A few months ago, the Royal Automotive Club of WA (RAC) approached 2and2 with the idea of RAC Wheels, a game to engage kids and parents on the subject of basic road safety. Rather than create a simple page turning exercise, they wanted to design and develop something that would educate kids, while also being fun, engaging and creative – something that we love to do!
Road safety? Where’s the fun in that?
For RAC Wheels, we wanted to create a fun experience that was also educational. We wanted to design and develop something that would complement the national curriculum and other existing educational programs running in West Australian schools, rather than give kids a series of assessments or present an overwhelming amount of information – plus, it was critical that RAC Wheels was engaging, creative, and enjoyable to play!
Because of this, our design approach was very much focused on free play, which is a fundamental aspect of learning and cognitive development. In this world, kids can learn through exploration and experimentation and have the ability to take charge of what happens in the game. Free play acts like a ‘digital blank piece of paper‘ for kids, and creates higher levels of engagement for longer periods of time. It was this engagement that we were looking for within our design of the game.
RAC Wheels focuses on high level learning outcomes – kids can learn about road safety and discuss this with their peers at school, and then practice and reinforce these outcomes at home in the game’s free play environment.
There were three key learning outcomes around road safety that RAC Wheels had to address: passenger safety, bike safety, and pedestrian safety. We divided the game into three ‘scenes’ or ‘worlds’, each focusing on one of the learning outcomes.
While there is a core theme and educational purpose to each world, players are free to move and interact with anything they like in any way that they like, using their imagination to drive the play experience.The only ‘rules’ that existed were ones related to the learning outcomes for each world – for example, in the bike safety world players can select any bike and any character to ride it, but they have to dress the character in safety gear and put on a helmet before they can get on the bike. However, even when following these rules players still have choice – they can select different helmet styles and colours, as well as different pieces of safety gear to make their character unique.
Following on from this, it was time to bring the world to life with illustration and characters.
Bringing RAC to life
When it came to the Art Direction for RAC Wheels, we wanted to create a style that would suit both realistic and fantasy elements within the game, and provide a sense of whimsy and magic. As such, we decided to go down a cartoon-like direction which incorporated strong lines and simple shapes.
The game needed a whole host of characters to populate the various worlds, but the first thing we set out to do was create the main characters – a boy and a girl. Armed with paper and pencils, our Art team began sketching the first concepts for the characters that would go into RAC Wheels.
Getting these little fellas right was vital. Not only were they a crucial part of the game experience, but they also needed to be designed so that we could fit protective gear onto them (a bicycle helmet, high visibility jacket, gloves, etc.), as well as sit them on a bike and start riding. On top of that, we needed to create a range of characters so kids had endless opportunities for play.
Sounds challenging? Not for our Art team, who created the characters with a front and side view so we could fit them out with clothing as well as put them on a bike. This also saved time in the design process, as the characters’ heads were easily interchangeable – meaning we could create a lot of new characters in a short amount of time using these ‘blueprints’.
Designing the world of RAC Wheels
When it came down to creating the game, it was critical that the worlds within RAC Wheels were fun to explore. We didn’t want to have a host of rules constraining the player – rather, these three worlds are free spaces where kids can play creatively and in their own way.
Objects within RAC Wheels are interactive, from popcorn makers to ice cream cones, making for a truly immersive place where kids can lose themselves in exploration and craft their own play experience.
We also didn’t want to constrain RAC Wheels to the rules of everyday life – instead, the game world is a magical space where cows float in the sky and aliens hide in drains. The end result is a game where kids (and adults!) can lose themselves in play for hours and hours…and if that doesn’t make learning fun, what can?!