Tuesday, May 7, 2013

No doubt about it, I've been a very busy person so far this year.  A very large portion of energy has been put into my senior design project, which I am very excited to post about here!  Releasing very, very soon is a  very interesting board game called KickShot (link to original website).  Why is it interesting?  For a board game, it has a very unique theme for a board game, soccer.  It seems like the tabletop gaming world has been more and more interested in sports based games, but normally the rules are very complex and are only played by those with both the interest and wallet size with which to successfully play them.  It also requires painting miniatures, which I'm not very good at.  The beauty of KickShot is that it is for everyone and geared towards people who both enjoy the sport and know the rules, and to educate those who do not know the rules of the game by using memorable characters which aid with the visual cues during a real game of soccer.

We here at Somnambulant Gamer are very excited to play the final iteration of KickShot on its release, but in the meantime, I have had the opportunity to play one of the prototypical iterations of the game.  The rules have since been simplified, but they contain the same merit.  The group with which I played it and I had a wonderful time figuring out the nuances and how to further streamline the game, and indeed it was streamlined when we received the first set of finalized rules!  The game is now very smooth to play and maintains its educational merits for those who are learning the rules!

Our client for the project and creator of KickShot, Aziz Makhani, has been an absolute joy to work with and has a great enthusiasm for the game, he was also willing to humor me for a short interview regarding KickShot:

What got you into soccer initially?

  • I played soccer (or football where I grew up in Burma, now called Myanmar, and Bangladesh) and I have been refereeing soccer for over ten years. I referee youth and adult games. 
  • How did you decide you wanted to create KickShot?
  • As a soccer referee, I observed that many players, young and old, have difficulty executing certain nuances of the game, it is specifically thrown in and slide tackle. So, I had an epiphany one night to create a game that players could engage in and educate themselves and have fun playing. Since starting the development, I have learned that research confirms a direct correlation between mental engagement directly impacts physical performance on the field. So, this makes KickShot an ideal game for soccer enthusiasts, young and old as well as parents and grandparents, who may want to learn and be engaged with their kids.
  • What have been some of the biggest challenges along the way?
  • There have been challenges all along the product development and commercialization journeys as one would expect for a small startup. In the product development journey, the biggest and most time consuming challenge has been authoring, reviewing and editing the instructions. On the commercialization journey, the biggest challenge has been creating and nurturing relationships needed to make the product a success. Social media offers a great medium to expand and reach out to the target audience faster and bigger than I can imagine.
  • What is your favorite part of the game creation experience?
  • My favorite part of creation experience has been watching the players enjoy the game. These pictures show how much a five year old is enjoying the game. Here are a few pictures of 14 year olds and here are some of middle school students loving the game. 
  • What is your favorite part of KickShot?
  • My favorite part of KickShot is the value the game offers in educating, engaging and entertaining people of all ages. 
  • Who is your favorite character?
  • Lei Ting (the alligator) executing a throw in perfect form is my favorite character.If I could offer a few more, the list would be rather long. lol
  • Any further comments?
  • The instructions describe three variations to suit players of different ages and tastes. Additionally, the action cards offer the players unlimited ways to create their own variations. It gives me great satisfaction to have created a game  with rules, but feels great to know that players can create their own rules and share with the rest of the world. Lastly, there are possibilities of using the game in classrooms and treatment of autism and Asperger Syndrome. Physical Education teachers at local elementary and middle schools and an Associate Professor in Family Science will be pursuing these applications. Additionally, the game has offered opportunities for engagement with Computer Science and Business students at University of Idaho,  Washington State and Rice Universities. I have also shared my journey with students at Pullman High School who created flyers for their entrepreneurship class project. KickShot has also enabled me to meet with influential people in the industry, such as this picture taken at Borah Symposium at U of Idaho. It makes me really happy to see that KickShot is enabling such diverse interests and possibilities. It has been a real joyous journey.

  • The correct way to perform a Throw-In as performed by Lei Ting

    So, I should probably note that the project mentioned earlier was not assisting in the creation of the board game itself, but my teammate and my goal was very similar.  The goal of the project was to mobilize KickShot via the iOS platform.  Working on games is very much different from reviewing them!  Creating applications for iOS is also ridiculously tedious.  The programming itself isn't particularly tedious, it's simply getting Apple development software to cooperate on non-Apple devices (i.e. we bricked my machine for any future use of VMware until reformat).  And this is much more a gripe on Apple's developer accessibility than anything regarding the mobilization of KickShot.

    Our second, and most interesting, challenge was deciding how we should display a game board and cards in a play space that is approximately .1x the size of the full game without the feel of the gameplay suffering.  Overall, I very much enjoy the design we chose, but unfortunately we will not be the ones to complete the project.  Overall it has been a very challenging and rewarding experience to begin work on a project that has such beneficial applications!