Moving Parts

Thesis project, ITP, 2008

Moving Parts is a two-player, physical/digital pinball game with varying rule sets, created as my Masters thesis for the Interactive Telecommunications Program.

Sparked by the increasing popularity of social and pervasive games, part art game and part informal experiment, Moving Parts explores how game mechanics affect the degree and types of social interactions that occur in and around game play.

The game consists of a digital pinball game (written in Processing) and a wooden table with sensors embedded in it. To play, two players face each other and manipulate buttons and plungers to control the digital game. Players can select from among four rule sets which place them in different relationships to each other: competitive vs. cooperative, more solitary vs. more interconnected.

Through observation and informal interviews, I evaluated how players communicated with each other in different versions. Some observations were obvious (players spoke more in slower-paced games), others less expected (they laughed more in competitive games and expressed more anxiety in cooperative games). I began to identify factors important to social game experiences: such as what in-game and external avenues of communication are available, how intelligible players’ in-game actions are to other players, and ways that existing social relationships affect what game relationships they choose.

Moving Parts was presented at the 2008 SIGGRAPH Video Game Symposium.