Continental Diamond Hunt

Full-stack designer (concept, UI and UX design), full-stack developer, voice artist and researcher


Children are growing up in a digital era and are accustomed to being surrounded by technologies and interacting with them. Computer games are of great importance to children and they love to spend their entire leisure time playing with them. It is a fact that young learners spend much more time playing computer games and watching TV than reading. Up to now, educational game designers have rarely considered children as design partners and experts of their own requirements and skills levels. Instead, they have only been considered as end users and testers for the completed games.

Solution / Overview

Continental Diamond Hunt is an educational game for kindergarten children aged between four and six. The game starts with a short video which introduces the characters in the game and the storyline. When playing the game children learn about the continents and their countries, flags, animals, people and famous sights. They answer questions in order to collect diamonds for King Leander, whose treasure has been stolen, hidden and cursed by Nyx, the villain of the story. Depending on the answer given, the king or the villain appears on screen to encourage the children to pursue the challenge further. At the end, if they have been able to regain all the diamonds, a video is played where the king gets the diamonds of his crown back and is crowned again.

Process and Methods

The objective of this project was to involve the children throughout the whole design process. Their roles ranged from creating the storyline or judging the suitability of the technology used. For this purpose I carried out observations, video analysis, cultural probe, technology probe and subsequently implemented a prototype based on the results. Before I was able to start, I had to find a kindergarten willing to let me work on this project and carry out my research. I worked very closely together with the children in the kindergarten and very quickly took them to heart.


The goal of the open moderate participant observations was to get to know the kindergarten group and to see how the children interact with each other and their environment.

Result: I gained insights on the various forms of play. The age group for the prototype was decided to be four to six. There are gender gaps in interaction and confidence levels which have to be taken into consideration when selecting other activities and methods.

Cultural Probe

The goal of the partly guided cultural probe was to find a suitable subject for the game, find the most appropriate technologies for the technology probe and select the forms of visual representation for the game prototype.
The first part of the cultural probe was led and, by themselves, the children had to choose cards on topics they liked with various forms of visual representation. In addition, for controlling purposes, they had to repeat this part with tangible objects representing the same topics. This was videotaped and analysed afterwards.
In the second part a disposable camera was given to the children to capture things which they find interesting or which they do not like.

Result: The technologies used for the technology probe are smartphones, tablets and laptops. The subject for the prototype is the continents. In addition, the visual representations of the questions for the prototype are real images and in some areas drawings can be used, as both were ranked in second place during the analysis.

Technology Probe

The goal was to find suitable technology for the prototype. Four devices with similar games were placed in the kindergarten group to find out which technology the children prefer to use (smartphone, tablet, laptop and tangible user interface). I implemented the games myself on the laptop and the tangible user interface.

Result: A combination of laptop and tangible user interface were selected for the prototype, because they share the same ranking. Very young children have problems interacting with touch devices because they place their finger on the touch screen when holding it. Therefore, the device does not react to any further interaction.

Prototype, Video Analysis and Usability Test

A prototype was implemented based on the children’s requirements and requests. In order to see if this prototype fits their needs I conduced usability tests and captured them on video camera in order to analyse the findings afterward.

Result: The prototype was very well accepted by the children. They identified themselves using the symbol on their RFID necklace. In hindsight they could have designed the RFID themselves. The emotional reaction to the villain in the story was very intense compared to the response to the king. This shows that they understood the story and identified who the enemy was.
The analysis of the data shows that the external buttons were used frequently. This suggests that it was a good idea to give the children the possibility to respond by using the tangible user interface. The buttons in future models have to be more robust than in the prototype.

Tools and Technology Summary

  • Desk Research to learn about existing approaches on game design, child psychology and user experience methods
  • Observation to get to know each other and to see how children interact
  • Cultural Probe in order to find a suitable subject
  • Technology Probe to find suitable technology
  • Prototyping for carrying out usability tests and technology probe
  • Usability Tests with the game prototype
  • Video Analysis to analyse usability tests and cultural probe
  • Paper and Pen for concept design and idea generation
  • Adobe Photoshop for visual design
  • Adobe Premiere Pro for intro and final video
  • audacity for responses, answers, questions and sound effects
  • Latex for documentation
  • Java for technology probe
  • C# and SQL database for the game prototype
  • Phidget (InterfaceKit, RFID-reader, RFID-tags and switches) used for the game prototype and technology probe