An educational locative game for the Montreal Botanical Garden, created as the sole research assistant to Dr. Jill Didur, Concordia University, Montreal. I designed and programmed the app in iOS from the ground-up with OpenGL (custom library). In addition, I helped present the project at ACLA 2013 and iterated the design over several play-tests at the site.
We successfully demoed the app to the garden administration. Project was officially launched (marketed by the garden) May 2015. Alpine Garden Misguide is the first digital locative experience installed in the MBG in its 83 year lifespan.
Read more about the launch here, or view the Misguide website. Alternatively, you can go directly to the garden with an iPhone 4S+ device and scan a QR tag in the Alpine Garden that links to our App Store page.
This project secured a $390,000 SSHRC Insight Grant for my supervisor, Dr. Didur, for five years.
Play-test with Pippin Barr and Rilla Khaled featured in TAG lab’s promotional video: http://tag.hexagram.ca/about/.
Design philosophy: Based on Dr. Didur’s research, the act of plant collecting, as well as the sometimes culturally destructive nature of plant hunting, had to be captured in the design. I evoked the act of reaching down and examining a particularly virtuous plant by placing QR codes where flowers would be — putting the player “in the shoes” of a colonial plant-hunter. Although QR codes are perhaps viewed as an obsolescent technology, this conscientious decision aptly served the design — when asked whether we should swap in-situ QR codes for GPS, our playtesters unanimously told us that switching to GPS-only would ruin the experience.
Another unique design feature is the virtual compass, mimicking its use by British plant hunters in the early twentieth century. This compass replaces the top-down, Google-Maps-esque overlay that pervades much of “locative media.” The compass guides players to their next location by pointing in the direction of travel. This feature cost us many days of reconfiguring GPS codes in-situ, resulting in a unique experience one is hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
Although I drew the compass, Dr. Didur’s mother drew the beautiful botanical drawings featured in the app. These drawings had to be painstakingly torn apart in Photoshop and pieced back together to achieve a “wind-blowing” effect: players can pluck the flowers by scrubbing their finger. Notably, picked flowers do not reappear; instead they are transferred into an “Herbarium” section. This design choice mimics real life, where uprooted specimens, selected for pressing, were removed from their habitat and taken abroad.
[(Mis)guide to Alpine Plants is] a locative media application that curates the relationship between colonial history and botanical gardens. [It] subverts the genre of the botanical field guide and encourages garden visitors to hunt for and collect QR codes that unlock archival and contemporary material related to the history of colonial botanical exploration in the Himalayan region, analyses of travel writing and garden manuals related to the collection and propagation of alpine seeds and plants, and reflections on how colonial culture has shaped the design of contemporary and alpine and rock gardens.” (source)