All of our playtesting and months of refinement paid off. Yamove was finally launched last month at this year’s third annual NYU “No Quarter” gaming exhibit on May 18th and at the World Science Festival in New York City on June 2nd. People loved the dance-off battle aspect of the game and the way the rounds brought strangers together in synchronized movement.
In designing the game, I wanted the flow of the dance rounds to be very fluid and fast-paced so that people would lose their inhibitions about dancing in front of others and would feel a competitive edge take over. It’s really challenging to get people to feel comfortable dancing in public, especially among gamers, so I wanted to design a game that encourages friends and strangers to ‘team up’ and form spur-of-the-moment social bonds based on dance battle frenzy.
The game is built on iOS and uses vector data from the accelerometer to measure team dance performance across three areas: synchronicity (togetherness), intensity (energy), and diversity (creativity of gestures). In our playtests, I found that people were getting frustrated when they didn’t have immediate feedback about their level of performance against these three measures during the dance rounds, so in the final game design we really tried to give players simple, real-time feedback about these aspects as they moved on the dance floor. Over a series of tests, we deduced that players liked to see this real-time feedback about every 7 seconds or so.
Designing a physical game based on people’s body movements and gestures is definitely challenging, mostly because people aren’t used to mentally combining technology and human kinetics in every day life. These two mental spaces are not seamlessly connected in our brains yet because we don’t have a lot of tools and applications out there in today’s world that are designed to do this well for us. We still don’t associate the two worlds as one experience, and so it takes a lot of user testing to design a game or product that merges these two into one smooth experience. A few products have done this very well, such as the iPhone’s finger touch display which changed the way people interact with flat screens across many environments. The Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Kinect, and Google Goggles have not done this in the same way as the iPhone’s revolutionary mark, but these products have started to trigger the average consumer’s interest in wanting to try new experiences that combine technology and physical movement. With Yamove, it was very difficult to design the entry point for the game in order to get people moving around, and I still think this is the greatest challenge with the game — once people are used to moving their bodies around then it becomes easy to introduce other interactions, but the first challenge is really how to get people to make that first physical movement with their arms and legs.
Similar to the immersive water installation I designed in 2010, Channels, I believe the best way to help people overcome these mental blocks that separate our thinking between technology and physical movement is to design a user experience that “feels” intuitive from the start, like a natural response that we already do in our everyday lives, so that we don’t let the tendency to over-think the interaction creep up on us. Channels uses people’s familiar tendencies towards water, for example our instinct to want to dip our hands in the cool liquid and our curious desire to want to paddle and push the water around in a tub, to drive the user interactions with the product. When people see a puddle of water on the ground, they want to step in it and splash it around with their feet – same thing with water in a tub – when people see water in a tub and hear relaxing soothing sounds from nature, they want to put their hands in the water and feel it run through their fingers. After a few minutes of playing with Channels, people are shocked that playing with electricity and water can be so calming because normally we don’t let our minds and bodies relax when we think of combining electricity and water – we think of danger. People at the Channels exhibit exclaimed to me “Wow, I can’t believe this experience is so calming and how much it reminds me of my childhood memories of being on the water.” Building new experiences on top of familiar human interactions and mediums is the best entry point for combining the two worlds of technology and physical movement.
Yamove! is a cooperative dance-off game in the style of a street dance battle that uses tech to augment a true face-to-face dance experience. Players compete in pairs, aiming for high intensity, in-synch, diverse dance routines. Each player wears an iOS device strapped to an arm–teams battle to win best of 3 dance rounds. The game is hosted by an MC and results are displayed on a big screen.