An Introduction to "Project:Filter"

A little time has passed since I started Games for Studies, and I've been mulling over a few ideas to get started on. However, there are a lot of projects I'm currently working on that have halted this process slightly.

So, rather than clawing together resources from left-field, I thought I would provide an overview to some of the work that I'm currently doing, and what can be expected in the next week or so.

My calendar has been filling up rather nicely this month: a few talks, meetings and events, on top of the usual PhD work and teaching (it's certainly been a busy first six months!) While I cannot share the details of every project that I'm working on at the moment, there are certainly a few that I can.


I guess it's best to start with the PhD project, since that is my major focus. I'm looking at creating a good-practice example of developing serious games that cooperate with social policy. Namely, I am looking to adapt noPILLS into a game in order to raise awareness of micropollution across Europe (you can read about the project here.)

The main target demographic for this project is adults: more specifically, adults who are less conscious or self-managed in their consumption of over-the-counter medication. When I first read about noPILLS, I was conflicted between short- and long-term strategies for the development of my game. I really didn't want to plan a slow-burner approach to this: it only made sense to go right for the source (adults) and hope for immediate results, rather than something more longitudinal (children.)

But then, I wondered, what if I could include both parties? What if adults were affected directly (through an app) and indirectly (from their children) utilising the principles of nudge theory..?

So I've been playing around with a few ideas, and my research is pointing me in the direction of both serious games and, more recently, app development. While I cannot show much work about the app (mainly because it hasn't been started yet...), I do have a few things to show in regards to my game.

The Game

The idea for a game show called Hole in the Wall. It aired in the UK from 2008-2009, inspired by a similar Japanese game show (and I believe there is/was a version in the US.) Contestants simply had to mimic the cut-out body shape and avoid being pushed back into the water in order to advance. 

Beyond being hilarious to see a loved/hated celebrity struggle with their athleticism (or lack thereof), it dawned on me that this could serve as the main mechanic of a game about filtration. Walls appear with gaps, and players simply had to get into position and avoid being pushed off...

Thus, Project:Filter was born.

The game is designed for children between the ages of nine and eleven, and aims to teach them about micropollutant activity in water: understanding their behaviours and effects, and highlighting the need to filter them out. It's a competitive game, involving two or more players, ideally aimed to be played in the classroom (as part of a wider learning project.)

The first player plays on a PC and controls a ball, representing the pollutant. Their aim is to collect as many smaller balls (pollutants) as possible to increase their score. While they do this, they should be actively avoiding the filters approaching them. As well as manoeuvering along the platform, they can change what "level" they rest on (red, blue or green) in order to avoid the filters. Once they fall off, it's game over.

The second (or more) player(s) will play using tablets on the same network. Their job is to create the filters. They are presented with a grid-like system and a limited amount of blocks that they can place per filter. Once they are happy with their creation, it can be exported and will appear in the game. The idea is for these children to recognise how the pollutant player is moving (whether they like to move around a lot, or stay stationary until prompted; whether they like to be on the highest level, or the lowest level; etc.)

I am hoping to develop a flexible lesson plan alongside this that could fit the school curriculum in Scotland (as a case-example for noPILLS.) More on this at a later date.

The App

As I've said, there's not much to show of the app at the minute. However, I'm very open to feedback and ideas from the community (please do feel free to share your thoughts!)

The app will serve as a day-to-day diary of pharmaceutical consumption for each individual user. By selecting common pharmaceuticals from a database, or adding new medicines (by bar-code or uploading a picture), users will be able to keep track of their intake. On top of this, the app will calculate what effect their medicinal activity has on their environment, and offer suggestions for appropriating pharmaceutical consumption (videos, websites, etc.) if necessary.

Future Plans

I am working rigorously to get the game into a presentable state in preparation for the Glasgow Science Festival in June 2016. Setting up networking and some bug-fixing will then allow for public testing at the event to take place, which will influence future development.

I will look to publish an update on the app design soon, and have some visuals at hand to communicate the idea more effectively. If you have any comments or feedback, please feel free to share this with me, either via the comment section or via any of the media channels at the foot of this page.