Mahjong Addict - course project
The goal of the design is to build a gesture-based embodied game to support social, efficient and inspiring mahjong learning process for Chinese university students who want to learn the game. Thus, our game simulates real mahjong circumstances to demonstrate the whole play progress. Players are presented a certain number of tiles based on the game rule and then follow the rule to play the game. The game includes several main functions which include game introduction, rule description, game sequence training, special rules training, game strategy training, conflict-solving discussion and wining method training. Functions corresponds to mahjong's key playing methods efficiently to make game beginners recognise and be familiar with the game rules and strategies.
I was the team leader, interaction designer, and user researcher in the project. I was also in charge of video editting work.
How It Works
The project is a gesture-based embodied game, which allows multi-players to interact with the system by making different gestures. All participants look at the same tiles and respond to the same condition. Players are asked to make a choice based on the questions and then use gestures to show their answers. The system will compare player's gestures and generate the corresponding feedback. If all participants imitate the same gesture on the screen, the game goes to the next level. If not, they will have a discussion about their intended choices.
Users Interacting with Mahjong Addict
The participants of the game not only include beginners but also mahjong experts. Distinguishing each player's gesture, the system will leave time for players to discuss their choice and thoughts if they made different choices. By discussing, beginners and experts can share the reason of their choices and learn game strategies which provide players, especially beginners, a useful approach to learn the game rules and know how to play the game efficiently.
The prototype is designed by using Unity3D game engine with a Kinect camera. The Kinect camera as the main input device could detect people's body gestures and then transfer the data to the computer. The game application compares all user's gestures and then display the result on the main screen.
The most interesting thing I found during the design process was that participants did not want to be notified with many hints, in contrast to most existing solutions. Instead, they value the individual thinking process and regard it as the fun part of the game.
We invited target users to experience the learning process of mahjong in different settings, including the current practice and different levels of support from bodystorming prototypes. Later on, the participant was asked to compare the experience in the post-test interview. It was a bit disappointing to see that the participant preferred the current solution - without any technological assistance. But we reasoned about it in the subsequent interview and modified our design, which was proved to be better than the initial design.
The above-mentioned finding can hardly be obtained from academic resources, analysis of existing products, or other research methods away from the field. Ethnographic studies offer us an opportunity to get an understanding of the user and the context. It is more likely for designers to gain some real insights based on a direct access to the user and the context.
However, a potential pitfall is that it requires time and preparation to apply such method. It was hard, and in fact, we were not able to conduct the experiment for several rounds. More grounded insights can be expected if more resources (time, energy, access to target users, etc.) are allowed.
In my future career, whether in industry or academia, I think I would always remind myself that I should listen to users about their experience. Although analytic work is important, involving users in the design process is key in human-centred design.