Creating a game and skating with it

Posted on: February 13, 2017

In the class MI 497: Game Design Studio, media and information students with enthusiasm for game design are given real-world opportunities to create digital gaming experiences for users. A team of six students from the class, ranging from 3D art, programming and design roles, created a game called “Bunny Skate,” which reached #38 in the kid's 9-11 category on the App Store in December 2016.bswp

“We wanted to create a fun mobile experience that anyone could play,” said Sage Miller, a media and information senior. “Most feedback came from friends and family, however, we were able to connect with many gamers from across the world through Twitter and sent them early versions of the game.”

The creators describe the game  as an “endless skating adventure.” The object of the game is to control the bunny and skate around an ice rink through a variety of environments, collecting carrots meanwhile avoiding wolves and other obstacles along the way. Once you have collected the carrots, you can use them to purchase a chest, which allows the player to receive a random hat throughout the game. The goal is to obtain as many hats as possible, with a number of 50 possible during the course of the game. Some of these hats hold a secret power that can assist your character through the course.

“I think the idea sparked from the time of the year and what fit for our scope of the project,” said media and information senior Evan Jones. “We wanted to make a mobile game so we had to keep it simple and fun. We knew we wanted to release it around Christmas time so ice and other snowy environments were necessary.”

Bunny Skate was approved and published on the App Store and Google Play just a couple of days before Christmas. The students said they are pleased with how the game turned out, but it was no walk in the park to create the successful finished product.

“We had a rough beginning. We started with a different kind of game and we struggled to find the 'fun' in what we were doing,” said media and information senior Clark Ruiz. “But after four weeks, we scrapped that idea and started working on what would become the game you know (Bunny Skate)! It was great once we had the final idea, since we were able to polish something simple.”

Miller said one of the greatest features of the game is that it’s accessible,  “It's easy for anyone to pick up and have fun with it.

Each team member highlighted how important it is to collaborate with others and be on the same page. Trusting each other's skills while allowing each person to take charge of certain elements was critical to overcoming obstacles as a group and making it to the finish line.

“The collaboration between the team members was great,” said Jones. “We all came together with our different strengths and used them to our advantage. I think teamwork and being able to work well with others will make you a better person in the long run."

Jones continued, “Communication is the key when working with a group. Making sure everyone was on the same page and on task was something that we did well.”

For more information on Bunny Skate, visit here. Test your skills, download on iTunes or on Google Play today.  

Team Members:

Clark Ruiz - 3D Art
Evan Jones - 3D Art
Alec Velthov - 3D Art
Matthew Smith - Programming
Homer Chen - Programming
Sage Miller - Design

By Emmy Virkus

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Indigenous Language Games are launched by MSU Faculty

Posted on: January 23, 2017

thumbnail_manoominMedia and Information’s Elizabeth LaPensée and Jon Whiting contributed to two new games called “Manoominike” and “Mikan” for the Duluth Children’s Museum in Minnesota. With the help of the museum and a committee of Anishinaabe community members, these games pinpoint specific teachings about the practice of ricing in Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language). These games launched at the free Manoomin Exhibit Opening in Duluth  on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.

“I'm blown away by seeing the Manoomin exhibit at the Duluth Children's Museum, which will be up for several years with the games Manoominike and Mikan in a wiigiwaam structure,” said LaPensée.

With assistance from the committee and community members, the collaboration on Mikan involved design and art by Elizabeth LaPensée, programming by Tyler Coleman, and sound by Jon Whiting, while Manoominike involved design and art by Elizabeth LaPensée, videography by Joellyn Rock, programming by Logan Sales, music and language by Ojibwemowining Digital Arts Studio, and sound by Jon Whiting. The game, Manoominike (meaning “ricing”) in Anishinaabemowin, gives users a motion-controlled experience that is surrounded by elements and imagery of modern ricing in a fabricated wigwam, a real-life look and feel. The second game called Mikan (meaning “find it”) is a mobile game that intends to pass on phrases about ricing in Anishinaabemowin such as jiimaan (meaning “canoe”).

mikanThe greatest challenge of all involved creating games that could be played in short experiences in a museum, while honoring the vastness of the ricing tradition,” said LaPensée.

