Hotaru is a two-person interactive game experience, using costumes embedded with technology and custom software. The players represent the last remaining lightning bugs in a world consumed by pollution, and must cooperate with each other in order to fight against a virtual enemy of darkness. Each player has a distinct role ? one player shoots and the other collects power ? and they both must help each other by holding hands in order to transfer power from one player to the other. This is a part of a larger exploration of various questions explored when considering the potential of costumes as game controllers.
The costumes are made from UVA foam, 3D printed parts and LED's. They are embedded with Android Phones and IOIO boards, which enable them to receive sensor input, as well as control outputs such as LED's. The game is programmed entirely with Processing.
When we play video games, we often play through characters in a story. We control the avatars, create a relationship with them and experience the game through them. But what happens when we dress up in costume? Can we start to play the role of the avatar? And what happens when we then embed technology into the costumes that allow us to navigate and play through the game experience through the costumes? Would it draw them into a more compelling, fully-realized world? I believe costumes can be a powerful tool that can help the player play a role and posses characteristics and behavior the player normally wouldn?t.
We can already see examples of this kind of immersive experience in live-action role playing games and cosplay?an expression of the desire to fully inhabit a character in the story. Wearing the costume of a character in the story and acting out the various scenarios of the character can help create a rich, fantastical world, removing us from our everyday lives and identities. It?s more than just wearing the costumes, but rather experiencing the character and the story physically and emotionally. The deeper we fall into the ?magic circle?of the game world, the more opportunities there are for interactions and experiences not only with the technology, but also with each other.
While the mechanics of a game are important, the act of stepping into a role, transforming from regular person to fantastical hero with superpowers, is also a crucial process to consider when creating an immersive experience. Culturally, the act of putting on a costume is often seen as a process of transformation; costumes can signify sense of power that wasn?t there before ? think of Superman and Wonder Woman. In combination with costumes, ritualized gestures can also help the process of transformation.
Kaho Abe is a game designer and media artist based in NYC interested in improving social and personal experiences through the use of technology, fashion and games. She is currently the Artist in Residence at the NYU Game Innovation Lab, where she designs and builds games with custom controllers with the hope to bring people together face to face. Some of her notable projects include Hit Me!, Mary Mack 5000 and Ninja Shadow Warrior. More recently she has been exploring the possibilities of Costumes as Game Controllers. She holds an MFA in Design & Technology from Parsons the New School for Design and is a former Eyebeam Fellow.