Modelling and Simulation
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Lead Facilitators: Lilian Chan, John Poon, John Mak
Ramen Party is a cross-media entertainment property that gets preschool children and their culture-savvy parents interested in music, food, and culture by introducing them to quirky characters based on Japanese food ingredients. Each of these characters has both a distinct musical sound and a signature goofy dance, which, when brought together, create not only a tasty bowl of Ramen, but also a fun little song and a party full of dancing friends. Our products will include a free music video to introduce the characters, an interactive storybook app that has challenges for the reader to accomplish in order to collect characters, and merchandise such as a variety of interactive and traditional toys.
From the fall 2012 until spring 2013, Ramen Party was one of seven teams to participate in the CFC Media Lab’s digital entertainment accelerator, ideaBOOST. The program employs the best practices from tech’s lean startup movement and other disciplines. The program’s goal is to help companies navigate the entertainment and technology startup market, sharpen their product vision, and refine their strategies to target audiences and generate sustainable revenues. As part of this program, the teams were exposed to a number of participatory design techniques. Each team made use of several techniques in order to further the development of their projects.
The Ramen Party team used Simulation to inform the definition phase of their project.
Participants in the participatory design sessions were parents with their young children.
This method was used in conjunction with Simulation and Observation.
In order to help the team understand which were the critical elements of the Ramen Party brand, and therefore which elements to focus on developing first, the team needed to gain a deeper understanding of the spending habits of parents with young children when it came to toys and entertainment. To do this, they simulated the experience of a toy shop.
The simulated toy store was one of the several interaction stations that the team set up to gather information designed to inform the development of the Ramen Party project. This station simulated simulated the experience of parents shopping for toys and entertainment products for their young children. To do this, they collected a number of toys, books and games, including many items related to the Disney’s Cars brand. Each set of parents was provided with set amount of monopoly money and asked to shop at the simulated store. Parents could buy as much or as little as they wanted, as long as they didn’t exceed their limit. The team observed the parents as they shopped, noting what parents spent, and discussions around which items were chosen and which were not.
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This method provided the team with insights about parents’ spending habits. Some parents didn’t spend all the play money they were provided, indicating that quantity of items was not an overriding factor. Counter to the team’s expectation, parents gravitated toward the storybooks and stickers. They were less interested in the more expensive, interactive products on the table. This demonstrated that interactive digital and physical toys were not critical elements for Ramen Party. Parents revealed that they picked specific products in order to meet specific needs, as sometimes they used entertainment as a distraction and, at other times, they used entertainment to support education goals.
Originally, the Ramen Party team had been contemplating a kids’ app and a web or television series. The insights they gained from the experiences they witnessed at the various interaction stations would enable the team to build a brand that could be enjoyed on multiple platforms. This meant that building word of mouth about their brand would be critical to its growth.
ideaBOOST is the CFC Media Lab’s accelerator that emphasizes Audience Engagement for entertainment platform development. This case study was prepared for the ASTOUND initiative, a partnership between the CFC, HotDocs, and OCAD University.