The Manoomin exhibit and the Manoominike and Mikan games were made possible through support from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Legacy Fund and the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation's Anishinaabe Fund.

“I'm grateful for input from the committee as well as community members who see what I hope to pass on through these games –the importance of ricing and sustainable harvesting practices directed at youth, the next generations, who will continue these teachings,” said LaPensée.

By Emmy Virkus

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Faculty member’s One Club connection brings opportunity for ComArtSci students

Posted on: December 14, 2016

Ross Chowles, ComArtSci professor of practice in the Department of Advertising + PR and One Club board member, began his relationship with Michigan State University when he led workshops at a One Club event in China. It was here when he met assistant professor Henry Brimmer, who brought students to the event and later ran a workshop at MSU for Minds Wide Open, which Chowles attended.

The One Club is a non-profit organization that serves to recognize and promote exceptional work in advertising. It honors and celebrates the legacies of creative advertising to inspire future generations.

“In the industry, especially in the creative side, there are those that stand out. People who’ve changed the industry, produced amazing work, written fantastic copy – the best of the best,” said Chowles. “The One Club has honored those people by inducting them into their hall of fame.”

The One Show, an annual award ceremony hosted by The One Club, showcases the best work from agencies around the world. It isn’t profit oriented, it’s owned by the creative community.

“It’s our thing, it belongs to us – the creatives,” Chowles said.130_ross_chowles

“What we want to do is take all of these great hall of famers and start linking the One Show so when you think of the One Show, you don’t just think of awards, you’re thinking of Steve Jobs or Andy Warhol,” Chowles said. “These people are the rock stars in our business.”

The strategy is simple: association.

To execute this, Chowles, with other ComArtSci faculty, handpicked around 20 senior student copywriters and designers. Once their holding concept – the idea that ties it all together – is approved, they will start developing and designing.

Students were chosen after determining the skills needed to tackle this project - keen copywriters and skilled designers with attention to detail. Their primary task is to research The One Club “Hall of Famers” by contacting agencies, finding their advertising work and more.

The end goal of this project is to produce a digital book that highlights the Hall of Famers, and is easily accessible to copywriters located anywhere in the world.

“Once it’s finished, it’ll go to every art director and copywriter – the most cynical people in the world. So, it has to be of a quality that is superior,” Chowles said.

One Show’s creative week happens in May in New York, which is where ComArtSci’s work will be launched.

By Lily Clark

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Meditate to Change Your State: MI Professor Publishes RelaxU App

Posted on: December 5, 2016

Just in time to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions, MI Professor Carrie Heeter has published a new meditation app.

RelaxU includes five 10-minute seated meditations: Calming, Favorite Place in Nature, Comfort, Releasing, and Stability. Each has been carefully designed, applying the tools of yoga (mental focus, breathing, gentle movement, and meditation objects) to help you change the state of your system in a desired direction.

relaxu1Three of these meditations were used in a research study by Heeter and colleagues on benefits of meditation for hospice and palliative health care providers. Significant, substantial changes were observed when these meditations were practiced regularly over a 6-week period.  For example, health care providers reported increased ability to manage stress, improved focus, heightened emotional awareness, and more listening to and trusting bodily sensations.

Heeter teaches user experience and serious game design. Since 2013, she has been studying and working with meditation expert/mind-body therapist Dr. Marcel Allbritton to design RelaxU and other cybermeditation experiences.

She values the humbling and sometimes hilarious privilege of working with a content expert who is also her meditation teacher.  Collaboration involves a certain amount of creative tension, exacerbated by the stress of deadlines. But in this case, it was essential to approach every aspect of creating the apps from an appropriate mental state. The state of mind of the creators colors the creation. So Heeter and Allbritton engage in “mindful wrestling,” rather than heated discussions. If she becomes agitated while programming or editing audio she stops (perhaps to do a mediation), resuming when her state is calm.

These meditations are simple tools for novice meditators that help you quickly change the state of your system (mind and body). Though simple, the meditations are highly refined, each on about the tenth iteration.  The designs draw from the science of yoga and meditation, Allbritton’s meditation expertise, Heeter’s user experience, game, and technology design background, extensive user testing, and scientific research.


