The Leone Ranger is an adventure platform game that teaches children in Sierra Leone about safe sanitation practices. It follows the imaginative journey of a young, curious boy named "Bo" as he encounters cute talking animals and mini challenges along his trek to school.
Is it possible to tackle an epidemic with a mobile game? Although it sounds like an unlikely proposal, this was the question my team at the University of Waterloo’s game design course tried to answer during the ebola crisis in 2014 which heavily affected children in Sierra Leone. Among many grave consequences, long-term school closures were the result of the epidemic. Children were not properly educated about health and safety and as a result became more susceptible to the virus.
A few games (see wash-united.org) have been successful developed in the same market, however there is a lack of free games that directly addressed the specifics of ebola. Over the course of 3 months my team and I came up with a mobile game solution to this challenge.
In this project I was the ux designer and sole visual artist. My tasks include:
1. Planning out the storyboard with Jessica, one of our developers
2. Designing the screenflow and interface
3. Designing all characters and backdrops, and creating all
When creating the storyboard with Jessica, our developer, we took into consideration the ratio between education and gameplay. Given the serious nature of our topic, we wanted to make sure players are learning through exploration rather than have information forced upon them. Our brainstorm led to a consensus on developing an "adventure platform" through which players periodically encounter mini challenges.
This was the first time I designed the screenflow for a game. I took a lot of inspiration from existing games - such as Angry Birds and Super Mario. Using sketches, sticky notes, and later on digital mockups, I was able to convey the screenflow to our developers.
Throughout the development of our game, I was responsible for the ux and visual design. I designed the game art to accurately portray the style, culture, and environment of Sierra Leone, with all sprites crafted in a pixel art style. We researched various aspects of Sierra Leone including the people, culture, geography, and climate. We used this to craft a realistic backdrop for our game.
Set in a two-dimensional, pixelated world reminiscent of 8-bit games, the game has a cute cartoon look that is achieved through pleasant colours, oversimplified character details and backgrounds due to the large nature of each pixel, as well as the personification of plants and inanimate objects. The feel of the game world is light yet informative as serious matters such as the contamination of the Ebola virus is not depicted graphically or realistically, but is instead symbolized for the young audience (eg. a small furry monster chasing the player).
We took it one step further and 3D printed our character, Bo!