Challenge: As a class assignment, my partner Jamie and I conceptualized a mobile app game that aids in erasing the negative stigma surrounding the human microbiome, as well as bacteria in general.
Team: Morgan Tieu, Jamie Chen
Tasks: Storytelling, Character design, Background illustration, Video Game UI/UX, Research, Logo & Branding, Layout design
Tools: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign
Timeline: March - April 2019
Targeted Audience: Children (8-12)
Topic Background & Our Objective
There is a general consensus that the bacteria surrounding our everyday lives is harmful. However, society’s black and white thinking on this topic leads to unwanted effects when considering all the microorganisms that reside everywhere that are known to help us survive.
Jamie and I set out to challenge the way society sees bacteria by introducing the concept in an innovative, playful manner to an impressionable, young audience.
While in school, a young boy learns all about the benefits of bacteria, but still believes all bacteria are bad. As the bell releases the students for home, he begins to cough and feel sick. His mother picks him up from school and checks his temperature to find that he have a fever! The boy is tucked into bed, and while he drifts off to sleep he begins to have a strange dream....
MicroFido tells the story of a Bifidobacterium longum's journey to save his human. Fido, the Bifidobacterium longum, puts his heart and soul in curing his human. He traverses through the maze of the human microbiota, collecting medicine packets and eliminating pathogens. After each maze, he learns a new ability which he will use to solve more mazes. Once he collects all 3 of the medicine packets, the child is cured!
The child wakes up from his dream and looks around in disbelief. He would never doubt the positive effects of bacteria again!
Originally, MicroFido was meant to be a co-op game focusing on the symbiotic relationship between the two playable elements, a human and bacteria residing within the human microbiota. We looked at games with these mechanics, such as Ib & Obb and Pode, to get a sense of how to execute this. However, we later decided that the narrative would better fit with a single player navigating the microbiota as a bacteria.
Now that our focus shift towards presenting a spectacular world along with a simplistic but enticing narrative, we looked into games such as Nintendo's Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Playdead's Inside, which are praised for their aesthetics and excellent visual narrative.
Fido: The Bifidobacterium Longum
Our main playable character, Fido, is a bacteria residing in the human body that is known for providing various health benefits, as well as being able to actively fight off offending pathogens.
In game, this bacteria appears as a canine-like creature, with friendly and enthusiastic mannerisms to remind the player of a dog. We enjoyed the play on words with the scientific name of the actual bacteria, as well as the idea of introducing a young audience to a foreign creature by associating it with a familiar animal known to be cute and loyal.
MicroFido is a platformer where the player traverses through stages by eliminating enemies and collecting items. In each level, a specialized ability is introduced and becomes a primary function needed to proceed. Each stage is loosely modeled after a system in the human body.
Stage 01: The GI Tract
As B. longum naturally resides in the human gastrointestinal tract, this is where Fido begins his journey. The tract's inspiration is reflected through the wavy textures in the background, which are meant to be the walls of the intestines.
As the first stage, Fido cannot perform special abilities at this time. He is only able to perform short and long range attacks and collect items as he explores the map.
Stage 02: The Immune System
As Fido moves along in his journey, he finds himself inside the lymphatic vessels that make up the immune system. The watery nature of this level is our way of signifying the clear lymph fluid that moves along these vessels.
The player is introduced to one of Fido's special abilities: bio-luminescence. This stage features invisible platforms that will cause Fido to fall through the map. The player must use Fido's temporary glowing ability to light up his environment and successfully continue forward. The ability is recharged at the flower stations placed throughout the map.
Stage 03: The Skeletal System
Later, Fido makes his way into the Skeletal System, where he travels through bones to continue on his search. To add more detail to this stage, the sky features the main components of the circulatory system- the arteries, veins, and an assortment of rushing, red blood cells.
In this area Fido gains the special ability of Communication. Multiple areas through the bone platforms are blocked off, with friendly microorganisms peeking out from the porous space of the bones. He'll ask for their aid, and the bacteria will then be controlled by the player through their own separate puzzle. Once the puzzle is solved, the player returns to Fido and finds the joint blocking his path moved. Fido makes sure to send a big thanks to his friends for the help!
UI + Game Mechanics
Logo + Branding
Our central branding is meant to be kid friendly, using rounded type and inviting colors.
Throughout the making of this project, we learned about the human microbiota and how to combat the negative stigma surrounding it. As the subject remains quite complex, with the microbiota still being presently explored in research and many products promoting the helpfulness of the microbiota targeted towards adults, it was a fun challenge to try and simplify the topic to cater towards a younger demographic.