Make it sew
The academics teaming up with Disney’s R&D aim to find the game in quilting
The academics teaming up with Disney to find the game in quilting
The sewing-machine version of quilting game Threadsteading is, to an extent, the title’s ‘handheld’ port. After all, the original version was created for a rather less portable contraption – a 13ft-wide quilting machine, housed in the textiles lab at Disney Research in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
Threadsteading itself bears loose comparison with areacontrol tabletop games, but here the ‘board’ is a piece of fabric, upon which two players – using a control panel hacked into the guts of a sewing machine via an Arduino – sew their gameplay progress into place. The winner doesn’t just walk away victorious – they also get to keep the quilt they created, which must be replaced with a fresh fabric panel for the next game.
The project came about after Gillian Smith, an assistant professor in Game Design and Computer Science at Northeastern University, met Lea Albaugh, research associate at Disney Research, at 2015’s Different Games Conference. They started by assembling a team of academics and researchers around them with a shared interest in craft and game design. Come the summer of that same year, the pair pulled their collaborators together for a week of game jamming to see how they could best harness their 13ft giant as an entertainment platform. “We wanted to create an interactive experience that would show how we can use these machines in new and interesting ways,” Smith explains. “I’m fascinated by how using different kinds of controllers and materials can prompt us to create new kinds of games.”
While Threadsteading’s platform is striking, its most interesting feature is the way in which its gameplay mechanics are inspired by the rules and practicalities of quilt making. Playing well engenders – to a degree – producing an aesthetically consistent, authentic quilt; a spin on consumer as creator possibly unique to games today.