This semester long project was focussed on reinventing mini golf. It was a client sponsored and team effort collaboration between; myself (designer/researcher), a theming virtuoso, a mini golf magic maker, and an entertainment business guru.
The Market is not Helping
The mini golf industry has been at a constant 2% decrease for the last decade. It is being squashed by other 'local out of home entertainment' such as bowling lounges and experience shopping (American Girl). Another major factor for mini golf's struggle is the improvements made among in-home entertainment options. Large screen TVs and surround sound systems have become much more affordable, as well as gaming systems have become more social and family friends (wii and kinect). As well, the rise in mobile smart devices are increasingly requiring physical interactions include some type of digital interaction or extension of the experience (example). With these forces fighting against it, this nostalgic experience of mini golf is running the risk of becoming extinct. This project takes on the challenge of making it a relavent and desirable entertainment destination again, for families with kids 3-9 years old.
A Disconnected Game
Mini golf has an interesting history that speaks to a lot of the challenges it is facing today. It is viewed today as a family game, but it was originally created for women to play while their male counterparts were off playing a full round of full-sized golf (messed up, but true). Over the years, children were added and so were oversized props, such as windmills and volcanos, to attract families off of the freeway and onto the mini fairway. This model worked for many years, decades even. All of this was at a time when there were not many high quality out of home entertainment options other than the movies.
The biggest disconnect this history shows is that this game was not designed for children, and yet it is still viewed today as being a kids version of 'real' golf. The sad thing is that when a child plays mini golf they quickly get frustrated that they cannot get the ball in the hole while playing by the rules. As a result, after a few holes their score becomes pointless, rendering the rest of the game pointless as well. They try to maintain the fun level they had anticipated this game being by breaking the rules and playing around with all the crazy decor, but the game itself has completely lost its purpose. This creates a tension between child and parent, as the parent tries to keep the child engaged in the game and all the child wants to do is run around and find a way to continue what fun is left of the experience.
Overall, by the end of the mini golf experience, families feel like a deflated balloon.
Here are some more of the insights we discovered from our primary and secondary research efforts:
5 principles and prototypes to learn from
There were many insights about the overall experience, but there were 5 key insights developed around the game play itself. I specifically focussed on these 5 to create Game Principles and Prototypes to explore how we might incorporate these principles into our solutions.
Design Principle: Enhance Social Interactions
Game Principle: Mystery / Discovery
Design Principle: Scoring as Motivator
Game Principle: Autoscore and Ridiculously High Numbers
Design Principle: Whole Family Fun
Game Principle: Level Up
Design Principle: Give User Control
Game Principle: Customize / Personalize / Influence
Design Principle: Game Infused Experience
Game Principle: Story/Narrative Based Game