"Because amazing takes time..."
The conceptual development of GAEL started as a Portable Escape Room game that was designed to promote empathy and playfulness in challenging social contexts. Taking a perspective nurtured by social neuroscience, creative practice, game studies and playfulness as a mean for social change, two main concepts were explored. Empathy and creativity were perceived as two of the key skills that, for a society in constant change, are necessary to face and solve complex social challenges. This theoretical outcome raised new questions around how we were going to bring the game to life, and how were we to incorporate new technologies that were transformative into the project. The need of both innovative and accessible tools in order to generate positive and practical change in societal behavior were a drive.
Since then, the development of the game focus switched from being only a physical game to being a physical + digital system, and from focusing only on the promotion of the empathic emotion to the possible measurement of it.
Given the importance of using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the change occurred in order to have more reliable and applicable results and due to the high potential and need of not only promoting positive behavioral changes, but of understanding the real impact that they have in a short and long term within the game users. This being said, a new challenge arose: how do we know that it is empathy what the game will be truly promoting and measuring and not only prosocial attitudes such as cooperation? we believe the theoretical answer to this question to be transversal to all socially technological developments involving the use of in-depth concepts such as empathy and compassion.
An initial conceptualization of empathy was taken from one of the creators last publication – a practical manual about empathy in teaching - and with the team, an anthropologist, a designer and an electronic engineer, we have focused the last months on designing the hardware of the system and the interaction design (UX/UI) in order to improve the actual development of the software.
Tools, middleware, APIs, language
On the technical aspect, Gael as a game is supported by two physical devices called “Ovo’s” controlled by a software running on a mobile tablet.
Ovo is simultaneously a representation of the player and an input/output device that allows to capture the actions performed by the player. Every Ovo uses acceleration, temperature, light, touch, magnetic and sound sensors. As output, RGB LEDs, servo, vibration, and a piezo buzzer for 8 bit sound play. Both input and output components are implemented and controlled by a microcontroller.