"Houston, We Have Spinach!" (HWHS) is a 2D rocket building game designed to promote nutrition literacy. To succeed, players must learn which foods contain high levels of certain nutrients and combine them to create the ultimate "rocket fuel."
Players start out with enough money to build a simple "solid-fuel rocket." Using the Nerd-Grapple(tm), players load food from a truck onto the rocket. At first just simply mastering the grapple enough to pick up anything is an achievement for the player. Later, as their skills improve they will be tasked with "cherry picking" the best food items from the pile, using the knowledge they've gained along the way to understand what foods are most useful.
Each successful rocket flight earns the player additional money. These funds can be used to unlock new, better rocket parts or field experiments and equipment. The equipment ranges from simple recycling bins, which allow them to exchange food items, to sophisticated machines that reveal specific nutrient properties of each food.
At the initial level, only calories are important in determining the rocket's performance. As they progress to higher performance rockets, they are challenged to fuel the rocket in different ways, which in turn encourages them to learn the particular nutrient qualities of the foods offered.
At the highest level, they begin to unlock parts to build the liquid-fuel distillery. This is necessary to achieve the greatest distances in space. Once built, they must balance nutrients to avoid adding ballast to the ship, and in doing so they can go on to achieve ever greater feats in space, unlocking distant galaxies, and more.
Milestones, such as discovery of new planets and other celestial bodies, unlock mini-games (a doughnut-blasting-asteroids-type game for instance) as well as feedback items such as new food trucks which provide better or more varied food.
Childhood obesity rates are rising around the world. Here in the U.S. it’s well documented and widely agreed that young people are in a health crisis. Today, about one in three American kids and teens is overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is now the No. 1 health concern among U.S. parents, topping drug abuse and smoking.
Contributing to this crisis is a lack of education. Mixed messages from government and a profit-driven food industry aren't always in the best interests of our children's health. Often even parents don’t understand what’s making their kids overweight and why, despite their best efforts, they can’t take the weight off.
Nutrition literacy is a small, but solid first step toward healthier kids. HWHS strives to teach kids the nutritional facts about various foods without preaching or scolding -- or even mentioning obesity and wellness at all.
Games have the power to engage, to teach and change behaviors. We’re using a tool that kids love to help educate them about food, plus have fun along the way. In our app, Houston We Have Spinach, kids will build a rocket and fuel it with food. Like their own bodies, the better the nutrition is going in, the better the rocket will fly.
Target Audience: Kids 8-12 years of age and their parents. Part of our development process is necessarily kid-testing the game both for fun and comprehension.
Language support: The initial release will be available in English and Spanish.
Platform: Our goal is to make HWHS as accessible as possible. To that end we have designed it to run on a wide variety of platforms. The initial releases will be for Windows PC, Mac, iOS and Android (both phone and tablet). The 2D graphics are not particularly demanding and thus it will run on many older devices and computers with modest specs. It has been designed from the outset to support keyboard, mouse, and touch input.
We need Kickstarter funding to complete the art, animation and sound assets, finish programming, complete balance testing, perform curriculum review and QA. There are also some miscellaneous expenses including licenses we will need to obtain, as well as legal and other professional services.
Here is a breakdown of how the funds will be distributed, assuming only our minimum goal is met.
HWHS is roughly 25% complete. At this point we have demo builds running on all the target platforms. We have laid out the basic logic and data architecture for the game and its assets. The remaining task list includes fleshing out the 2D assets, programming (especially the mini-games), bug-squashing and kid-testing.
Bo Monroe is our creative director, overseeing all things inspired, imagined and artistic. He went to art school in Chicago to learn to paint and along the way met an Apple II. It was love at first byte. Inspired by his hero Woz, Bo taught himself programming, starting with assembly language and then moving on to the alphabet soup of higher languages. He cites his dad and HC Westermann as his greatest artistic influences.
Mary Romolino is our fearless leader and uses her years of business leadership to bring our team’s vision to life. She also keeps everyone on task, is our public face, and heads up our sales efforts. When she’s not bossing everyone around she’s probably thinking about it while on the bike trail just outside of our office or enjoying a sun-downer glass of wine with her husband.
Dr. Eric B. Bauman makes sure that our games are driven by sound educational theory and science. He’s an award-winning educational game designer and an expert in game-based learning, plus he has a PhD in curriculum and instruction. Yep, he’s our team’s official egghead. Did we mention that he’s also an RN, paramedic, firefighter and was a competitive powerlifter and Strongman? Seriously.
Michael Flaherty is our programming, music and sound lead. He creates music and sound effects with a wide array of synths and music software plus funny voices and his trusty $20 Casio keyboard (which doubles as a calculator). He collaborates on the design and the code of our games and makes sure everything functions smoothly and stays bug-free. Either that or he’s downtown showing off his mad karaoke skills!
Tarah Hiemes is the newest Acme Nerd. Currently working towards an Animation degree at Madison College, she brings illustration, concepting and animation skills to the team. An avid outdoors person, she enjoys biking and kayaking -- and also pumping quarters into pinball machines.
Risks and challenges
The task list for completing HWHS is currently approximately 25% done. While we feel the path to completion is relatively straightforward with any project there are always surprises and setbacks. Real-world testing with the target age group both for fun and subject comprehension will no doubt reveal areas that need refinement or even rethinking.
We pledge to keep the community abreast of developments as our work progresses.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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