“The year is 2050.
Everyone is busy staring at their screens, interacting with holograms, tapping their touch screens, or simply lost in virtual reality.
Physical activity has reached an alarming low.
And, obesity now plagues the human race.
This is the future.
And, you must save humanity.”
* * *
This was the premise for our Creative Computing class. The students have been tasked with creating physically interactive computer games, enabling them to escape their virtual realities and enjoy games that require physical actions. We let the students observe and play some games that we had designed. These games included a “Monkey game” that requires users to place their hands over IR sensors to move a virtual monkey left and right to collect bananas while avoiding monsters on the screen, “Balloon Pop” where users blow air through a microphone to pop a virtual balloon, a “Racing game” that has a DIY steering wheel used to control a virtual car to avoid obstacles, and a “Dance Dance Revolution” clone that requires users to step on the block indicated on the screen, synced to the tune of some popular songs. Throughout this course, the students will gain the skills required to build similarly interactive games.
So how did we build these games?
These games utilize Scratch,a visual programming language, to design the video games on the software side. On the hardware side, an Arduino, a microcontroller, is used to interact with sensors and switches to build the physical interactive interface for these games. The key to integrating the software and hardware into a cohesive whole is a software called Arduino for Scratch (A4S). A4S integrates features of Arduino into Scratch so that our students, most of whom are inexperienced in dealing with the text-based coding of Arduino, can easily use the simple visual programming interface of Scratch itself to use an Arduino and sensors to turn their games that were limited to the computer screen, into games that require physical interaction.
Therefore, the first step to interactive game design is to install Scratch and A4S, explore their features, and familiarize yourself with the Scratch programming environment. The following guide provides step-by-step instructions for installing Scratch and A4S, so that you can start making interactive computer games, and thus, save humanity from obesity!
1. Download and install Java from this link: https://www.java.com/en/download/manual.jsp
2. Download and install Adobe AIR from this link: http://get.adobe.com/air/
3. Download Scratch 2 Offline Editor from this link: https://scratch.mit.edu/scratchr2/static/sa/Scratch-437.exe
4. Download A4S (Arduino for Scratch) version 1.0 from this link and extract the zip file: https://github.com/thomaspreece10/SuperEasy-A4S/raw/bf117884e746a1163c92bb2628e9b60295747977/Release.zip
5. Connect the Arduino to your computer.
6. To check if you have a 32-bit or a 64-bit operating system, Go to “My Computer” and right click on the free space as shown in the picture below. Then click on Properties.
7. Check if you have a 32-bit version or a 64-bit version of windows. If you have a 64-bit version of Windows, skip directly to Step 10.
8. If you have 32-bit Windows, open the “drivers” folder as shown below:
9. Run “dpinst-x86” and follow the on-screen instructions.
10. Open “main.exe” file from your A4S folder.
16. Open Scratch.
17. Click on the File menu while pressing the Shift key on the keyboard.
18. Click on the “Import experimental HTTP extension” option.
19. Navigate to your A4S folder and choose the “A4S.s2e” file.
20. Click on the “More Blocks” Option to see the additional blocks that are used to control the Arduino using Scratch.
21. The indicator shown in the picture below will be “green” if A4S is working properly.