Kifted is a game about survival. Two players play as creatures called kifts, and must work together to impress a judgmental scientist by balancing two competing activities: gathering berries and hunting hornets. The scientist is only impressed by the number of hornets that players hit, however, hunting draws energy from a shared pool, which players can only replenish by collecting berries. Players must develop a strategy that will allow them to make a good impression on the scientist, while ensuring that their kifts don't starve. The game is controlled using a pair of Wiimotes and nunchucks that allow players to simulate realistic throwing motions.
I designed and programmed Kifted to demonstrate the hypothesis of my NYU Master's thesis - that the core mechanics of many video games are popular because they appeal to ancient instincts that humans evolved for life in prehistoric environments. Specifically, the game models the common mechanics of first-person shooting and collecting objects. The first-person shooter (FPS) genre contains many similarities to how humans likely hunted prey in ancient hunter-gatherer groups, while the activity of object collection is similar to the probable foraging behavior of prehistoric human populations. The instincts which evolved to reward humans for performing these activities in the wild are superstimulated by the opportunity to engage in these behaviors with significantly reduced energy expenditure or risk. Humans are thus able to gain significant primal enjoyment with only minimal effort.
I designed Kifted to be a game suitable for installation in museums, learning centers, or other exhibitions. As an educational tool, it exposes players to a system that is an important facet of the hunter-gather lifestyle, highlighting how both hunting and gathering activities contribute to the group. I also intended for Kifted to be used as a research tool, enabling the game to be used as an instrument to test the hypothesis of my thesis, and provide an avenue for further scholarly investigation.
Game Design & Programming - Michael T. Astolfi
Additional Programming & Wiimote Wrangling - Chris "Widget" DiMauro
Kift Model & Concept Art - Justin Sanders
Kift Rigging & Animation - Chris Kurisu Lo
Additional 2D Art - Tim Levine
Sound Design - Jose Frias
Thesis Advisor - Katherine Isbister, Ph.D.