In summary

  • Open Arcade is a fun and inclusive outdoor gaming experience piloted in the Melbourne CBD 
  • The initiative allowed user experience and interaction design students to work with industry partners, City of Melbourne and SAGE Automation 
  • Students were asked to consider issues like social distancing, inclusivity, accessibility and fun 

After long lockdowns in Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology students have used their UX design skills to help create the future of outdoor play. 

The Open Arcade transforms Southbank’s Queensbridge Square, injecting a fun and inclusive outdoor gaming experience to the Melbourne CBD. 

The pilot program is a collaboration between City of Melbourne, Swinburne and technology solutions company, SAGE Automation.

Concept art from collaborations between Swinburne University of Technology, SAGE Automation and the City of Melbourne. Image supplied by The City of Melbourne.

How it works

The Open Arcade uses digital sensing technology. A camera tracks players’ movements so they can use their bodies to control the game in real time on the large LED screen. A processor and supercomputer, wifi, Bluetooth and custom software keep it running.

Four digital games can be enjoyed by up to 12 players at a time. Players of any age, ability, language or prior knowledge can participate. The games also allow for social distancing and are played in an open space.

Designing the future of outdoor games

Program director of Swinburne’s Smart City Research Institute and Director of Swinburne’s Centre for Design Innovation, Professor Jeni Paay, led the collaboration between City of Melbourne, engineers and tech specialists at SAGE Automation and Swinburne’s user experience and interaction design students.

“Our final year Bachelor of Design students were given the opportunity to work with the developers of the Open Arcade pilot to explore design alternatives and aspects of open-air gaming to inspire and inform the development of the final game,” she says.

“This gave the students industry experience, on a real-world project, where they get to see the results in the city.”

Students were asked to consider issues like safety, sharing, user types, behaviour types and how to make the games a fun, inclusive and accessible experience for all. They presented their findings to an industry panel and the best ideas were incorporated into the final design.

Student presented their findings and ideas after conducting user and field research during lockdown.

Minh Ton-Nu and Laura Ferris were two of the design students who helped to make the games inclusive and accessible.

Minh says, “The chance to work on Open Arcade challenged my skills for designing a holistic gaming user experience for a wide audience, balancing between the games’ excitement and accessibility.

“Every day I take the tram from the city to my office in South Melbourne and I get excited seeing Open Arcade at Southbank.”

Swinburne staff and students, SAGE Automation staff and Lord Mayor Sally Capp celebrated the Open Arcade returning to Queensbridge Square in February.

The project is part of the work integrated learning Swinburne students experience, providing experience with real-world problems, industry networks and an exciting, tangible outcome.

Laura says, “It was sincerely rewarding working to a real-world brief that had genuine limitations, meaning we had to consider any potential issue to ensure we were creating a game that was appropriate for the context.

“It’s been an invaluable experience; I’ve learnt how to work with real clients, how to best communicate my ideas, and what a difference it makes to have a strong, creative and diverse team working on a problem together.”

Try it for yourself

Open Arcade is part of the Reimagining the City Challenge. It can be played seven days a week from 7am to 8pm, until 3 March.

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