Game On! A Workshop at IIT

The teams spent the last 4 hours cutting, gluing, wiring, drawing, learning and coding to end the day with working, playable games.

January 4, 2010
Reading Time
4 minutes


I taught a workshop with Anijo Mathew in October at the Illinois Institute of Technology on prototyping in electronics or “sketching in hardware.”  The class was a variation on a concept created by IDEO’s Haiyan Zhang called “Game On!”  The idea is to demonstrate how fast the participants can move from concept to interactive prototype.  It’s incredible what people with little to no previous experience can achieve in the span of a few hours.  We constrain the workshop to the creation of a game because it allows people to be silly, excited and not over complicate the challenge.

Sketching in Hardware

Sketching is a tool for conveying and capturing the right level of information as quickly as possible. When designing for interactive systems there is often value to bringing sketching off of the notepad and realizing the interaction in technology. In this workshop you will be introduced to a set of tools (in this case, Arduino + Flash/Actionscript) and will break into teams to create a game that incorporates a variety of physical interactions.

In the workshop, we had a bunch of electronic sensors that were plugged into a prototyping board called Arduino.  The Arduino was plugged into the computer with a USB cable that allows the sensors to control a game on the screen.  We started the day getting Arduino working with Adobe Flash on everyone’s computer.  After everyone got it working we split into groups and started brainstorming ideas for games.  The teams spent the last 4 hours cutting, gluing, wiring, drawing, learning and coding to end the day with working, playable games.  Check out the games they made and some technical details after the jump.

The Games:

Lion Vs. Pig:

This game uses Arduino connected to potentiometers, distance sensors and an arcade button.  The pig tries to eat the lettuce, and the Lion tries to eat the pig.  The pig can hide from the Lion behind the barn.  The position of the animals is controlled with the distance sensors and sliders, while the lettuce is randomly placed with the arcade button.

Singing Glass:

This uses a rotary touch strip to control the pitch that the wine glass makes.  When the pitch is high enough for a period of time, the glass breaks.

Kick the Cat:

This game uses Arduino connected to a flex sensor taped to a force sensor.  The player bends the end of the flexible sensor assembly backwards like a catapult to determine the angle and squeezes to control the power.  When he/she releases, the shoe kicks the cat.  The objective is to get the cat into the trash can.  The force sensor/flex sensor control was really fun, unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of it.  You can see the control on the bottom left of the video.

Soccer Shoot Out:



This game uses a three axis accelerometer (like the Wii) taped to the player’s shoe.  the movement of the player’s kick controls whether the ball will go into the goal or not.

Check out what the students had to say on their blog at The New Idiom.

The Details:

We had a bunch of sensors to choose from and each team of 3 had an Arduino Board.  We loaded some software called Firmata onto the Arduino boards that allowed us to do all the programming within Flash.  The Flash library for communicating with Firmata on Arduino is called as3glue.  We took the “simpleIO” example from as3glue and used that as a starting point.  The last piece of software is Serproxy (downloaded from Arduino site), which passes the messages from the USB connection into Flash.

As the teams were coding I would ask if they got stuck on anything and would make examples to help them out.  I posted all of my materials including the examples here.  I borrowed a bunch of office supplies from IDEO to use as props, but the props work much better when I have brought a bin of old junky toys, pipe cleaners, foam, clay, etc.

Sensor list for Sparkfun: (in order of importance)

IR Distance Sensors, Jumper Wires

Rotary Potentometers, Knobs

Slide Potentiometers, Sliders

Arcade buttons (Blue, Green, Pink, Yellow)

Light Sensors:

Flex sensors


50 cm touch strips

Rotary touch strips

Wii Nunchucks, Wii Nunchuck Adapters:

Force Sensors

Capacitive Touch Sensors

Motion Sensors

Color Sensors

Dave Vondle