Young testers put new IHC game through its paces
Young game testers have put their stamps on a new simulation game designed to make it easier for young disabled people to manage money.
‘Stand Tall’ will help them to dodge those tricky money situations – like getting to the end of the week and finding there’s no cash left for dinner.
The game, developed by IHC and online gaming company InGame, was launched in November. It has been in development for the past two years and workshops have been held with young testers with disabilities to try out various ideas and test early prototypes.
One thing has led to another – and resulted in some paid work for these young testers.
Annie Cunnington has worked on avatar design for Stand Tall, Louis Hall has provided the voiceover for one of the characters and Caleb Baxter and Harry Crawford have worked as paid testers for the level-two development in the third workshop, involving scenario feedback and testing.
Auckland-based InGame specialises in educational and serious gaming that provides a cycle of action and choice and instant feedback. In the Stand Tall context, the game challenges participants to think about the day-to-day spending choices they make, and the consequences of those choices. If they spend too much on entertainment, will they have enough to pay their bills?
It’s a character-based game, where a player starts by choosing their avatar, or character for the game. As players make choices and spend money, the background changes from their flat to the supermarket and the gym.
InGame app designer Melanie Langlotz says in addition to workshops there was online testing to understand some of the struggles faced by disabled young people and to get feedback on how well Stand Tall was meeting their needs. But more than that, InGame wanted to involve some of the testers more deeply in the project.
Annie was a tester at the first workshop, where concepts and ideas were presented on paper. “I loved how vocal she was at the workshop,” says Melanie. “She would tell us what worked for her in the game and what she liked about the game.”
Melanie says Annie’s dream is to be an animator and they met when Annie asked to do an internship with Geo AR Games and did various animations for The Wizard World of Numbers, a maths game helping young people with severe cerebral palsy to understand how to count and the principle of numbers.
After the first Stand Tall workshop, Annie was offered work to create bodies, hairstyles and accessories for some of the avatars. Melanie says working with a mentor helped Annie to develop her eye for detail. “When you look at her website and her portfolio, you see a very definite upskill.”
Annie, 23, from Bayswater on Auckland’s North Shore, says her goal is to find a permanent role in a gaming company, as an illustrator or in animation or 3D modelling. She has loved her work with Stand Tall. “It has been a lot of fun,” she says. “It has been an awesome experience. It’s given me a good insight on working in the industry.” Annie says she realises success is about teamwork and good communication. She is now studying for a Bachelor of Creative Technologies – Game Art degree at Media Design School in Auckland and plans to keep her social media channels and portfolio up to date while she looks for other work.
At the second Stand Tall workshop, there was more great feedback from Louis, a young man with his own game review channel on YouTube. “He is very articulate,” Melanie says. “He is quite phenomenal in how he can pick the game apart. All his suggestions made sense.”
Melanie says Louis is very keen to work in the gaming space as a game reviewer. “The job that Louis is after is only just in its infancy. He does very good reviews and he needs to get better known.”
After working as a tester Louis, 19, from Northcote in Auckland, won an audition for a paid role to provide the voice-over for one of the Stand Tall characters, Jono, the difficult boyfriend of one of the flatmates. Louis was expecting to have a lot of fun with the role. “He is a self-centred person. He is an abrasive person,” he says.
“I finished school two years ago and I have done a Level 5 course in radio journalism at Manukau at the New Zealand School of Broadcasting. I didn’t really want to get into game development, but I wanted to get into game journalism.”
The Stand Tall Project has been led by the IHC Library and co-designed and developed with disabled people, so the learning scenarios have been chosen by those in the know. The game’s development is partly funded by Ministry of Social Development COVID-19 funding and is available free at Google and iTunes app stores and online.
InGame app designer Melanie Langlotz at work with Annie Cunnington. Annie created avatar bodies, hairstyles and accessories for Stand Tall.
Games tester and reviewer Louis Hall has provided the voice-over for one of the Stand Tall characters.