The RelaxU icon

RelaxU meditations allow the individual to have their own experience. You move and breathe at your own pace, moving only as far as is comfortable. Subtle meditation design approaches such as synchronizing gentle movements with inhale and exhale can quickly change the state of the system. Meditation objects are also specific to the person. For example, in the Place in Nature meditation, you are guided to think about a favorite place in nature. The place each person thinks of will be unique to them.

The meditations on the RelaxU app are tools for changing the state of your system. The first time you do one, quite a bit of your attention will be on figuring out what to do.  Returning to that same meditation the next day, your experience can be more focused and deeper. Doing a meditation repeatedly over a period of time exercises and builds mental attention skills.

RelaxU is published by Heeter’s company, Mindtoon Lab. It is available for free on the Apple app store and on Google Play. To find it, search for “Mindtoon Lab” and then scroll down to RelaxU.

Mindtoon™ meditations are not medical interventions. They are potentially helpful tools designed based on Mind-Body Therapy principles, that may or may not be helpful to any particular individual.


By Carrie Heeter, PhD

Professor of Media and Information, Michigan State University

Director, Mindtoon Lab


By Savannah Swix

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Interdisciplinary team led by ComArtSci receives USDA grant to study retail purchase decisions

Posted on: November 14, 2016

vlcsnap-2016-11-11-13h26m20s268The answers behind purchase decisions may lie in the eye of the beholder according to a recently funded interdisciplinary study involving the Michigan State University departments of Advertising and Public Relations and Horticulture.

Beginning early 2017, Professor of Retailing Patricia Huddleston will join Professor of Horticulture Marketing Bridget Behe in leading a student research team that will use eye-tracking technology to investigate how people make product choices—in this case, plants. The two-year project recently received a Federal State Marketing and Improvement Program grant for $136,000 through the United States Departmehuddleston-pat-09132016-3032-2nt of Agriculture.

"I've always been interested in what happens at the moment of truth," Huddleston says. "It's fascinating to looked at what consumers do when they are actually picking a product off a shelf or a rack. The context here are plants, but you can apply this research to any type of product."

Huddleston explains that much of the success of retailing depends on getting things right—or the science of finding the right mix of product assortment, pricing and merchandising that attracts and entices consumers. The recently funded study, she says, will look at how merchandise—specifically selections of herbs or flowering annuals—ispresented at the point of purchase, and how information in displays affects consumer behavior.

The study will be conducted on campus the first year, then migrate to retail settings in mid-Michigan in 2018. Huddleston and Behe will construct displays that vary in product volume and complexity, and then enlist subjects to pick a particular plant for purchase. Participants will wear second-generation Tobii eye-tracking glasses during their retail experience, which enables researchers to gather and analyze data about what shoppers look at, for how long, and in what sequence before making their purchase decision. Participants will also complete a questionnaire to further assess cues and previous product involvement that may influence their decision.behe-bridget

Huddleston says it's exciting to capture physical evidence through the eye-tracking technology, and to translate the results for retailers. Both she and Behe
also say the research charts new territory since previous research involving visual gaze path analysis has typically examined highly-packaged products in boxes and bottles—and not minimally packaged products like plants, apparel, furniture and art.

"This project will push us a bit more in our learning because we will capture, manage and relate visual data in a more realistic retail setting," says Behe. "And what better products to explore the shopping process than plants? Besides, if we all planted more plants, the world would be a better place."


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East Lansing Film Festival to showcase ComArtSci films

Posted on: October 28, 2016

The 2016 East Lansing Film Festival is right around the corner and you can catch five ComArtSci produced films during the event From November 3 - 10, Wells Hall and Studio C! Meridian Mall Theater will show independent films from places around the world and in the Michigan region.

The film festival aims to enrich the culture and diversity in Michigan communities as well as promoting and exhibiting filmmaking in the Michigan region.

MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences’ films featured in the festival include:

“That Strange Summer”

Directed by Geri Alumit Zeldes, “That Strange Summer” shares a story from the summer of 1975 when 27 patients experienced respiratory failure, while at the same time, 11 died at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Ann Arbor. Post FBI investigation in 1976, two nurses were charged with injecting patients with Pavulon, a muscle relaxer. But, were they guilty?

