SCAET building at Sheridan's Trafalgar Road Campus

Game Design students enhance 'the art of waiting' at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

May 4, 2015

Students in the first and second years of Sheridan’s Bachelor of Game Design program were given a meaningful challenge for their recent ‘Sprint Week’ competition:  design interactive games for ‘ScreenPlay’, the presence-sensing floor located in the second floor waiting room of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

Sprint Week is an annual challenge issued to Game Design students which calls for them to work in teams to design a game in one week.  “The ‘sprint to the finish’ concept is popular in the gaming world,” says program coordinator Max Piesner.  “From a learning perspective, the great thing is that you are forced to make decisions in a compressed time period, much as you might have to in industry.  No matter what happens, students will learn from those decisions.”

The Bachelor of Game Design launched in 2013, and Sprint Week was introduced in the first year; however, this is the first time the students have been challenged to come up with designs for a real-world client.  Their challenge was issued by Dr. Elaine Biddiss, a scientist in the Bloorview Research Institute (BRI) at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.  ScreenPlay was invented by Elaine and her team as a way to engage children and families in an inclusive activity that can be played by children of all abilities and those in wheelchairs, while they wait for their appointments. 

A study conducted in the BRI showed that ScreenPlay helps alleviate anxiety, while also eliminating germ transfer since there are no touch surfaces. ScreenPlay is activated when children step on the coloured floor tiles and projects animated graphics on a projection wall in response. Game Design students were tasked with the challenge of creating “awesome animations” for ScreenPlay, which would be judged by the hospital’s children’s advisory committee consisting of clients and families at Holland Bloorview. 

“Having a real client made this Sprint Week really special,” said Chen Yang, a member of one of the winning teams.  “They were very clear in what they were looking for,” he added.  “They wanted games that wouldn’t be too addictive, but still lots of fun.”  Seventeen teams of students took part in the competition, putting in long hours over the course of four days to conceive, design and develop their games.

After being issued with the challenge on a Monday morning, the teams got together to brainstorm concepts.  Coming to agreement on a final concept was a difficult process, but one that Yang brought a special tool to – he had participated in a creative problem solving workshop offered through Sheridan and delivered by Buffalo State’s International Center for Studies in Creativity the previous year.  “It was really useful for this project in terms of coming up with multiple ideas and then narrowing it down to a final vote.”

His team’s game, Kyube, “taps into children’s natural inclination to stack building blocks,” said team member Mike Whittaker.  The game works by standing on different tiles on the Screenplay floor.  By stepping on tiles you generate a Kyube, and children can work together to create stacks of Kyubes, which can ultimately trigger a weather effect on the screen.

While winning a prize was special, team member Joy Sun said “the prize wasn’t important – it was all about supporting the kids at Holland Bloorview by helping to make the waiting room a better experience.”

“We were amazed by the creativity of the Sheridan Game Design students and the quality of the animations and interactive experiences they achieved – and in just one week too,” says Dr. Biddiss. “ScreenPlay opens the door to a world of possibilities for interactive activities for children and youth of all abilities at Holland Bloorview. We are so impressed with, and so thankful for, the work done by Sheridan’s students.”

About Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation hospital, fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.  We pioneer treatments, technologies, therapies and real-world programs that give children with disabilities the tools to participate fully in life.  Every year, we see about 7,00- children with about 600 inpatient admissions and 58,000 outpatient visits.

About Sheridan

As one of Canada’s leading postsecondary institutions, Sheridan is home to 20,000 full time students, who study in over 130 diploma, certificate, and bachelor degree programs at four campuses in the West GTA.  The Bachelor of Game Design is a four-year program that integrates material from multiple disciplines, including game design and art; narrative and script development; 2D and 3D animation and rendering; programming; artificial intelligence; and development and project management.


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