Our team of four developed FitEx Farmers Market as a mobile exercise game (exergame) for our Human-Computer Interaction Capstone project. 
The game is based on the core elements of FitEx, which is an evidence-based walking program that emphasizes group dynamics, goal setting, self-monitoring, and multi-tier feedback. 
Taking a farm management theme, players grow crops and sell produce in the game. Unlike other games in this genre, progress in these tasks is directly linked to the number of steps taken each day. The game aims to motivate players to engage in physical exercise by promoting personal achievement, cooperation, and goal setting.

I led the design process and was responsible for wireframes and graphical implementation of the application in Unity.
User Experience Design and Research

Jan 2023 - May 2023

Grace Reback
Taylor Flieg
Aidan Sprague
Paiyao Tao
Design Process
1. Analyze
The Problem
A growing concern around the world and in the United States in particular is the lack of physical activity. In the United States specifically, studies show that the average adult reaches a step count of less than 7,000. This puts the average citizen below the recommended daily step count of 8,000 to 12,000, which was found by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to be associated with a substantial decrease in risk for all-cause mortality in addition to increased brain health, better weight management, and more that comes with physical activity.

To combat this issue, we have developed a mobile application that encourages users to be more active. The exergame genre has been around for quite some time, which combines entertainment and exercise into a fun yet rewarding gameplay experience. However, there is only a small selection of mobile exergames currently and many of those that exist have very specific target audiences or are themed around specific franchises.
User Research
To identify and better understand the game’s target demographic as well as gain insights into the habits and feelings towards exercising and playing video games, the team surveyed a variety of people with a focus on students at Virginia Tech. The team also did research on various exergames and farming simulation games. Afterwards, the data was collected to create Work Affinity Notes (WANs) and then consolidated into a larger Work Activity Affinity Diagram (WAAD). ​​​​​​​

Summery of survey results

Work Activity Affinity Diagram used to
drive design requirements

Design Requirements
The seven clusters from the WAAD drove the creation of four primary design requirements which reflect the needs and wants of the targeted user base and were used throughout the design and implementation process.

Design Requirements Defined by the team

2. Design
Based on the data collected in the previous phase, the team developed a primary persona and storyboard. Afterward, we crafted a system concept statement and proceeded to create both paper and digital wireframes.
A primary persona was created based on the results from the user survey to help further understand the target demographic. The persona, Naomi, is a 22-year-old Asian female with an interest in both exergames and farming games. It is important to note that the game was not catered to a particular gender identity or ethnicity; the persona was created from the most likely demographic that was concluded from the research.


Storyboard from an Emotional Perspective
The team created a storyboard from an Emotional Perspective to show how Naomi may use the mobile game as a healthy habit builder. Specifically, it highlights the cooperative and competitive motivation as a result of our group challenge feature. The storyboard helped with team understand the entire user experience including the different challenges and types of interaction the user will encounter.

Emotional Perspective User Interaction Storyboard

I developed wireframes for the mobile game based on the storyboard, design goals, and requirements discussed in the previous sections. Figma was used to create the wireframes, which aimed to create a balance between the health aspect and gameplay. The screens were divided into several categories, including onboarding, home screens, individual tasks, group tasks, friends, store, and crop storage. Below are some of the sketches for the main screen.

Paper Wireframes for Main Screen

Paper wireframes
The initial wireframe (left) layout drew inspiration from Pikmin Bloom's design, with the layout divided into three sections. The top section shows the player's stats, followed by health information, and the user's avatar takes up most of the screen. Buttons for accessing friends, plots, market, and store are located on the side. However, the main issue with this design is that the avatar is the primary focus, and users have to navigate to a separate page to access their plots.

In the second wireframe (right), the avatar section is replaced with a space for farm plots. This modification eliminates the need for users to click on a button to access their plots, and they can spend more time on the main playing screen. Additionally, the buttons have been relocated to the bottom of the screen for ease of access.
Digital Wireframes
The paper wireframes were transferred to digital wireframes on Figma.
1. Player stats are placed at the top of the screen for visibility and familiarity, following the convention of other mobile games.
2. This area displays the player's current step count and their progress towards their daily step goal. It is designed for easy readability, allowing the eye to quickly grasp the information without losing focus on the main screen.
3. Given its prominence on the screen, the highest-visibility area is dedicated to the main gameplay components, specifically the farm plots. By placing them here, players can easily engage with and manage their farm plots.
4. To ensure convenient and user-friendly interactions, the navigation is positioned at the bottom of the page. This placement allows for easy access using one-handed and one-thumb interactions.

Click here to view the rest of the digital wireframes

Digital Wireframe of Main Screen

During development, the team utilized Unity, Google Fit API, and Firebase to create the game. However, since the team had little to no prior experience with game development and Unity, there was a learning curve involved in understanding and mastering these tools. Most of the technical implementation was handled by the other three members of the team while I focused on implementing the UI elements.
Technical Implementation
Graphic Implementation 
Using the wireframes I created I started building the elements in Unity using open-source packs. Aesthetics are an important part of any game. I decided to use a pixel theme for the game along with a muted pastel color palette. Below is a limited prototype that highlights a few screens from the game.
4. Evaluate
8 college students with a range of daily steps were selected to participate in a week-long playtesting session. A majority of participants used IOS devices, but 2 of them used Android. Before using the app the average daily steps among the participants was 4,800.
Design and Procedure
The purpose of the playtesting session was to gather qualitative feedback from the participants who played the game for a week. All participants attended an onboarding session where the game instructions were explained to them. Additionally, they were provided with a user guide and a document to record their experiences during the week.

- Play for 7-10 days for about 30 minutes per day
- Form a group and compete in a one-week group challenge (beginner level)

Feedback collection
- Diary Study
       -Duration of their gameplay
       - Participation in the group challenge
       - Increase or decrease in exercise encouragement
- End of Week Follow-up Questions
       - Overall experience
       - Changes in their fitness habits
       - Feedback about the group challenge
All participants participated in the playtesting session for a week and achieved a minimum level of 5. Below are some of the results collected from the diary study and follow-up questions.​​​​​​​

Key Feedback from Participants

Takeaways & NEXT STEPS
FitEx Farmers Market is an innovative mobile exergame that effectively promotes physical activity and healthy habits. The game combines the elements of farming simulation games with step-counting technology to motivate players to be more active and engaged.

Our play-testing demonstrated that FitEx Farmers Market received positive feedback from participants saying the game is encouraging them to be more active and expressing their willingness to continue playing the game. However, limitations such as some errors with retrieving the correct user step counts from the Google Fit API and the group challenges being hard to fulfill still require future exploration. Despite these limitations, FitEx Farmers Market is a fun and engaging way to promote physical activity and healthy habits for people of all ages.

You may also like

Back to Top