I work with my school’s chapter of the Technology Student Association. This is the largest nationwide technology competition in the country with over 1500 hundred high schools competing. Last year we were national champions and this year we are hoping to repeat. This is an exciting group of students to work with because my students are a blend of future engineers and artists
One of the lessons I teach them is that technology is nothing more than a tool. A hammer can assist with assembling a house. In the wrong hands it destroys easier than it can build. However, in the right hands a team of master craftsman can use it to build a skyscraper, a cathedral, a hospital or whatever those masters’ dream.
One of the events I am coordinating with my students is video game design. We are using a 3-d engine called Unity and various 3-d modeling software packages like…Mudbox, 3-d Studio Max, Solid Works, and Blender. We are also using standard design programs like Photoshop and Illustrator.
Our goal is to use this technology to assist in leaving an emotional impact on our audience. We want to utilize it to create connections to people. So our first goal was to develop from the word empathy. We wanted to use the technology to help people connect to a character, a place or an animal. The students and I brainstormed as a team and we felt that turtles would make the perfect character to empathize with because of the hardships they go through just in the first few months for their survival.
Particularly in Florida, turtle nests are under constant threat of humans stepping on them or light pollution confusing the direction they go. Raccoons will raid the nest. After the turtles are born and rushing to the ocean, crabs and birds prey on them. Once they make it to the sea, sharks and squid attack turtles. What makes matters even worse is human netting and pollution. Animal interaction with turtles may be considered the circle of life, but human impact is devastating the turtle populations here in Florida.
Our team feels that our approach to this project could be very informative. However, the problem is how to make this video game playable and engaging. I asked my students for words they felt associated with this early life of a turtle. They kept coming up with words like fearful, horror, and scary. Statistically the first 24 hours of a turtle’s life can greatly impact their lifespan which can be up to 80 years. So our design quandary is how to make an educational video game, which causes one to empathize with our turtle character, and captivates our players.
We decided to take an Alfred Hitchcock suspense direction. Our concept art will borrow from the themes of pulp movie posters and 1950’s monster movies. Currently, the students are researching font types, doing character development and board coding. However, our goal is to create empathy with our turtle character and to spur those who play into being more responsible. My goal as instructor is to engage our team with responsible design that can be fun. This class has helped me to understand how to instill that in my students better. All the artwork is very early concept work.