Reflecting the adaptability of Aboriginal cultures, we set Lightning Runners in a post-climate-changed future in which the fearsome mutant kangaroo Burra'gorang has stolen the Lightning Stone — our future society's clean power source. The design of natural and built environments plays a key part in the visuals, the puzzles and the overarching narrative. While Lightning Runners is science fiction, we also wanted to make it “authentic” in the truest sense, so we drew its environment from traditional D'harawal resources on climate, seasons and local vegetation. A full explanation of the thinking and process behind the game can be found here: https://medium.com/@Deskimo/lightning-runners-275b61a94b1c
The game is designed to be played on mobile devices from iPhone 4S (or Android equivalent) and up. The accessibility/device requirements included lower cost mobile devices and older desktops which were more likely to be used by our target audience. As a result the game needed to be playable without plugins, so we decided to use HTML 5. We designed the controls to be usable by smaller hands with most navigation on the thumbs at the bottom of mobile devices. The game is also playable in browser on desktops. We provide audio voice over prompts that are also made available in written form to aid retention and provide the information to children who may be hearing impaired.
Lightning Runners is, to our knowledge, the first HTML 5 educational platform game of its kind. While we have developed a fun illustration style with lots of playful animation and interactive elements, ultimately our goal was to deliver the learning outcomes while not compromising game play. We set the bar high from the outset - we wanted to create a game approaching "console level" performance and interaction. Levels 1-3 are fun but we also encourage you to play the 4th Boss level.
We worked with Aboriginal elders Fran Bodkin-Andrews and Kevin Andrews (Cultural consulting, Dreamtime stories) throughout the game design and development process to ensure our content was culturally inspired and authentic. The dream time story that underpins the game is a continuation of local stories weaved in with a narrative of climate change, resilience of indigenous culture and respect for both western and indigenous knowledge. Woven throughout the game are both bold and more subtle lessons and game-play interactions that demonstrate the benefits of working with others, looking after yourself and taking only what you need from the Earth (try killing too many kangaroos when you don't need health!)
The game represents an incredible value for Western Sydney University. Though early days (we launched towards the end of the program and we are only now coming into the first full year of the program with the game being a major component) the results have been impressive with our game stats reporting 1,400 game plays, 275 hours of total game play engagement with an average of 11 minutes per play. 43 children have completed the four levels of the game and learned the critical lesson that helping others is vital to achieving your mission, in the game, and in life.