Dreamy - the gameWhen hospitalised children become superheroes
A stay in hospital is usually upsetting for a child. Not only are they sick; they are also in a strange and unfamiliar environment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of lying around in bed ill, they could fly through the halls as superheroes conquering the forces of evil? This will soon be possible: a tablet game allows kids to don a superhero persona and experience exciting adventures. Read More
“Hundreds of years ago, a dark menace invaded the world. Back then, four superheroes joined forces to fight it: Mr Bulb, Sirena, El Gringos and Chicken Wings.
After defeating the threat, they locked their super-powers in objects called totems. Today, the threat has returned, and it is up to children to bring light back into the world.”
This is how the story of “Dreamy: The Superhero World” begins. It is actually set in the children’s ward of Necker Hospital in Paris, and the dark threat is a child’s disease. Outfitted with one of the superhero’s totems, young patients are armed to fight the forces of evil.
While strolling through the halls of the hospital to defeat the powers of darkness, the tiny gamers explore and get to know the hospital building bit by bit with one of the four superheroes of the past as a virtual companion. Mr Bulb is the intelligent hero who hails from a far-off galaxy and has strange psychic powers. Sirena lives in the depths of the ocean and can bend the elements to her will. El Gringos is a wrestler who draws his strength from burritos, and Chicken Wings is the famous winged hero who is faster than light.
“It is up to children to bring light back into the world.”
A team of two developers and two graphic designers from the Gobelins School in Paris developed Dreamy as students: Alexandre Toudic, Julien Suard, Thomas Decicco and Clément Chenebault. And they promptly won the European Youth Award 2014 in the Connecting Cultures category.
They spent half a year developing the idea, graphics processing, and prototype before testing the game with a group of children. The children were enchanted, so the team is set to implement the game in Necker Hospital. We talked to Clément Chenebault, a French developer and one of Dreamy’s creators:
Dreamy was your final project at university. Seeing as all of you are neither doctors nor educators, how did you come up with the idea of creating a game for hospitalized children?
When we stared the project, our modest goal was to invent something that would “re-enchant the world.” After some discussion and brainstorming, we ended up thinking of hospitalised children. So it made a lot of sense for us to develop a game, since this is the best way to delight children.
Dreamy is really just a traditional computer game, though probably the very first to incorporate the entire hospital complex including the doctors and nurses. Why is that?
While we were working on project development, our first step was to visit Necker Hospital in Paris to find out what these children needed. We talked to the staff, some of the hospitalised children, and their families, and discovered that boredom is a real problem for the children. They also tend to be isolated and not communicate with each other as well. The nurses told us that the most important thing would be getting them out of their rooms. Our goals when developing Dreamy were therefore to encourage children to leave their rooms, to strengthen their self-confidence, and to help them meet other children from the same ward.
"Armed with a tablet and the totem, the children go on an adventure through the corridors of the hospital."
Who are you hoping to reach with your game?
Our target group is children ages 8 to 11 facing long hospital stays. The game works with instructions like « go outside the room », « bring back the light on the map by playing the mini game », « oh no - the dark threat has come back », « go outside the room », etc. So it’s adapted for all kind of hospitalization time. Some kids are on the oncology ward (fighting cancer, so they’re facing a long-term stay); while some just broke a leg, arm, etc. and hence are facing a shorter time in hospital.
How does the Dreamy game work?
Dreamy is a game that places children in the shoes of a superhero. Armed with a tablet and a connected tangible toy – the totem – they go on an adventure through the corridors of the hospital. At certain places, the children have to solve mini games either alone or with other superheroes. By solving the games, they release the power of the totem and re-enchant the hospital game map. In so doing, they also collect rewards like the “infrared robot” or the “magic burritos”.
What is the idea behind the totem? It is not a virtual tool, but a real object they have to take on their adventure.
The totem is the child’s magic wand, and it is an essential element of Dreamy. It is a small hexagonal object that connects to the tablet PC. It represents the superpower of the child and the child’s superhero guide, reassures the child, and makes them laugh throughout the adventure. The totem allows the child to access and play the mini games. It was very important to us that the child have a real physical object to play Dreamy. Our young heroes are thus never separated from their totem or power, even when they exit the virtual application.
How does it work?
Totems are recognized by their location in contact with the screen. Using their number and location, we can define a combination related to the different powers of the totem. We use a product named «AnyGlove», which is usually used to allow any glove (motorcycle gloves, etc.) to connect to a touchscreen.
How did you pursue the goal of having the children walk through the hospital as they play?
The graphic map used in Dreamy is based on the hospital floor plan with all the existing walls, elevators and rooms. We placed the game’s locations on this map, like the “Desert of Piñata” and “the Centre”. So in order to walk through the Dreamy universe, the child has to walk through the hospital. As children play, iBeacons, a kind of Bluetooth tag placed at different locations around the hospital, geolocates them.
The idea is to encourage children playing Dreamy in the hospital to meet and get to know each other. How do they connect?
Some mini games require combining different super powers, so the children need to meet up to reach their common goal. They application allows players to see other children on their own missions in the corridors. The hospital staff can also act as intermediaries and help them meet each other.
There are moments when children have to stay in their rooms – in the evening, for instance. Can they still play Dreamy then?
Part of the game is designed for the evenings. The child’s room is the superhero lair: With the use of 3D graphics, a gyroscope and an accelerometer, the child can see the room as his or her lair - a completely immersive experience. When a child enters their superhero lair, they can access the rewards gained during the day. This part helps to soothe and relax the child before he or she goes to sleep.
Children hospitalized for longer periods often have serious illnesses and are not always able to walk and explore the hospital building. Can these children play Dreamy as well?
Yes. Nurses, caretakers, and parents told us that they would always be willing to accompany a child on a Dreamy mission. If a child cannot walk, a helper can push him or her around in a wheelchair.
Do you think Dreamy may even improve children’s health?
It is very important that children have a means for overcoming boredom, gaining confidence, and reducing feelings of anxiety. These positive effects may facilitate recovery.
Dreamy has not yet been implemented in the hospital, but children have been testing it. What have they said so far?
Ten children between the ages of 7 and 12 tested our prototype at the Laboratoire Ergo Design of the École des Gobelins. We were relieved to see that they had a lot of fun and completely immersed themselves in the Dreamy universe!
What are your plans now?
Our team is currently spread all over Europe since we all work in different countries, but finishing Dreamy is extremely important to us. That’s why we decided to continue developing the application. We hope to see our project in the hands of hospitalised children as soon as possible.