A simulation game on campus security
Crimes against students on or around the university campus are a major concern for everyone. The campus Public Safety office does what they can to alert students of incidents, but students, especially incoming freshmen, need to be made aware of the warning signs of potential problems, and how to avoid them. Staying Safe, an augmented reality game, is intended to teach new students at SU a few security basics, in turn hopefully motivating them to make better and safe choices while walking near and around the SU campus.
In the game, a team of 2 or 3 players will help identify security practices as they follow of one of three fictional characters’ paths who were mugged in the Thronden Park. In order the play the game, players would load an augmented reality iphone app, which overlays graphics of various site locations in the park and is interfaced by the players via the phone’s camera using GPS location triggers.
The app would contain the augmented reality data along with a game system of the park map, navigation software telling the players where to go, and a scoring system that tracks players’ team answers. After an initial tutorial, the game system prompts players through a narrative to follow the path of their character. The narrative is based on recollection from the character.
Using the various safety tips published by campus public safety, the objectives of this game are basically about getting learners to be more aware of their surroundings and to reinforce safe behaviors while walking through the park. These include:
· Walking in groups of 3 or more
· Not to approach suspicious people
· Reporting suspicious activities as well as knowing what ‘suspicious’ means
· Being aware of your surroundings (in the park this means watching out for ambush points, not taking short cuts, not talking on the cell phone while walking, not listening to an ipod while walking)
· Walking in well lit areas
· Not getting too close to approaching vehicles
· Knowing what to do if someone is following you
· When to use the Blue Light
Not every character will cover all of these tasks, but depending on the narrative, certain ones would be highlighted. Also, the objectives are not revealed to the player until after they have completed the game.
The game is designed for 18-21 year old undergraduates who would like to explore a novel way to learn about safety. The main audience is freshmen who are unfamiliar with the campus and would like to learn about protecting themselves. However, upper-class students would be encouraged to play the game to challenge themselves on what they know about campus safety. The novelty of an augmented reality game would hopefully provide learners with more affinity towards a subject they may take for granted.
Context of Use
To facilitate game play, players would be given an information handout or email on how to access the game system. Initial information would include an element of drama, asking players to help identify security risks in the park based on a recent trend of security incidents in Thornden Park. This information would ask people who are interested to download the app and go to the rose garden (game action point 1). Once they get there and load the app the game would prompt players to declare their team members and ask for names and email addresses. This will allow the game to be personalized and feedback sent via email.
After players complete the character scenario, they will be asked to review all of the issues they identified (which were entered as they played the game). These would be referenced in the game system to specific learning objectives, which would generate a score and feedback on improving their safety.
The game is meant to be played for approximately 30 minutes with 2-3 players on a team who access and discuss the scenarios based on their perspectives. Individuals would answer the questions accompanying the scenarios based on their interactions with teammates. However, at the end of the game, the scores and feedback will be individualized.
Players may choose to play the other characters if they are interested.
The game interface can be designed in Flash using mobile interface development. The Flash .swf would play movies of situations occurring and have static buttons and location information based on what the players are doing and where they are on the map. The iphone camera would act as a lens overlaying images on the real world to facilitate other interactions. The application for this can be developed using the ARToolkit (http://studierstube.icg.tu-graz.ac.at/handheld_ar/artoolkitplus.php)
The game map would include several action spaces where players can interact with the game mechanism based on the movement of their chosen characters. All characters, however, would begin at the Rose Garden where players’ first interaction with the game is an orientation tutorial that prompts them to go the statue approximately 100 yards north of the rose garden. The tutorial would allow players the opportunity to interact with the game system to test their equipment without being scored and explain what to do if they become lost.
From the second action point, the actual game would begin with the players’ phones prompting them to participate in the narrative. Each character would go in a different direction that leads to various action points with the last action point being where the major incident occurred.
When players reach an action point (marked on a map in the game, and configured to GPS coordinates), the game system will trigger that part of the scenario. The players look through their phones to see the area, but with modifications such as, the park at night, or someone approaching.
At the end of each action sequence, the game would prompt the players to key-in their observations and choose what about the augmented and/or real environment is a security risk.
Object of the Game
The object of the game is to complete the narrative walk-through while noting any security issues.
Here is an example of one of the characters the players can play – Betty
Another character would be Stan, who doesn’t get mugged, but sees someone getting mugged (Betty perhaps), but fails to report the crime.
The third character to choose would be an international student who goes down a dark path, gets lost, sees something strange (gay guys at the watertower, someone having sex in the park), and misuses the Blue Light.
Players begin the game with a set of paper instructions and a map with marker points. The instructions explain how to access the system with their device (iphone) and download the app for the game. The map is of Thornden Park with action spots marked on it.
Once the app loads, players will be asked to choose one of three case files. Each contains a short description of a person who was a victim to a crime, and would prompt players to follow the character’s path through the park based on the character’s situation.
During the game, players are instructed to pick out factors that contributed to the character’s crime by asking them to collect information from each action point on the map the character indicated they visited.
When players reach the action points, their device will prompt them with new information. Additionally, players at times would be able to look through their phones using AR technology to see the surroundings ‘through the character’s eyes’. This is built in the narrative.
Each red circle represents an action point players would access in the ‘Betty’ narrative.
Here is what would happen after the players choose to play the Betty character. They would see this screen…
Action Point 1 – Rose Garden/orientation
Friday, May 16
Betty often liked to spend a few minutes in the rose garden, and like most days she began her trek through the park here. (look through AR device) Notice how the sunset brings out the colors of the flowers. Betty starts to think about how she finally finished her week’s reading in Psychology and is ready for a break.
