click on images below to see more.

These kinds of processes and concepts reflect those outlined in the Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies sections of the Australian Curriculum. We’re teaching this kind of stuff in Year 2 now. How cool!

In hindsight I should have written ‘cooperative’, but ‘collaborative’ is close enough.

Who made it?

I’m Carl, a stay-home-dad and Designer who enjoys making interactive art and games.

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