The challenges of designing games for Pillo

Pillo is a new intuitive and comfortable interface for controlling games, in the shape of a pillow. Sounds cool, right? And it is! It is specifically meant to make special games that cater to a new gaming audience, namely elderly, young kids, and people with reduced motor or cognitive skills. However, designing games for such new audiences, using a new interface, presents new design challenges.

Rethink the input

First of all, the Pillo interface challenges game designers to rethink the meaning of game input. With Pillo you don’t have an arsenal of buttons to link to all your game and character features. A Pillo controller embodies a gyroscope sensor, accelerometer and a highly sensitive pressure sensor. So instead of designing from a genre interest, at Pillo Games we start with investigating how people use our controller and how the game’s feedback is experienced as meaningful and expected. Based on such use cases, we start concepting games that focus on joy in repeating (or training) these interactions.

Balanced progression

Games for these audiences almost never discuss increasing difficulty as a progression dynamic. Rather, we discuss how aesthetics or scenery could evolve to illustrate progression. In, for example, physiotherapy the physical exercise itself becomes more difficult over time, so making the game more difficult would easily break the flow of training. Look at the game from the perspective of a patient and imagine that exercises can be boring or even painful to execute. Therefore, we should do all that’s in our power to distract them with something that is enjoyable, without losing sight of the core method of training, namely repetition.

Another example is in games for children with reduced cognitive skills. Imagine how having them play along with a self-­evolving story makes them interact with the game at their own pace, whilst getting audio­visual feedback that triggers to explore more. The interaction is more valuable here than the progression.

Much more to explore

And Pillo still offers way more opportunities for innovative gameplay that we haven’t explored yet. As it provides also a gyroscope and accelerometer, you could think of racing games or real physical games with tossing or shaking Pillo controllers. We might not even be talking about “gameplay” in the traditional sense anymore, because Pillo game experiences go beyond the screen.

Ard Jacobs
Ard Jacobs
Ard Jacobs is an Interaction & Experience Designer with a real passion for play. His mission is to strengthen the relation between visual and sensitive capacities.

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