(AR device prompts)
Betty’s first account…
“I remember beginning my walk at the Rose Garden. It was about 7 or so, around sunset. I was supposed to meet Kate, but she never showed up. No one else was around. I then I got a call from Kate who told me to come over to Cindy’s where she was at. Cindy lives just on the other side of the park by Cherry Street. It didn’t seem too late to walk in the park, so I figured it would be much faster and easier to walk through the park then around on Euclid. I’ve done it plenty of times before.
As I was talking to Kate, the phone started breaking up, so I walked over to the Statue (shown on the map).”
Prompt: After reading Betty’s account, look around at the surroundings and think of her actions. Note any mistakes or concerns by typing them in the notes section here...
Teaching point – this first part of the scenario is to orient the player to the game system and have them begin to use the AR device. The lesson for this first part is ‘Don’t walk alone after dark – go in groups of three’.
Since this is just a tutorial stage, after the player types in the notes, they are told to compare them to the public safety account of the situation.
PS expert speaks via a video: It’s too bad Kate didn’t meet with Betty and instead went ahead without her. However, Betty thinks that it’s perfectly fine to walk alone through the park. Notice the time of day, and how it’s quickly getting dark. I would suggest always walking in groups of 3 after dark.
Keep walking Betty’s path noting at each location anything about the area or Betty’s actions that seem risky. After the simulation you will be provided with feedback on your analysis and things to watch out for.
Action Point 2 – The Statue
“I walked not too far from the garden and kept talking with my friend. The sun started quickly going down. We started to talk about some other classmates or something. I remember tripping a piece of wood or stone. I wasn’t sure because it was pretty dark by about this time. I then headed over to the street down the hill.” (Prompt on map)
Prompt – Use your cell phone to look around at what the area looks like at night. (A car slowly drives by in the distance towards the street Betty is walking towards. The players hear a car door open and close)
Note anything about the area here.
Teaching Point – Pay attention to your surroundings – don’t talk on the cell phone while walking
Action point 3 – The Road
“While I was talking to Kate, this weird guy started pulling up behind me in his car and asked me for the time. I just kept walking and told me friend ‘Oh my god, this weirdo just asked me what time it was from his car’. “
Teaching point – report suspicious activity, don’t approach cars with strangers in them
Action point 4 – The Fieldhouse
“That guy in the car that I passed up seemed kind of weird. I mean, why would you someone the time. I thought that maybe he wanted to pick me up or something. But, he was like 40! I headed over towards the fieldhouse away from the road, and it was getting hard to see.”
Teaching point – walk only in well lit areas
Action point 5 – The auditorium
“I then headed towards the auditorium. I usually love hanging out at the there in the day. When I walked inside the area, it reminded me of this song. I dug through my bag and tired to find it on my ipod. After finally finding it, I then realized that the gate on the other side of the auditorium was locked. I thought how strange because it’s always been open. I jammed to my tunes and started heading toward to other gate trying not to trip in the dark. Luckily, that car was gone, so I felt safe.”
Teaching point – don’t trap yourself, pay attention, and don’t put on headphones because they can be a distraction
Action point 6 – The auditorium gate being followed
“When I got to the front gate of the auditorium, I saw someone walking towards me wearing a hoodie. (Prompt on AR) I tried to hide in the dark by going around to where I went in the auditorium, but it dark. I figured that I’m almost there and maybe that guy will go away. I didn’t want to head to the light because I was afraid that he would see me.”
Teaching point – if you think you are being followed, move towards a well lit area. Better yet, try to get to a Blue Safety light.
Action point 7 – the mugging
“I was almost out of the park when out from the bushes the hoodie guy jumps out. At first I thought it was someone playing a joke, but then I noticed that he had a gun. I was about to run away, but I didn’t know where I would go. It all happened so fast. He took my purse that had everything in it, my money, phone, ipod. I tried to take back my phone, but he then pushed the gun in my face. I was so scared at that point and just froze.
He took my bag and ran into the woods.
After that I ran to my friends house and cried for like an hour before I called public safety”
Teaching point – never resist a mugger just give your things up and report the crime immediately
Universal Game Elements
My vision of this game is to have realistic looking activities superimposed on the AR environment that players see through their phones. The map of the area would be taken from google maps.
The gaming system would have text based questions and narrative when appropriate.
It’s a matter of being realistic without making the players paranoid. What I am after is to get the characters as realistic people make mistakes, and that it is up to the players to identify these mistakes while enjoying themselves in the process. The game control mechanism should create the opportunity to get players to reflect on how poor choices may result in being vulnerable to victimization.
Elements that would work well for the game’s purpose would be:
1. Scenarios that are dependent on the environment - night or day, paths, hiding spots (trees or bushes), light
2. Bad guys that not just mug the characters, but act as background suspicious narrative elements doing things such as vandalizing something in the park, being violent towards another victim, or following the character/seeming to be following the player.
3. Seemingly justifiable actions that the character does such as answering a phone call, being on the phone while walking, listening to music, taking a unlit short cut, running away from a mugger, or walking alone at night
4. Other NPCs that simulate other events that occur in the park – homeless guy, drunk students walking around, the sound of an animal, another student, a friend (who perhaps asks to wait to reinforce not walking alone). This is to create a sense of realism in that at least there would be someone else in the park.