One of the games I was introduced to during the opening night of the DiGRA conference was not actually a game at all, but rather an invitation to play. It was called “Ringgg” –  a surprisingly elegant “toy-like” app that invited people to make music and create games together.

Before I go any further, here’s a little video showing some of the designers at play with their invention:

and here is an equally elegant explanation of the play mechanics of the Ringgg toy.

In general, I tend to pay deep attention to ideas that lead to new ways to play – especially when they come from students. Students have a way of making things that are fundamentally new. Ringgg is such a simple idea. It fun. It is based on readily available technology. But it is not a game. It’s a social toy – an invitation to players to create their own fun. As such, it is something worth paying very close attention to.

I was, as you by now can assume, deeply interested in learning more about them, and their product. It turned out that Ringgg was created by students in the Art, Media and Technology division of the Utrecht School of Arts. I wrote to them, and received the following explanation:

Concerning the ways of playing people have come up with, there are a few videos with examples on our Facebook page.

The quality of the videos is not very good but they show some of the types of play that we’ve seen. The most common playform is probably the knot game, which our project team came up with initially. However, we’ve seen several groups of people play it without any prompting or suggestions. All of the following forms of play have been spontaneous as well.

Dancelike moves are fairly common when only two people are playing: we’ve seen people waltz around the room spontaneously several times now.

When several people are playing we’ve seen some users who try to force the others to follow their movements, resulting in a kind of tug-of-war. At least one group playing this way turned it into a game where the player who let go of an iPod first was the loser.

Today a new type of play was suggested where all the players play the same sound on each iPod and then sync their movements so the sounds are synced too.

As I mentioned at the party, some people refused to play with other people during showcases. Others turned several iPods into a ‘piano’ by putting them down in a row and tapping the buttons to get short bursts of sound and using the tilt effects.

The app has a challenge mode which tells people to make specific movements. These movements are open to some interpretation and not monitored in any way, so there’s a lot of variety in how players move when using this mode.

…Our project team was assembled for this project alone, for the third year of several courses (Game Design and Development, Interaction Design, Music and Technology and Arts and Media Management). These projects take around three months and are requested by clients.

Samantha Geurts (on behalf of Team Fractal)

Ringgg, explains Marinka Copier, “is a project we developed within my research & design group ‘Creative Design for Playful Impact.’ The researcher and designer responsible for the “Sound Toy” project is Richard van Tol. The student team that developed the first audio toy (Ringgg) consists of 3rd year game design, music/audio design and interaction design students.” Here‘s a full list of the team.

Richard Van Tol, who, along with Marinka, established the Creative Design for Playful Impact R&D Group, adds:

Ringgg is essentially the prototype-outcome of the SoundToy project. One of the main goals of the project was to gain insight in how sound can be used as a primary mediator for play and playfulness. For us, it was also a first exploration of the properties and issues related to digital toy design. Ringgg gave us several insights which we are now using  in a follow-up project, not-so-creatively named the SoundToy 2-project (with 4th year students). The focus here is more on using sound as the main mediator for play that primarily uses imagination/fantasy and construction/creation. The students will keep a blog of the process, which you can find here on the CDPI website.

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