The development of Wii computer games, where handsets take the place of real equipment from sports, such as tennis, golf or baseball, has been very successful. Now, a unique and ambitious collaborative project in the United Kingdom looks set to convert popular skipping and clapping playground games into Wii-styled prototype games.
It’s not difficult to see how the application will work, particularly if you are familiar with playground skipping games like jump rope and Doubledutch. There is one, where two girls hold a long jump rope and take turns to skip in and sing songs, like “Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around/Teddy bear, teddy bear touch the ground”, completing the turning and touching actions while skipping. Even a simple skipping game like Hopscotch could be adapted for Wii-type computer games.
The collaboration will bring together three universities, the British Library and Nintendo and will be funded to the tune of GBP500,000 (about USD$825,000). The project will also convert sound archives of children’s playground songs and rhymes, including those collected by renowned collectors Iona and Peter Opie, into digital format, so they can be accessed through an interactive website run by the British Library. The website will be available to educators, researchers and children, as well as the wider community.
The research for the project will take place over two years at Montenay primary school, in Sheffield and a London school and will hope to reveal how popular media – including TV, film and computer games – influence playground games, songs and rhymes. Researchers hope to understand how these oral traditions relate to media cultures. Children from the two schools will then assist the researchers to create the prototype computer games and the library website.
"Children are remarkably innovative in their play and in this project we want to capture their inventiveness in the school playground," says Professor Jackie Marsh from the University of Sheffield. "There is often a perception by some adults that the media is leading to a reduction in children´s creative play, but in fact this is not the case; the media can often stimulate children´s imaginations and provide material for their language play and games."
The project is supported, but not funded, by Nintendo UK. It will offer advice but the intellectual property will remain with the other partners in the project. However, a number of games suitable for the Wii will be developed and a prototype of the concept will be demonstrated, once it is developed.
"We will 'record' movements from particular playground games and incorporate these into playable computer games, ideally with songs and words," explains Dr Andrew Burn, the project's leader. "This will require us to adapt existing hardware and design new software.
"In any case, we are already seeing a migration of school playground games and songs into new media, such as YouTube, the video-sharing website," he adds. "Gaming platforms, such as the Wii, are designed for physical play and are therefore ideal for producing games involving movement. They also appeal to a wide audience of casual gamers, with an emphasis on family-friendly content."
For further information on the project, visit Beyond Text.