Playing in the Arcade: Designing Tangible Interfaces with MaKey MaKey for Scratch Games

  • Eunkyoung LeeEmail author
  • Yasmin B. Kafai
  • Veena Vasudevan
  • Richard Lee Davis
Part of the Gaming Media and Social Effects book series (GMSE)


Most tools for making games have focused on-screen-based design and ignored the potentially rich space of tangible interface design. In this chapter, we discuss how middle school youth (ages 10–12 years) designed and built their own tangible game interfaces to set up a game arcade. We conducted two workshops in which students used the MaKey MaKey, a low-cost tangible interface construction kit, to build touch-sensitive game controllers using everyday conductive materials for games they remixed in Scratch. We address the following research questions: (1) What types of tangible interfaces do youth create for their games? (2) How do youth designers deal with the complexities of coordinating the design of tangible interfaces with online Scratch games? (3) What do young users have to say about their tangible interface designs? We found that youth designers mostly replicated common controller designs but varied in their attention to either functionality or esthetics. An unexpected finding was how these different approaches followed traditional gender lines, with girls more focused on esthetics and boys more focused on functionality. These findings might point toward different expectations and informal experiences that need to be taken into consideration when bringing tangible design activities into educational settings. During the arcade, the youths’ perspectives on their games and controllers changed as they observed other people playing their games. They expressed pride in their creations and saw ways to refine their designs in order to improve usability. In our discussion, we address how the inclusion of tangible interface design can extend game making activities for learning. Ultimately, we want youth to move beyond and experiment more with conventions, not just to increase their technological understanding and flexibility but also as a way to more critically approach the design of everyday things.


Tangible interfaces Design Interface construction kits Game controllers Scratch games MaKey MaKey Gaming arcade 



The research reported in this chapter was supported by a collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation to Yasmin Kafai (NSF-CDI-1027736). The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation or the University of Pennsylvania. We also would like to thank the teacher Peter Endriss and his students for participating in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eunkyoung Lee
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yasmin B. Kafai
    • 2
  • Veena Vasudevan
    • 2
  • Richard Lee Davis
    • 3
  1. 1.Korea Institute for Curriculum and EvaluationSeoulKorea
  2. 2.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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