Hello everyone! We are team SMALLab Flare. We are a group of 4 students from the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University.
In the next 14 weeks, we will be collaborating with a team of mental health experts from AHN, the team at SMALLab and the students at Northgate School District in Pittsburgh, PA to design, build and deliver game prototypes focused on mental health issues faced by middle school and high school students.
Jumping right in!
The project kicked off on August 29, 2022, with our first meeting with our project advisors – John Dessler and Scott Stevens. We briefly introduced our backgrounds and roles, as well as our motivation to work on this project. Having worked with our client on similar projects in the past, our advisors gave us some insight into the workflow and needs of the client. It was clarified that our deliverable to our client would be 3 prototypes of games in the domain of mental and behavioral health. We were now looking forward to our client meeting at the end of the week for further clarification on the details of this deliverable.
For this project, our team is collaborating with Northgate School District students and Allegheny Health Network behavioral and mental health specialists, notably from the Chill Project – A mindfulness program for schools.
For this purpose, we are using a 3D mixed reality platform called SMALLab that can make use of tablets and/or VR headsets in tandem with OptiTrack motion capture system.
Our individual research involved looking at past SMALLab projects and getting an understanding of the platform that these projects have been built on. It also involved looking at other mental health related games that currently exist for middle and high school students. These can act as an inspiration for when our design process begins.
Materials based research
The domain of mental health and therapy was relatively new to most of our team. To introduce us to this world and help catch us up with the basics, our client had sent over a few helpful links and research papers for us to read through before our first meeting. These resources covered a wide range of topics – including
1. How Covid-19 affected the mental health of students
2. How Covid-19 affected the teachers at schools
3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and where it’s used
4. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and where it’s used
Since the information given to us was quite thorough, we made a document to summarize the key points and our takeaways. We could later refer to this for a quick run-through of the definitions and important points of the materials.
Based on the project description and materials provided to us, we divided our questions into 2 levels of priority. The first set of questions were the foundational questions for the content of our project. The second level of questions were more logistical with respect to how we would interact and proceed for the next 14 weeks.
1. What is the main goal of this project?
2. What is the main target demographic for these game prototypes?
3. Is there any preference in the technology and platform used for this project?
Logistics and playtesting:
1. Are the expected 3 prototypes to be of similar issues, scope and weight?
2. What are the resources available for frequent playtesting?
3. What would be the best way to communicate and give updates regarding our progress?
Our first client meeting
We met with our client at SMALLab – Jeff, and a team of experts and therapists from Allegheny Health Network for our first client meeting. We introduced ourselves and our roles on this project. After having presented our questions to them, we got a brief overview into the goals and expectations from this project. We also realized that the scope and focus of this project is still quite open-ended.
To reach a decision of our team’s name we each pitched 3 names to each other. In the end, we decided to go with ‘Team Flare’, which our project instructors later advised us to change to ‘Team SMALLab Flare’ to have better recognition for what we are working on. We set up a time for weekly meetings with our advisors and set a time for our first client meeting.
Plan for next week
1. Composition Box
2. Meet with the mental health team at AHN
3. Explore the SMALLab hardware provided to us
4. Begin brainstorming game design ideas