Biba is a mobile game ecosystem that integrates with real-world playgrounds engineered by PlayPower. By engaging kids through the digital screens they are becoming so accustomed to, Biba aims to address declining child fitness through fun and social games.
Spearheaded by BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk, Biba’s embodied play system is now available at over 4500 playground sites worldwide.
As Game Designer & Technologist, I entered the project near inception to define design pillars, game mechanics, and user experience for the initial batch of Biba games, including a two-week playable “battering ram swing” that was deployed at GDC 2015 in Francisco.
For the initial games offering, I also lead the development team, setting pipeline and coding standards to ensure consistency across the game experience. I also developed the code-scanning image recognition systems used to interact with playground equipment.
landscapes of imagination
Taking the initial business requirements, we had a unique challenge in creating mobile games that encourage physical play. User research immediately revealed concerns for “device danger”, so we had to invent gameplay styles that would circumvent this concern.
“Landscape of Imagination” was our core philosophy in creating roleplaying scenarios that transformed the playground and allowed emergent play. The device become parent-controlled a conduit for that play, introducing light thematic structure for gameplay while approximating child fitness.
Designing for kids
One of the great joys of this project was letting go of pre-conceived notions of mobile games and address a unique design problem.
The gameplay mechanics we came up with were simple but universally loved by the kids we worked with in our user testing: blowing out an engine fire on their race car with the microphone, using the gyroscope to create a usable can of energy “juice”, holding the phone steady to stay quiet while roleplaying a spy.
While simple, discovering these mechanics took research into how kids play at different ages: from the imaginative play of younger children to the more competitive 9-12 year olds.