This thrilling feature will be shown Saturday, November 5, 3:30 p.m., Wells Hall.

“Sorta Late”for-realz

The students of MSU’s College of ComArtSci, the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Music came together to produce the film “Sorta Late”. It tells the story of interns tackling the inner workings of a Late Night show in Detroit. When two local celebrities compete to be host, the interns get a taste of reality about the world of entertainment.

To watch the film that was worked on by more than 100 students, it will be shown Friday, November 4, 9:15 p.m., Wells Hall.

“Living History”

Zeldes directed a second feature called “Living History”. This short film is comprised of nearly a dozen interviews of Michigan’s oldest residents, offering a unique look into our state’s cultural history.

The documentary will be shown Friday, November 4, 7:00 p.m., Wells Hall.

“From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City”from_flint

Completely student produced, “From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City” is an Elise Conklin directorial debut that shares the story of the Flint Water Crisis from a first-hand perspective.

This film won a Student Academy Award and will be shown on Saturday, November 5, 9:00 pm, Wells Hall.

"Beyond Bollywood: Behind the Scenes"

Directed by Amol Pavangadker, this 28 minute short film examines the pre-, post-, and production aspects of the Bollywood-style short film. Following the annual study abroad trip to India, the film covers the experiences of students who went on the trip, learned about the Bollywood culture, and even created a music video of their own. The film will include post-trip interviews and reflections back on the process.

For the full schedule of featured films with times and locations, click here.

By Lily Clark

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ComArtSci professor aims to improve family wellness with NSF Grant

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How can a virtual pet or plant help a family to establish healthy routines? Wei Peng, associate professor in the Department of Media and Information at the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, is developing a system called FRESH (Family Routine, Education, and Sensing Health) that will use familiar objects and environments to help families track wellness and improve health.

The goal of FRESH is to use mobile technology, like tablets and cell phones, to monitor a family’s behavior - including their diet, whether they eat together, their physical activity and sleeping habits. The built-in audio, motion, and light sensors necessary to acquire this information from families, as well as a unique algorithm for an app, are being developed in collaboration with MSU’s College of Engineering.  screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-4-16-06-pm

“The reason that we wanted to focus on these family routines is because these activities are very important for obesity prevention,” Peng said.

FRESH works by accessing and collecting data through sensors placed on family member devices with their permission.

The app then uses the information collected through the system, to show the findings through scenes such as a blossoming flower. As a family’s routine improves, the flower will grow and thrive, offering participants an image of their progress. The program also provides families with a support system since the app enables them to communicate with and learn from other families.

Peng said that preliminary testing in Greater Lansing shows that people are willing and excited to participate.

“Most of the families are very accepting because they see the benefits of helping the whole family to be more healthy,” she explained. “This outweighed the risk or the privacy concern.”

The collaborative project between Michigan State University and University of California, San Diego received a $1 million grant in September from the National Science Foundation and an additional $880,000 from MSU. Peng said the funding will solidify and support their 4-year plan.

By Savannah Swix


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Professor teaches first response training in India, developing online module

Posted on: October 4, 2016

In August, Amol Pavangadkar took a break from teaching film, video, and audio production to students in the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences and instead co-directed a First Responder Training Workshop in Delhi, India. He worked alongside his colleague and Associate Dean at Texas Tech University Dinesh Vyas who heads the program. The intention of the training was to teach people about appropriate medical response during emergency situations, such as an auto accident.

“India has the highest mortality and mobility rate of accident victims in the world. There are thousands of accidents and close to 1,000-plus people die in India every day, in terms of accidents,” said Pavangadkar, a senior teaching specialist in the Department of Media and Information. “Most of it is due to the lack of response in such cases; at times it’s even because of lack of appropriate response.”

amol1Although this was the 12th time the workshop has been organized, this year’s focus was unique since it targeted students in 9th to 12th grade. Pavangadkar said this was arranged in an effort to “get them involved with this project much earlier in life” so they could learn how they can help even at a young age.

