Midterm Game Proposal

The game I have in mind is too complex for the midterm. It will be possible to pull back a bit for the sake of having something done in two weeks, but for now I’m going to employ blue sky thinking in my description.

The issue I want to build my game around is one that I explored as a part of my final project last semester: the desire of folks who have left the military to return and, for those who have experience with deployed environments, to return to them. It seems crazy, and is really hard to vocalize, but there are many examples where people have attempted to do it. Jenny Pacanowski did a great job in her poem We Are Not Your Heroes. Natalie Lovejoy’s musical, Deployed, centers around this tension as it plays out for one soldier. Ben Fountain wrote about this issue, and how civilians contribute to it (oftentimes with good intentions), in his novel Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. I’d like to try and capture it in an arcade game.

Here’s a sketch of the game. Forgive my limited artistic ability:


It’ll have several elements: the character, a crowd chasing him, a plane dropping yellow ribbons on him, and a background. I’ve been playing with the idea of a progression through the sprites I made:


These took FOREVER, so I don’t have any additional sprites this week. I envision the background slowly shifting from suburban America to the desert, and congratulating the player on making it home when the transformation is complete. This seems complicated to implement, but the message is pretty dependent on being able to create this in the game.

For a controller, I may make a more polished version of my bag. I’m also playing with the scrubbing of a boot controlling speed of the player. We’ll see what works out before the midterm.


A Thousand Words: interactive, visual storytelling

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 2.02.30 PM

There’s a lot to write about the power of storytelling, and within that the power of telling a story visually. I arrived at the concept of sending stills from the webcam to tell a story because I thought it represented the most powerful potential of a technology that doesn’t seem to have much power.

This week, I ended up making pretty much no changes to the in-class javascript, and instead tried to give it a new context through the use of HTML and CSS. I want to make a separate canvas for each user connected appear at the bottom, but had trouble making that code work.

I think this concept has a lot of potential if I choose to build off it as a midterm or final project.

The Divide: a chat interface for a militaristic society


In America, the military and civilian worlds exist with extremely little overlap. That’s a massive problem for those few (extremely few, 0.5% of the population few) who have to suffer the consequences of the ignorance arising from this gap. In expanding on the chat example, I wanted to try and create something that would make a statement about this divide and the need to reduce it. Continue reading

Design of Everyday Things, Tech Journal

Reflection on The Design of Everyday Things

This reading packed a lot into it, and there were lots of things that stood out.

I found it really interesting how it overlapped with last week’s reading by fleshing out in lots of detail the ways in which computing has and continues to be shaped by a machine-first orientation. We’re trained to blame ourselves if we fail to use a tool correctly, rather than blaming the design. It’s so ingrained we don’t even give it much thought anymore, and the reading did a great job of bringing the concept back to the fore. He does a great job of advocating for a more human-centered orientation to design.

I’ve explored positive psychology as a thing to a great extent (I’ll bring a great book on it to class this next week!), but never thought about it in relation to design and technology. I’m a HUGE advocate of the sort of orientation shift the author talks about in transforming the concept failure into learning experiences. As designers and as humans, failure is part of the process and of life. It’s so easy to let failure break our morale and motivation to continue down a certain path, but by reconsidering the role failure plays in the larger picture, we can start to use it as fuel for the opposite.

I also really liked the example on page 43 of the drill and the hole. It’s a powerful metaphor to describe the complexity that needs to be navigated in the creation of successful design. People don’t need a drill, they need a hole. But what do they need the hole for? What do they need what they need the hole for? And so it goes back, with each iteration allowing the designer to better understand the problem and, from there, to design a better solution.

Tech Journal

The technologies I used over the week, and descriptions of the mind and body contexts involved in their use.

tech journal

Week 2 – Take Your Pills

Take Your Pills is a static 2D game that looks to critique the healthcare system veterans navigate. There are lots of things I could do to expand this out. I’d like to add audio. The reason there isn’t sound this week is as much conceptual as technical – though we haven’t really learned much about including audio, I’m also not yet sure what kind of audio would be most appropriate to this project. I’m also interested in somehow portraying the consequences of overmedication through game mechanics – perhaps speed could slowly decrease with each pill caught, or the movement directions could randomly remap between the four arrow keys each time a pill is caught.

I wanted to implement a scoreboard that would keep track of the number of each of the six medications the user had caught, but got very frustrated as I tried to set it up and eventually decided to leave it for a future week.

Play it here.

Inspiration – (Re)Creating the Experience of War

As a lot of folks at ITP already know through my past work, I care deeply about reducing the gap between military and civilian in America. There are two projects that are on the older end but have proven to be incredible inspirations to me for quite some time. I can’t pick one or the other, so I’m going to write about both.

