Introduction

Hackers

Hacker 1: Yihong Liu
School: The University of Waterloo
Major: 4th Year Computer Engineering

Hacker 2: Jeffrey Peng
School: The University of British Columbia
Major: 4th Year Chemical Engineering

Inspiration

Both team members grew up in a dominant English culture that influences their daily lives, despite the fact that both their parents immigrated from China. Both Hackers not only identify themselves as proud Canadians but also that they are Chinese. It is very important to both members that they retain their Chinese heritage and culture as it is a key aspect of their individual identity.

Motivated to inspire the younger generation to also retain their cultural identity, the team wanted to build an engaging and interactive tool that would encourage children to learn more about their culture through their parents. Instead of forcing children to research their culture themselves, the team decided that the tool should incorporate parents sharing their own cultural background with their child as it would be the most intimate and impactful.

About the Project

As mentioned, the goal of this project is to create an engaging tool for children to further learn about their cultural identity through their parents. The team will build an interactive 2-player escape room-style game where a parent and their child can play together. The game can be accessed by going on a website. Throughout the game, there will be opportunities for the parent to share their cultural history by answering set questions before they continue progressing in the game. By playing and navigating through an exciting escape room, the child will be fully engaged with what the parent shares as well. The team believes that when parents have these intimate conversations with their child, the child is more likely to remember their responses and will also spark curiosity for them to learn more.

The name of the project - “ESCAPE The Melting Pot” refers to the game type which is an escape room and the expression “melting pot”. A “melting pot” refers to various different cultures, traditions, identities being assimilated into a homogeneous society. The goal of the project is to reduce the “melting pot” effect on younger generations and to provide a resource to help kids retain their individual cultural backgrounds.

Execution

Planning

  1. Project Goal:
    Create a game on a website that will help children learn more about their culture by interacting with their parents

  2. Plan the Target User Group:
    The team decided that the appropriate age group playing this game with their parents would be aged 10+ as it gives the parent an opportunity to share more detailed and impactful stories that they might not want to share with younger children

  3. Plan the Escape Room:
    The team had to plan the progression of the escape room and what hints and clues would lead to the ultimate escape

  4. Plan the Prompts in the Escape Room:
    As the central part of the game, the team had to plan what prompts/questions would appear throughout the game for the parent to discuss with their child. Below is a list of 5 prompts that would appear throughout the game

    1. Share what it was like growing up. What was the environment like? What were living conditions like? If you went to school, what was the education system like?
    2. Looking back, given the age of your child playing this game with you, what were you doing at their age? Share similarities or differences that you experienced at their age.
    3. What were some traditions that were done when you were growing up? Was anything done on holidays like New Year's?
    4. If you have siblings, share what was it like growing up with them. What did you do together with your siblings? What was fun? What is a core memory you remember growing up with them? If you didn’t have siblings, what are some things you remember that you did to keep yourself entertained growing up
    5. If you have immigrated from another country, share what it was like stepping foot into a new country. What are some key memories you remember and what was the process like? What surprised you the most? If you did not immigrate, share when you experienced the most amount of change in your life growing up. At what age did it occur, and why do you consider it a drastic change in your life?
  5. Plan the website:
    The Team decided that the website will be simple and the primary goal of the website is to direct users to the game

Building (How you built it)

The main feature of our project is the real-time interaction between clients with socket.io. Since we wanted it to be an interactive experience between kids and their parents, it was important that events happened in real-time. On the front end, we chose to go with simple ascii graphics since our team only has 2 members, so it was not viable to dedicate resources to artwork given the amount of time we had. We chose a library called WebGL Terminal which has a very simple to use api for producing the ascii graphics on the frontend. As well it provides support for various gui elements like dialog boxes, and keyboard and mouse input.

Challenges (Any Challenges you ran into)

1 of the challenges we faced was coming up with compelling prompts/gameplay. With our mvp I feel that the gameplay, as well as the graphics overall, took a backseat, and instead, we produced a technology demonstration to show the potential of our idea. However, it would be nicer if the overall path to escape was more closely tied to our discussion prompts. As well it would be nicer if the game was more complex, however, due to our small team we didn’t have the resources to implement these.

Another technical challenge that was faced by our team was that the code (as is common in hackathons) became extremely messy. It would have been better if we had planned out a better architecture beforehand, but again due to the limited resources/time that we have, we chose instead just to “brute force” an mvp.

Project Conclusion

Lessons Learn

The main lesson learned during this project was the importance of planning. From an engineering perspective, having a solid plan would’ve helped the team scale the project easier. It was quite easy to initially begin the project and start coding but we eventually ran into many roadblocks throughout. Further, it is also important to plan out the user journey thoroughly for each feature. Every little step that a user will have to undergo should be throughout as it will help guide the project easier.

Next Steps

The next steps with this project are to expand the game. Currently, we have only built one escape room. By expanding the game with more rooms, it will allow users to have a full experience and more time for parents to share stories and learnings with their children. In addition, the project can progress further than just escape room games and the concept of introducing prompts for parents to discuss with their child can be included in other game styles as well. In the future, the website that we have created can be a hub for a variety of different games that parents and kids can select from and play together. The Team sees that this project can be integrated into homework assignments in secondary language courses or schools where teachers can assign their students to access our project and play games with their parents. In turn, the students will gain a deeper understanding of their parents' cultural backgrounds.

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