The day-long training took place at 11 schools in the Bharti Public School system. During the workshop, students moved from four different stations and were instructed in how to assess and care for four mannequins with different conditions that included broken limbs, internal bleeding, or head and spinal injuries.

While Pavangadkar is not trained in the medical field, he is leading efforts to create an online hybrid module where 80 to 85 percent of the training can be completed online and the rest through hands-on experience. The program recently partnered with the Central Board of Secondary Education, which Pavangadkar said means more resources and increased opportunity for expansion in schools across India.  

“If everything goes according to plan, 77,000 schools in India will offer this training,” Pavangadkar said. “It’s more of a sensitization than actually hands-on training.”amol

By Savannah Swix


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Honour Water: A Singing Game for Healing the Waters

Posted on: September 8, 2016

An assistant professor of Media and Information, Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at MSU has drawn on her heritage to design a singing game that raises awareness of threats to water and offers paths to healing through song.

As an Anishinaabe, Metis and Irish game developer and researcher, Elizabeth LaPensée’s knowledge became a valuable asset in ensuring the accuracy and genuinity of Honour Water.

The game was developed by Pinnguaq with LaPensée in partnership with Nibi Walks and the Research for Indigenous Community Health Center. Support was also provided by The Pollination Project.thewomenedit

LaPensée said Honour Water “draws on Indigenous ways of knowing to reinforce Anishinaabeg teachings with hope for healing waters.”

The inspiration for the game came from Anishinaabe grandmothers who lead ceremonial walks called Nibi walks.

Because water songs are more prevalent in some areas over others, LaPensée, who was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest local, brought these songs to Anishinaabe gatherings at a Native American Youth and Family Center where community members could discuss their language, song, thoughts, and food.

Since not everyone could attend such gatherings, LaPensée created Honour Water as a means to pass on both the language and the water songs.

Water carriers, singers, and native language speakers joined forces to work on Honour Water. LaPensée said they came together with “the hope of sharing songs for healing the waters that can be shared with all people, because the wellbeing of water is vital for all life.”

The game lets players follow a scrolling text in English and Anishinaabemowin to sing along with the Oshkii Giizhik Singers.

“Fun gameplay passes on these songs in a way that encourages comfort with singing and learning Anishinaabemowin,” LaPensée said. “Honour Water offers a way to become comfortable with the vocables of Anishinaabemowin and learn about Nibi (water).”

Honour Water will be exhibited at the leading Indigenous media arts festival: imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

The game is now available through the Apple iTunes store and can also be accessed through

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MSU professor documents medical students in Flint

Posted on: August 30, 2016

Geri Alumit Zeldes, an associate professor and graduate studies director in MSU’s School of Journalism, has a documentary in the works. “Flint Med,” the tentative title, is about third and fourth-year medical students in the College of Human Medicine who are participating in the Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved Program (LMU) in Flint.

Zeldes says, “The film will capture the students as they engage with the community and with residents devastated by the lead water crisis.”

The inspiration for the film, Zeldes said, came from it being a “unique opportunity to bear witness to MSU students who are on the ground and fulfilling our university’s land grant mission to serve Michigan’s vulnerable populations.”

This story hits home for Zeldes. As a Flint native, she exclaimed that Flint isn’t just a place that’s home to her family, it’s a place “rich in storytellers.”

Some of the students who will be featured in the film were discovered on a “Windshield Tour,” a bus tour of Flint narrated by a Flint local. The film crew was present, making it easier to observe and gauge interest in the opportunity. Three LMU students were chosen based on their charisma, recommendation and the interest they expressed in the film project.

The documentary will consist of sit-down interviews of LMU students, Flint residents and MSU faculty and staff. Additionally, the documentary will include footage of students in action with accompanying interviews.

Although the LMU students will be in the film, they will also be asked to keep a weekly video diary to keep track of their experiences and to learn some film production skills.

Zeldes said the biggest challenge in making the film has been distance since the travel time to Flint has to be worth it to cover the expense. To help fund the project, Zeldes said she will be “pitching units and organizations to help defray production costs.”

Zeldes hopes the documentary will reach a general audience interested in the subject of the film.

“I want to document this part of Flint’s history, and I hope the film will move its viewers,” she said.

By Lily Clark

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