Wafaa Bilal – Domestic Tension (2007)


Domestic Tension is a performance by Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi-American artist who created the piece to bring the very distant war in Iraq front and center for those here. For a month, he lived in a studio space with a paintball gun pointed at him. Anyone could connect to the gun via the internet and move/fire it. Additionally, an online platform allowed for discussion and comments, some of which ended up being terribly racist and some of which were supportive and contemplative. It can be very difficult to conceive of life as a civilian in a war zone. This project help bring the reality of living in a space during an invasion front and center.

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) – Operation First Casualty (2000s)

Another project responding to the Iraq War, and doing so by attempting to bring the realities of war front and center to Americans, was Operation First Casualty. Members of IVAW wore their uniforms in large American cities and simulated some of the operations they participated in while in Iraq (using actors to stand in for civilians and enemy combatants). Again, the project asked observers to consider what life would be like if this were a daily reality.

In America, the military plays a massive role in our social fabric. It’s arguably our largest and most pervasive social institution, but most have little conception of what military service and war are like. Though it will never be possible to have a perfect understanding without serving, closing the gap between military and civilian is an incredibly important step in developing more healthy relationships between society and military. The above projects are inspiring examples of this that I have long admired and carry with me in my own work.

Week 1 – Unity Movie Scene

Prior to starting this scene, I had tried to go through the “Survival Shooter” tutorial on the Unity website. It went smoothly until near the very end, where it kept telling me one of the variables referenced an instance of an object that didn’t exist or something like that. I spent a long time trying to fix it, and got the same error when I scrapped it and rebuilt it using the finished scripts they included with the assets. It was incredibly frustrating, and did not make me want to spend a bunch of time on Unity creating my own project this week.

I used the desert environment from the movie ‘The Fall.’ The entire film is very environmental, and there are lots of other scenes that would have worked great and been more complex. As it is, I put together what I could. I plan to devote more time to my own creations in the future.

Play through the scene here.

Week 1 Reflections

On Class

I enjoyed class a lot. Though I think the material of the course will be very different from typical ITP fare in a lot ways, at its core it seems to reflect the values of ITP better than most.

As ITPers, we have the power to design the future in many ways, and that means we have the power to influence the future through our designs (a terrifying thought when you consider the responsibility that comes with that!). To me, ITP as a whole is about bringing interaction and engagement to the fore of design considerations, and Muscle appears to be a course with a parallel mission.

The sign circle was an interesting alternative to the typical introduction. It provided insight into each of us not only through what our own sign looked like, but how we performed each other’s signs as well. It helped me get comfortable with the class and my peers in it very quickly, which is a plus.

The exercise in which we broke down our own movements as we prepared for the day was awesome, especially when I thought about how many sub-movements were involved in each larger one. Insane!

Finally, the 10 minute speed learn-a-movement-style exercise showed me just how complex a lot of systems of movement are. It was almost like learning a new language!

On the Reading

The way Dourish traces the history of the development of computation as it relates to human capability is really great. There were a lot of moments where points were made that weren’t necessarily the main argument, but which stuck out to me nonetheless.

One was the discussion of computer time vs. user time, and the durability of privileging computer time even as computers have become much faster. As Dourish mentions, this is indicative of a design process that is disconnected from the user. I found it interesting because computers are already fast; changing this would mostly just require a shift in the way we think about designing.

Another tiny piece of the reading that stuck out to me was how much computational innovation arrived to the greater public by way of the military. This is incredibly problematic, and is a small part of larger issues about what we prioritize as a country. I find it tragic that technological development and cutting edge research is so often being focused in the military realm, and constantly wonder what sorts of amazing things could come from so much time, talent, and money being devoted to other spaces.

Understanding the past and why certain decisions were made is crucial to making better ones moving forward. As much as past innovators were trying to improve how humans work with computers (and they did accomplish this in a lot of ways, I don’t mean to minimize their work), they limited themselves in how they saw what computers could and should be. I would hope we can do a better job in our future work.

Week 1: Interactive Self-portrait

The concept of an interactive self-portrait using HTML 5 video and JavaScript was really weird for me to think about. I ended up going with the concept of contradictions I perceived in personality and life choices, but struggled a lot with the technology that I didn’t manage much by way of content. It was weird to move from p5 to library-less code, and the w3 documentation is MASSIVE and more difficult to navigate in comparison to p5. I managed to get video content to swap between two videos using object.style.display to change the CSS from “none” to “block.” I also created changing text to reveal the contradictions since the videos without context would be overly confusing.

See it here.