Aaron, T.K., and I are interested in behavior associated with reward – that is, the reasons why a person does certain things in light of a future payoff. To this end we have devised a game wherein the players compete for a future reward. The playing of the game, however, significantly interferes with their normal behavior, and it is our goal to investigate what makes such a game “worth it” to the dedicated player by implementing Time Wars, a winner-takes-all game to be played on the ITP floor.
In Time Wars, linear time is broken down into units of 10 minutes called intervals. Players can check in during each interval to receive a point for that interval (e.g. a check-in between 9:00am and 9:10am counts as one point). They do so by tapping their NYU student ID card to an RFID reader connected to an Arduino Yún which logs the check-in for that player. Players can only receive one point per interval (players cannot check in multiple times per interval to earn more points). Note that once an interval has passed, the point for that interval can never again be scored by any player, so there is no way to score points faster than the progression of time itself. This is why it is important to check in during as many intervals as possible.
One purposeful game design mechanic is that the gameplay is extremely disruptive, especially at ITP, where the state of being “in the zone” is often an albatross. This means that a dedicated player has to give up certain responsibilities in order to participate. Furthermore, the game cannot be played outside of ITP; its inherent physicality tethers it to the floor. We proved this concept two weeks ago when we created an online-only version of the game and tested it ourselves. T.K. checked in as late as 4:00am, which would near impossible to do in the physical game (not totally impossible, though).
Currently our system consists of a database (MongoDB), front-end (Node.js + Handlebars.js), microcontroller (Arduino Yún), and physical sensor (RFID reader). The database is ready, the front-end is nearly there, the microcontroller is reading and writing the database, and the RFID reader is nearly hooked up. We anticipate Friday we should have the components fully worked out, and will be able to officially launch the game at ITP, using the following days to analyze and fine-tune.