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Fabrication Games: Using 3D Printers to Explore New Interactions for Tabletop Games

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Personal fabrication technologies such as 3D printers are becoming increasingly affordable, enabling many to own and use 3D printers in their own homes. Yet we have little understanding of how fabrication tools and technologies can be used and appropriated within the home. In this paper, we explore the opportunities and challenges related to using personal fabrication technologies as part of play, specifically in the context of board and tabletop games. We present an overview of existing uses of 3D printers in the context of gaming, which has largely focused on creating and replacing pieces for existing games. Drawing on existing uses of 3D printing in games, and on prior research in interacting with fabrication tools, we then introduce a set of gameplay elements that use the affordances of the 3D printer to enhance and extend gameplay. We evaluated these gameplay elements through a focus group with 9 gaming hobbyists, who provided feedback on these elements and designed new games that used these elements. Our contributions include an extended set of gameplay elements that leverage fabrication tools, a set of reference games, and guidelines for augmenting existing fabrication tools to support playful interactions.
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... Fabrication technologies such as 3D printers are becoming increasingly accessible to the general public chiefly because the equipment is becoming smaller, cheaper and easier to operate. As a result, people have begun to explore incorporation of 3D printers into game design, coining terms like fabrication games or playful fabrication [6,31]. However, current fabrication games typically focus on utilizing 3D printers to generate pieces in advance for use in analog games, e.g., [6], rather than leveraging the real-time fabrication capabilities of such tools directly into the gameplay. ...
... As a result, people have begun to explore incorporation of 3D printers into game design, coining terms like fabrication games or playful fabrication [6,31]. However, current fabrication games typically focus on utilizing 3D printers to generate pieces in advance for use in analog games, e.g., [6], rather than leveraging the real-time fabrication capabilities of such tools directly into the gameplay. ...
... Integrating fabrication technology, namely 3D printers, into video games provides a novel opportunity for creating tangibles that can support embodied game design and learning [6]. While there are various techniques to incorporate embodiment into games, such as through AR or VR, the use of tangibles and tangible interactions for embodied game design is one of the most popular approaches [19]. ...
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3D printers are becoming increasingly accessible to the average consumer, however their potential utility within games has yet to be fully explored. Integrating 3D printer fabrication technology within game design presents a novel means for engaging players and providing them with tangible representations of gameplay elements. This in turn could be employed to increase embodied gameplay and even embodied learning for the player. In this paper, we present a novel "fabrication game" designed to teach basic evolutionary concepts. In the game, players take turns physically assembling components 3D printed in real-time to iteratively evolve their creatures and observe the impact of their evolutionary choices on a digital population simulation. We discuss the potential of this game's unique design in leveraging real-time fabrication of tangibles to enhance a player's understanding of principles of evolution and natural selection.
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... Smart tangible toys (Mironcika et al., 2018), for instance, could be used for gamifying serious tasks or supporting change in behavior. Likewise, personal fabrication technologies such as 3D printers could be appropriated within a game frame (Bhaduri et al., 2017) to create novel gamified activities (Rapp et al., 2017). Further, wearable technologies are starting being used in game research, for example to increase the immersiveness and player/ character relationship (Buruk and Özcan, 2018), and could be inspiring for gamification ends as well. ...
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