Using aspects of game design, projection mapping, and installation art, unblocked is an interactive experience meant to connect people together in a way like never before. The experience works as a 4-player game where people interact with “The Block” through their smartphone device to complete a series of prompts aimed to encourage vulnerability and introspection.
Ammerman Center for Arts and Tech SIP
unblocked is my Senior Integrative Project (SIP) for the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology. It is the final culmination of the exploration, research, and prototyping of ideas that occurred during my 3 years with the center.
After the pandemic hit, I found myself wondering how people form meaningful connections with each other. To me, connection occurs through shared experiences, being okay with the uncomfortable, and allowing oneself to be vulnerable with others. unblocked is meant to empower people to be honest, vulnerable and introspective, as well as provide a space to relate to and empathize with others in the community.
Watch a Short Trailer
Here’s a short trailer of the unblocked experience on its opening day May 6, 2022.
“The Block” is a physical monolith in the center of the room that assigns each of the four players with a color. In each round, the players are all presented with the same question and will submit their answers on their smartphone device. After all answers are received, The Block displays them anonymously. The group can then take a vote to reveal who wrote which answer, however the vote must be unanimous. Throughout the game there are wildcard rounds which encourage more face to face interaction.
By using anonymity, I hope people will be more comfortable sharing their personal and honest answers. The voting system is to encourage conversation to happen at the discretion of everyone in the group, however, this experience is only what the participants choose it to be– they all have agency over how personal they want to be in their responses.
What Did The Block Ask?
As the experience progressed, the questions became deeper and asked the players to share more about themselves than they would regularly do in a day to day conversation.
Here are some examples of what The Block asked:
How are you really?
What’s your favorite part about yourself that isn’t physical?
Are you afraid to be yourself? Why or why not?
What’s a compliment you wish someone would tell you?
What do you need to forgive yourself for?
Throughout the game, wildcard rounds would appear that encouraged more face to face interaction between members of the group.
Some examples include:
A deep breathing exercise together
“Write a note to the player on your right. Don’t read it until after the game is over.”
“Stare into the eyes of the player across from you until time runs out.”
“Trade phones and set a reminder in that player’s calendar for a random date. What do you want to remind that person?”
How It Works
Physical setup of the room:
2 HD projectors mounted on opposite corners of the room to allow for full coverage of all 4 faces of The Block and the surrounding walls.
2 medium sized speakers on oppposite sides of the room
Camera on tripod to monitor visuals and experience
All of this tech were connected by cables that led out of the room and into the monitor room where the experience was being directed.
Inside the monitor room, I managed the experience in live time and controlled lighting, sound, and visuals all from my laptop.
I used MadMapper, a projection mapping software, to map video and images onto The Block and the walls and cue scenes such as a new question prompt or to display answers.
At the beginning of the game, players scanned a QR code with their phones that connected them to a shared Google Doc where they could type their answers to questions. This document was in line with their assigned color. I would then copy and paste their answer into a Photoshop file that was being syphoned to MadMapper to display their answers onto The Block.
I hope the participants of the experience left with a feeling of pride for putting themselves in a vulnerable and potentially uncomfortable situation. I also hope the experience let them feel less alone and provided them with a space to relate to and get to know themselves and others on a deeper level. A space where they could be unblocked.