For my project I was interested in exploring touch screen games and changing the way in which we play them. Initially I wanted to do something with Angry Birds for the iPhone, like target the birds waiting in line to be flung instead of the piggies–but then I realized that I was not taking advantage of the game’s ‘touch’ aspect. This made me look into how touch screens are able to distinguish human touch from other kinds of touch, and once I understood how it worked I began to play around with different materials that could be used to interact with the screen.
In the gaming world, there exists a variety of special hardware that facilitates gameplay (i.e. video game cheating devices). For example, the action replay is one such device that allows players to ‘hack’ their games and do things they would not be able to do during normal gaming sessions. Players could use the device to magically obtain huge sums of money, get infinite health, level up at lightning speeds, etc. Because this kind of device only exists for console games I was interested in creating a device of my own to play one of my favorite guilty pleasure games: Fruit Ninja. Fruit Ninja is a very simple, yet addicting fruit-slicing game. Its objective: slice as many fruit as possible and make combos by slicing groups of fruit to earn a high score. I focused on its Zen Mode, which gives you a time limit of only 90 seconds to slice as many fruit as you can but does not contain obstacles such as bombs. One (dumb) way to play Fruit Ninja in Zen Mode is to slice the screen neurotically and hope that you can hit enough fruit / get enough combos to earn a decent score. I aimed to automate this action with an analog device that anyone could make with the objects found around their house.
When pressure and a small charge is applied to a touch screen, it is registered as human touch. I knew that in order to reproduce the slicing motion in the game, I had to make something that would send touch messages across the screen. Thus I used a piece of aluminum foil, wrapped it around a popsicle stick, and taped it to my phone. I then attached one end of wire to the foil and left a section of the other end exposed. Finally, I put my phone on its charger to make its screen more receptive to electrical charge. This construction gives me the effect I wanted, because taping the foil to the phone applies pressure to the screen and touching the exposed end of the wire sends charge to the foil. The charge travels along the foil for as long as the wire is touched.
When I played Fruit Ninja using this device I realized how much fun was destroyed by automating the process of fruit slicing. This made me think about how, when games begin to feel like work, people resort to things like cheat codes and action replays to make gaming less troublesome for them. But somewhere in the process they may realize that using those cheats still does not make the game feel any more like a game–because they are no longer playing it themselves.