Face the Monster
“Face the Monster” is an interactive game work where a participant can see the shape of himself/herself in the darkness interacting with the little monsters falling around. Different sounds and emotions of the monsters will be triggered based on the different status of the participant —— is he/she crouching down because of fear, or standing up to bravely face the monsters?
produced by: Akira Wang
Have you ever had a time surrounded by all kinds of troublesome or difficulties, with the feeling that you are overwhelmed and eaten by those terrible monsters? “Face the monster” is inspired based on this condition. The performance shows the development of the heroine initially curling herself up, being scared and mocked by the monsters; but when she tried to stand up and face to the monsters, she found that she actually has the power to wipe them out.
Concept and background research
Everyone may go through a hard time where all kinds of negative moods take complete hold of a people’s life. I would like to visualize and portray the state of a desperate and helpless mind and the condition of being continuously invaded by those undesirable troubles. Inspired by the performance Messa di Voce and Shadow Monsters, I decided to represent the negative feelings as little monsters that can turn a person into a monster.
Initially, the concept was designed as when the participant covers his face he will be continuously beaten by the little monsters until he looks straight to the screen. However, in this case, the participant cannot see what’s happening on the screen when covering. To make the participant see how the monsters will sneer at him when he’s subservient to the monsters’ attack, I changed the switch of status to crouch down and stand up by detecting the position of the participant.
Technical / Self evaluation
The project is based on Openframeworks with addons of ofxOpenCv, ofxKinect, ofxBox2d, ofxGui and ofxPS3EyeGrabber. It generally has three technical parts: contour detection, physical world setting and collision detecting, and game mechanism design and development.
The project may get more accurate results in detecting the contour of the participants by using Kinect, while due to the device restrictions it uses a PS3 camera with background differencing in detecting objects appearing on the background. The most complex part lies in adjusting the parameters of different thresholds and resample and rebuild the contour detected into polylines to get optimized results, thus a GUI is built for adjustment. The performance achieved a relatively satisfying result with the participant wearing black in the white background.
The physical world uses the Box2d engine with many useful physic parameters to adjust for a realistic physical effect. Each little monster is a circle body in the Box2d world bound with specific data including time, type, states and sound, thus a data class is created and pointers are used for monster elements to get their respective data.
The design and development of the game mechanism is the most explorable part in this project. As there can be different types of monsters, and the interactions of the participant with monsters can trigger different effect based on their respective states. The monsters are hand-sketched with four types in total: normal figure, blink figure (each monster will blink according to their own time, and will blink when colliding with others), sneer figure (if has hit the participant) and wiped figure (it will retain for a while and then explode).
The unsatisfying part is in the switching between two status of the participant. I didn’t find ways to make the contour “monster-like”, instead, I set the dynamic changing of the resampled polylines to represent the “shake” of the participant if hit many times by the monster, but it was not that obvious in the performance.
There are many potential extensions can be applied to this project. Many data and values in the game like number of different monster states are recorded but not used as part of the mechanism. The background can have changes in vision and sounds based on how many times the participant is hit by the monsters. It has two different directions in being a more entertaining game with scores or being a more abstract artwork with more implications. I received feedback suggesting that monsters can represent different types of moods like envy, greed, etc. and can have different impacts on the participant, which I think is a very interesting way to explore.
Brad Simpson. "Kinect Interactivity Demo". 2013. https://labs.ideo.com/2011/04/12/kinect-interactivity-demo/
Philip Worthington. "Shadow Monsters" (Installation). 2004
Tmema (Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman) with Jaap Blonk and Joan La Barbara. "Messa di Voce" (Performance). 2003
Theo Papatheodorou. "Background Differencing" coding reference from Workshops in Creative Coding Week 12, Computer Vision. https://learn.gold.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=12859§ion=13
Vanderlin. Examples in ofxBox2d. 2020. https://github.com/vanderlin/ofxBox2d