Physical collaborative play for teenagers with cognitive disabilities
Bandjes is the result of the Playful Learning project I coached at MediaLAB in the spring semester of 2015. In collaboration with Orion (Amsterdam’s organisation for special needs education) we developed a game for teenagers with cognitive disabilities and varying levels of motor skills. The goal was to improve their communication skills, collaboration skills and the level of intensity of their exercise in the gym classroom. The game offers a playful way to increase the level of self-reliance, by practicing social skills. Players can only play the game by looking at each other’s headbands, located near the eyes: it promotes making eye contact and asking each other question about the status of their headlight.
The game consists of 4 bluetooth enabled head bands with an RGB LED that can change color. The basic elements of each game is that a player cannot see his own color, only those of the other players. The logic of the game changes with the different variation (eg. “tag” or tikkertje is one of them), but each game requires the players to communicate in order to navigate the playing field and reach the goals of each game variation. Bandjes comes with 7 documented game variations that can be initiated through a desktop application.
Bandjes is far from stupid, but it isn’t smart.
This game isn’t ‘smart’ and it doesn’t track, playing is the means and the end. The only wireless communication necessary is for the system (the computer application) to control the lights of all the players so they remain well-calibrated and timed for smooth and exciting gameplay. Digitally measuring students’ progress is necessarily in their interest so the conscious decision was made not to enable any data collection because it wasn’t necessary to play this game to the fullest.
Bandjes: a highly playable flexible game
The result was a game that was very exciting across the strongly varying levels in the classes we worked with at Orion. Because the concept was so simple at its core, it remained a lot of openness, and space to reinterpret the gameplay by adding rules, props or objectives. It turned out it was a game playable across ages and abilities: our partners, friends, parents and kids all played together at the final presentations at MediaLAB.
Bandjes was presented at Media Art Futures Interactivos? 2015 conference in Murcia (Spain) where the first iteration of the prototype was developed as well in co-creation with conference participants and organisers.
Students: Nick Bijl, Dennis Reep, Anne de Bode, Jill de Rooij, Alexander Sommers. Frank Honkoop & Marjolein Duchateau (Orion). Menno Deen (Lectoraat Games & Play)