GARDENARIUM @ THE DRIVE-IN ARCADE
This was an amazing project that taught me a lot. I was commissioned to do this experimental piece by Beakerhead. They hadn't really built anything directly at the time - mainly just gathered a bunch of really cool existing projects. Our main goal was to juxtapose some of the more extravagant installations that are typical of the festival by maintaining a home-made aesthetic, while creating something fun and completely unique. One of the core initiatives for the Beakerhead organization is to engage and inspire community members through STEAM principles. By keeping the aesthetic raw and exposed, we hoped that people might come away from the installation with new ideas for projects, and the confidence to get started. Most of the inner workings were completely exposed, and many components were held together (or built completely) with zip-ties, tie-wire, and plumbing strap.
Some of my main challenges came from the tight deadline, budget, and requirements (so, every project ever). The Beakerhead crew had a really specific vision in mind for this project, but with a "we'll know it when we see it" vibe. The top-down structure consumed a lot of time. In the future, for this type of project, I hope to swing closer to either, "tell me what you want and I'll make it", "this is what I am going to make, yeah or nay?", or most likely, "here are some options that fit in your budget, pick one". Obviously there will always be some give and take, but many changes were made too late in the process. Of course, it all comes down to my own project management skills - this was one of my first large projects and I learned many new skills by fire.
Partially based on our collaboration, Beakerhead has seriously overhauled their small project funding and proposal process. Community teams can now get some great support and structure to build really cool stuff.
Drive-In Arcade is a collaboration with the fantastically talented illustrator and animator, Paloma Dawkins. It has two main parts: Gardenarium (an exploration game), and the maker-style Drive-In Arcade (a mini van-game controller with integrated automatic concession stand). Unfortunately, my documentation is a little sparse, and almost all from the build process!
HOW IT WORKS:
Since you can't see it all, I'll describe the functionality: the front of the Drive-In Arcade is a generic game controller used for the custom game, Gardenarium, which is displayed through a projector mounted to the roof. The steering wheel functions like a mouse - left & right by turning the wheel, up & down by tilting it. In the passenger seat, there is a large joystick mounted to the floor (like an old airplane control stick). It acts just like a computer joystick. The dashboard has arcade buttons for mode and reset. The game cannot be controlled by a single person.
Gardenarium has two modes: a first-person, 2.5D explore mode, and a top-down survival mode. In Explore mode, the player/s wander through a floating donut-shaped, hand-drawn, psychedelic island. Scattered throughout are floating pop-cans. When the player/s collects one, a real can of pop is dispensed through the pop roller-coaster to the player. In this mode, the steering wheel controls where to look, and the joystick controls the player/s' motion. In Survival mode, the camera swings up and the entire island becomes the character, which is now controlled by the players. Angry clouds attack and players must swing the sunny side of the environment around to chase them away. In this mode the steering wheel spins the player (now the whole island), and the joystick still controls movement. The clouds come more and more rapidly until they overwhelm the player/s and the game re-starts.
The back half of the Arcade is a concession stand. On one side, a big light-up lever dispenses coke-balls (jawbreakers) down a long spiral tube and down a tiny conveyor belt. On the other, a popcorn machine makes fresh popcorn on demand via a few sensors. Patrons can season their popcorn with fancy condiments like truffle oil, butter-infused olive oil, dill-infused olive oil, white cheddar, nutritional yeast, salt, etc. Drinks must be found in the game.