WPU SGD plays to win at Serious Play Conference

October 20, 2023
Chris Tate showing BakeSmith Game.

William Peace University (WPU) students have a history of creating innovative projects, especially in the simulation and game design major. This came to a head recently as a group of students received accolades at the Serious Play Conference for their game Bakesmith.

This year, the Serious Play took place from Oct. 11-13 at Toronto Metropolitan University. The aim of the conference is to elevate professionals’ skills in game based learning, and serve as a networking event for aspiring designers.

Chris Tate with Sue Boyle.

A WPU team received a bronze rating in their category, only being outranked by four other projects. Bakesmith was recognized in the K-12 education category, which awards educational games. Christ Tate, a spring 2023 graduate of WPU’s SGD program, served as tech lead and secondary support. Tate attended and exhibited with Professor Christman at the conference on Oct. 11.

Among the other winners were Drexel University, Ball State University, University of Wisconsin.

Bakesmith focuses on educating children about healthy eating habits. Through both the design and story the team teaches eating a balanced diet in a fun and engaging way both through art and storytelling.

“We really enjoyed the idea of fun, cute food items and enemies,” said Tate. “We really like the idea but what can we do that’s actually unique and also educational when it comes to food.”

This theme spread its way all throughout the game while also staying enjoyable enough to keep the target audience of kids engaged. One key point of this was in the design of both the weaponry and the enemies.

The enemies are centered around different foods as well as all being a pun or play on words. For instance, one of the first enemies you face is the Carb Crab with the design of an anthropomorphic bread bowl. 

Roger Christman and Chris Tate with the Director of the Serious Games Conference (Sue Boyle).

“Definitely since our target audience was the younger crowd, we wanted to keep them engaged with the message of our game of being like, very like pro eating healthy and balancing the food groups,” said Aleece Harman, a spring 2023 graduate and art lead, secondary in design on the game. “We want it to be very approachable, very engaging for them. So we went very colorful, very fun with the characters.”

Being a senior project, the Bakesmith team utilized a variety of new techniques to give their game a higher level of polish. Motion capture was used to capture more realistic movements for the characters. 3D modeling software brought concept sketches to life from the page to the game.

“This class is very purposeful in that it’s designed so they practiced at WPU in a scalable environment because that is where they are going out in a professional world. They are working in teams to develop  games,” said Christman, chair of the communication, SGD, Art and interactive design departments.

The team faced a handful of challenges. Chief among them, according to Tate, was the user interface for the crafting and inventory system. Originally the section was supposed to take around a week; however, after nearly four weeks of work, Tate had to scrap the project and start anew. The final product still didn’t have all the desired features.

Despite the challenges, the game was finished and is currently available for download by the general public here.

Though there were many late nights spent in the SGD lab slaving over computers, pizza in hand, the final product serves as a shining example of how much Peace students can achieve.