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Get In Line games provide research data

Junior Raymond Ejiofor plays one of the Get In Line games, attempting to raise a ballon in the air by screaming louder. (credit: Kristen Severson/Photo Editor) Junior Raymond Ejiofor plays one of the Get In Line games, attempting to raise a ballon in the air by screaming louder. (credit: Kristen Severson/Photo Editor)

This year at Carnival, waiting in lines turned into a main event. Get In Line, a student-sponsored project out of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, used Carnival to test a series of gameplay experiences for people waiting in last weekend’s most daunting lines and crowds.

Using what people like most about playing video games — stories and a sense of accomplishment — a team developed a set of easy activities that aimed to keep people optimistic about their queue.

With locations at Midway, the University Center, and Tech Street, Get In Line positioned their stations intentionally to target traditional Carnival experiences like getting a funnel cake, waiting for buggies to roll, and waiting for the comedian to begin.

The project’s sponsors, masters of entertainment technology students Tracy Brown, Josh Jeffery, and Natasha Kelkar, tried out the concept of using video games to make lines more entertaining in the University Center’s Wean Commons last semester for the ETC’s Building Virtual Worlds show, but decided to re-pitch their idea this semester in order to test their concept on the captive and diverse Carnival crowds.

While waiting in lines may seem fairly innocuous, Brown and her team know that there are quite a few industries where too much line-waiting can result in a drop in revenue.

“Excessive waiting causes negative brand affinity,” Brown said. “People tend to blame the person that created the line for their wait.”

The team found two positive things about waiting in lines: anticipation for the event itself and the ability to develop a sense of camaraderie between individuals waiting together a phenomenon Brown calls “queue-munity.”

Their biggest hit this year was the jumbotron at the corner of Tech and Frew Streets, which allowed people waiting for Buggy heats to text-message in their vote on which team they thought would win, and also showed live video footage of the race.

“It’s hard to run around to see all the different hills, but the screen makes it easy to stay in one place,” said Mary Sullivan, aunt of a recent alumnus. “I haven’t been texting, but I like seeing who other people think is going to win.”

Senior computer science major Owen Yamauchi, who came out for Saturday’s Buggy finals, said he enjoyed Get In Line’s text-in poll. “I voted for Fringe B. It’s pretty cool to see your vote count in real time.”

While the jumbotron stole the show at the Buggy races, Midway’s stations gave a better show of the range of Get In Line’s technologies and, according to Brown, ended up teaching the team quite a bit.

Midway’s most popular activities were a voice-activated airship racing game, where small helium-filled balloons rose faster as players screamed louder, and the “Buggy Button Mash,” which allowed players to use their cell phone buttons to push a buggy through a course. And what did they learn from the weekend?

“We probably shouldn’t have put a screaming game next to the alumni tent after they’d been such a good partner,” said Brown.

According to Brown, the team also learned from comedian Zach Galifianakis’s line that proximity to the event increases the customer’s line experiences.

They might also have to change their technique in the future to make sure the public understands that there is no payment involved. Eventually, the team hopes to market their services to places where lines could affect brand affinity and customer experiences.

They are working on a project with Penny Arcade Expo, where their task will be to keep a line of 6000 people occupied for two hours. They also have already spun the ETC project into a new company, Evil Genius Designs, of which Brown is the CEO.

Brown is optimistic that her new company will find quite a bit of business, explaining that in many cases, lines are used intentionally as capture points.

Theme parks specifically rely on longer lines to create longer park stays and generate more concessions revenue.

“Lines aren’t going away any time soon,” Brown said. She and her team are just trying to make them more fun.