It’s No Grand Theft Auto…

Posted on Mar 23, 2014 |

No, it’s not. Because that would be a disaster.

In a museum setting a game must be easy to play and short. More importantly, players must learn something. Grand Theft Auto (GTA) does not meet these criteria. It may be a very successful game, but it’s complex and most kids play it for hours at a time. If your goal is to be a car thief it’s educational, otherwise not really.

Hungry Birds is designed for the museum/science center/kids imaginarium:

  • Played on a large touchscreen, it’s a magnet for kids;
  • Fun, but unavoidably educational (the playing experience teaches);
  • Self-explanatory, easy to play, runs by itself;
  • Aligned with specific K12 learning objectives;
  • Easy to set up and install, designed for 24×7 use.

Cool Technology

Kids today are surrounded by technology from smart phones to gaming PCs. In many ways, technology is their preferred method of interacting. Faced with a choice between looking at artifacts in glass cases or engaging with an exhibit through a touchscreen, it’s a no brainer for kids 6—12.

And big touch screens are cool. They might have a phone or tablet, but they don’t have a 42″ touch game surface.

Hungry Birds was designed to play on large touch screens all the way up to a 12′ x 7′ wall (click here to learn more about the wall). But the standard configuration is a 42″ touch screen kiosk—impressive, but not crazy expensive (the entire configuration with the touch screen, PC with Windows 7, and stand, costs about $3,500).

Kids love it. It’s ADA compliant and just the right height for them (and good for adults, too). Click here to see more detailed specs.


Best Kiosk Photo

Can’t Help But Learn

The power of Hungry Birds is that it immerses the players in learning. How they play the game is the lesson itself. When the game starts, the trees are white and it’s easier to see the dark moths (the light colored moths are almost invisible). Halfway through the game, pollution is introduced and the trees turn dark making it easier to see the white moths. Because they are competing and trying to get the highest score possible, they inevitably eat (touch) the moths that stand out and their results show exactly what happened in England when soot from coal-bruning factories darkened surrounding trees and the birds started eating mostly light colored moths

Hungry Birds is based on solid science. The case of the peppered moth is well-documented and serves as an example of natural selection in many textbooks. Hungry Birds brings the phenomenon to life.


Runs by Itself

The Hungry Birds game is designed to run by itself, 24×7. When it is first turned on, an Options page is displayed and once a few boxes are ticked, it runs by itself.

  • Fullscreen Mode disables swipe gestures and locks the kiosk in game mode;
  • After 2 minutes of inactivity, the game automatically returns to first screen;
  • On screen character explains the game and the results;
  • Game is 60 seconds, entire experience is under 4 minutes.

It is totally self-sufficient. The on screen character introduces the game, encourages players during game play, and explains the results at the end. The game/kiosk requires no attention from staff.

The game is sixty seconds long, and with the introduction and results, the entire experience is under 4 minutes. Because two players can compete at a time, elapsed time per player is only 2 minutes. This means over 200 visitors could play Hungry Birds each day (based on an 8 hour day) per kiosk.


Aligned with K12 Objectives

The game is aligned with specific K12 objectives, and teacher materials and classroom activities are provided on this site (click here to see Teacher Materials).

The concepts of adaptation and natural selection are essential to a coherent understanding of life on Earth.  Different aspects of the concepts are taught in every grade and each state teaches the concepts at a slightly different time.  Adaptation, however, is usually an educational objective of grades 3-4.

Camouflage is an excellent example of such an adaptation and figures in the larger lesson of how changing environments pose new challenges to living populations.


Easy to Set Up

Kiosk set up is simplicity itself. The PC actually snaps into the back of the touchscreen – there are no cables. There is a vandal-resistant cover on the back of the touchscreen to protect the PC. The only cord is a single power cord that goes down through one of the legs and comes out the bottom of the stand.

Once the kiosk is set up, just download the game and the icon will appear on the Start Menu. From then on, you do not need WiFi, or a network connection, or anything like that. All you need is power. Click on the icon and the game starts and will play until you hit ESC or shut down the PC.

It’s that simple.


Stealing from Grand Theft Auto…

No, it’s not GTA. But we did take one pointer from that game. Kids expect a realistic gameplay scene and ours is every bit as good as GTA. How did we do that? To create an entire city (like GTA) is hugely expensive, but we created only a “slice” – a single forest scene with a prescribed flight path. This allowed us to make the visuals every bit as real as the leading video games for only a tiny fraction of the cost. But to the players, the scenario is every bit as good as GTA. We cut scope, not quality.

No, it’s not Grand Theft Auto. It’s better.