ReBlok’s intention with Vukuzenzele was always to test the application of gameplay and how it results in implementation. Over 18 months, a process of site selection, community engagement, bespoke game level design and iterative design took place, resulting in the reblocking of AT Section in Khayelitsha.
Some of the world’s leading disruptive technologies are being developed in the video games industry. It’s well-documented that the demand for improved graphics and sound for games was one of the key drivers of the exponential development of these technologies through the 80s and 90s. Today, hot trends such virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning all either have their roots in, or have seen major innovations come from, the video game industry.
Designing games for resource-constrained communities
A summary of key takeaways from research conducted with young people in Khayelitsha.
During the Serious About Games competition lead-up in 2016/17, participants were encouraged to engage with marginalised young people through pop-ups and feedback sessions. This process drew attention not only the significant impact that user engagement has on game design, but also to the lack of resources documenting the gaming practices of young people in resource constrained communities. While studies such as PWC’s Entertainment and Media Outlook 2017 – 2021 provide a high-level overview of market trends, it does not offer insight into the ways in which diverse young people access and consume digital games.
In response, the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) – in collaboration with 67 Games – set out to address this knowledge gap through primary research conducted in Khayelitsha.
If you’re in services, for most businesses that will be your clients, the key objective is not to educate or entertain, but to change behaviour. If you’re developing your own product, influencing how users react to and interact with your product is probably top of mind. Enter behavioural science. In early 2019, Serious About Games held a workshop with game developers and design professionals on behavioural science: Organisations around the world are embracing the discipline, and games and gamification fit into the behavioural science toolbox. Sebastian Thompson of Gravity Ideas facilitated the session, which looked to help participants articulate the value proposition of gamification to their clients, using behavioural science tools and techniques.
There have been many articles and papers addressing the design of serious games to be effective at teaching, both from a more academic perspective and from designers’ experiences. Serious About Games has been more interested in exploring how local studios can build consistent revenue streams from serious games – with working use cases a critical factor in securing repeat business, of course. With the Serious About Games case studies, we wanted to give insight into the business case for serious games as well as what it takes to produce and deploy them effectively. Our approach was to interview a studio and their client for a flagship serious games product, looking at what motivated the client to commission a serious game (as opposed to other media / approaches), how the process was managed, and lessons learned by both parties.
Vukuzenzele is a reblocking simulation housed within an interactive cabinet that has allowed a community within AT Section in Khayelitsha to reconfigure the layout of its informal settlement and meet the competition’s goal of ‘reimagining communities’. Among other challenges, the Reblok team had to work out how to gather accurate data in order to develop a to-scale representation of AT Section within the game – and that’s where the drone came in…