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Spring 2010 Prototype | Conference Game | Buttons and People!  

PAX POX is "not a research experiment" but instead a light-hearted GAME about infection vectors and hygiene set in the temporary community that formed around the PAX East 2010 attendees. Based in part on the swine flu outbreak during PAX 2009 in Seattle and the general stereotype of the 'un-hygienic gamer' propagated by popular media.

The game was created for two purposes. The purpose as stated during the convention is to demonstrate just how fast something like a 'contagious disease' can travel between people and the importance of basic preventative hygiene. The not-so-secret purpose was to generate traffic to the GAMBIT booth and to serve as advertising for the lab, as well as give out our 'booth swag' for a useful purpose.

This game does not have a specific research question, but it confronted some design challenges that the GAMBIT lab would not otherwise have opportunity to explore:

  • How do Big Games work?
  • How do you make a live-action game that any number from 10 to 60,000 people can play?
  • What are the mechanics behind game as advertising and how effective can it be?

The game rules and mechanics are designed to be simple, but with enough depth for various types of engagement available for players. The basic gameplay involves game players who have received the play materials from the GAMBIT booth (the active infected) meeting people during the convention and asking them if they want to be infected. If the asked person agrees, a sticker is placed on their badge. They are then told that they can also spread the disease by going to the GAMBIT booth to retrieve the game materials to be actively infected as well.

Once the active infected spread their disease to enough people, they can return to the GAMBIT booth to trade in their empty sticker sheets for fresh ones. These empty sheets are considered blocks of infected people which are then tracked on a webpage that is displayed within the GAMBIT booth and on the GAMBIT website. There are 4 different diseases competing to infect as many people as they can.

More engaged players can also work towards gaining personal achievements that they can display on their badge. These range from a ribbon, to star stickers, to additional 1" buttons. The achievements are arranged in tiers. The early tiers are designed for those players that casually play throughout the conference. The later tiers are designed for 'hardcore' players, with physical rewards that match the effort put into the game.

The first two days were spent spreading disease throughout the PAX convention. The final day was spent 'curing' PAX by spreading a combination vaccine/antidote (in order to end the convention on a high note).


Coming Soon!
  • An event
  • A place
  • A basic webserver (Apache, MySQL, PHP)
  • Buttons (or some other item to use as a badge)
  • Stickers (or some other item to represent the disease)
  • Achievement Rewards (in our case, stickers for the badge, additional buttons, and booth swag!)
  • 10 - 60,000 people to play the game

Rik Eberhardt
Game Director

Sara Verrilli
Design Mentor

Elliot Pinkus
Design Mentor

Genevieve Conley
Designer, Producer

Mike Rapa

Bassil Tabidi

Bianca Farrell

Michael Lin

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