ORGONA

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The name ORGONA was used to make reference to psychologist Wilhelm Reich’s controversial concept of the ‘Orgone Accumulator’, a device that channels anti-entropic life-force energy used to heal and empower individuals facing mental and physical disorders. The game was made (by Harjot Bal) using a combination of Processing (for coding visual simulation), Arduino (for building interactive controller hardware), and the Xbox Kinect (for body tracking via the OpenKinect Processing library). The game interfaces with the primarily with the body in order to empower physicality; input is taken in the form of breath–exhaling is detected by an electret microphone which runs on the Arduino, and input is also taken in the form of body movement along the x-axis by the Kinect. The game allows users to stand in front of a screen onto which is projected a backdrop of a natural environment as well as a lively cloth with pseudo-realistic motion physics. The cloth responds to breath input and, upon interaction, shoots up into the air as if it were being swept up by a gust of wind. As the cloth floats higher, the background of the game environment scrolls up accordingly to give users a sense of realistic progression and to make present a sense of reward. Users can float the cloth up and out of the Earth’s atmosphere and even into the Milky Way. Also featured in this game was a looping soundtrack of relaxation music that ran throughout the entirety of the game. If the user is unable to keep the cloth afloat they run the risk of having the cloth fall so that background of the game environment scrolls back down towards the starting point. There is a stopping point where the game indicates to the user that “down is the only way up” and so they must allow the cloth to fall in order to engage in play again–keeping the experience optionally cyclical.

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The development process of ORGONA was fueled by the preliminary research that was conducted while investigating the topic for a final culminating graduate thesis project. ORGONA was designed to be a paidic, infinite game that called for open exploration through cause and effect interaction on the user’s part rather than a controlled experience that was explicit in its intentions. The concept of breath as input was devised from research on meditative and yoga practices that suggest that focus on breath and breathing technique allows individuals to break away from unnecessary thoughts and shift towards self-awareness and inner clarity. The use of nature and natural elements, as being beneficial by way of exposure and interactivity, was somewhat compromised in the development of the gameplay mechanism. Although the user viewed a backdrop of natural environments–on earth and in outer space–and also interacted with a cloth that made use of partially realistic motion physics and interactivity that was designed to imply the presence of air or wind, there was no significant presence of nature in the form of interactive greenery (i.e. grass, plants, trees, ponds, creatures, etc.) which is what was most prominently discussed in the preliminary research. This realization led to the planned creation of new environments with new forms of interactivity that still foster physical empowerment–ORGONA Underwater is a working concept for an additional environment where users can influence the movement of water and sea creatures. However, in keeping with the overall goal of the thesis project, the evaluation of whether the game elicits emotional or psychological wellbeing has not taken place. This will be the next step in better informing the thesis project; user testing and feedback of ORGONA will be approached with the initial research questions at the forefront. At present the game can be perceived as a working prototype as the hardware component and some elements of the visual simulation could benefit from polish in presentation.

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Rough Sketchgame2


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