This past Saturday was Playtest Day. We had a significant number of playtesters come by and try out our experiences. We got a decent mix of young and old playtesters in the room on our wheelchair. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get any actual wheelchair-users on Playtest Day. We had the playtesters that were there play our Pose Matching game. We felt that it was the best experience we had to offer if we wanted to judge our game’s effect on people’s perceptions. It is a physical game involving movement with the chair, beating out the DJ experience. It is also a ‘complete’ experience, having a beginning and an end. This seemed easier to digest for most folks than something more art-focused like the Moving Art experience. We asked them questions both before and after they played the game, and of course we also observed them the entire time.
We got a few rather huge takeaways from the playtesting. Some of these takeaways were aligned with our assumptions and expectations, but some of them were quite surprising. For example, it was safe to assume that most people don’t have much, if any, actual experience with wheelchair-users. We found this to be true. Alongside that, most people held a view of wheelchair-users that is understandably uninformed. They felt that they wheelchair-users don’t have the opportunities and joys that able-bodied folks commonly experience. As stated, these views were expected, but it still came as a bit of a shock to hear people really saying it. What came as a surprise to us was the experience’s effect on their perceptions regarding the wheelchair-users specifically, or rather the lack thereof. After playing, based on our questions, people reported a shift in perception about the wheelchair itself. They were more willing to accept and admit that it could be a playful device and has potential in joyous experiences. However, this change did not affect the way that they thought about wheelchair-users. They still reported feelings of pity regarding them. This divide between perceptions of wheelchairs and perceptions of wheelchair-users came as a big surprise to us. Granted, this is pure anecdotal information, but it was a big discovery for us nonetheless.
Our belief is that this lack of change in perception regarding the actual people in the chairs is a direct result of a lack of interaction with those people. Our team started out in a similar place at the beginning of the semester – we had little to no experience with actual wheelchair-users. It is hard to make much headway mentally or socially without getting that firsthand experience. Our new goal is to provide that. The next prototype will be all about wheelchair-users and able-bodied individuals playing together. Specifically, they will be playing cooperatively on a team. We hope that this interdependence will paint the picture that everyone playing the game is capable of achievement and joy. Including the fact that the experience is powered by the wheelchair will also hopefully fulfill the secondary goal of changing perceptions about the chair as well.
On the Kit front, we’ve made a rough draft of the resource. Specifically, we have drafted out each section with all the content textual content that we think should go there. They still require some reformatting and prettying up in general with pictures and diagrams, but the ideas are all present. We will spend next week doing just that, as well as proofreading the document to make sure everyone is flowing and working correctly. Once all of that has been done, the document will be ready to be reviewed by any outside folks who could provide helpful feedback, such as clients.
As a quick side-note – we prepared a questionnaire for the ChairJam participants. Our hope is to get a general impression as to their thoughts on the event and if it could have been improved in some way. This will help us when writing the Kit and thinking about the event in general. The questionnaire included both a required and an optional section so as to not mentally fatigue people with a ton and questions and encourage those that do answer everything to provide more high-quality responses. We also have a question about whether or not people would be willing to do an in-person interview to talk about the event. That would most likely yield more useful results than a simple Google Form. We will review the responses as they come in next week.