Flappy Mantis Shrimp

Building for play

Flappy Mantis Shrimp is a unique take on the popular game Flappy Bird in which the user must physically jump on a platform to help their mantis shrimp friend navigate through an underwater kelp forest

Time: Spring 2022 // Creative Tech 2

Role: Game and Interface designer

Tools: Processing, esp32, cardboard platform, mantis


Games have been human companions for millenia, and the videos games have taken a place close to the center of the modern media landscape. There are many things to study and learn about this vast subject, and in the spirit of the class we will approach the topic with from the making and experimentation perspective. Try first and rationalize later!

In this project we will explore the technical components of a video-based game: the physics and mechanics expressed in code, and the physical-to-digital connection from the game controller to the screen. You will have to consider goals and motivations for the players, the scoring system, the narrative, the art and atmosphere, and the physical aspects of play embodied in the ergonomic concerns. While complex, the result need not be complcated - but fun is mandatory! The outcome of the project will be an original video game and a custom controller for it.


For those that don't know what a mantis shrimp is, this is what that glorious creation of evolution looks like:

Mantis Shrimp

Look them up - they're totally amazing.


After succesfully building my game via processing, I sought out to build a platform that would allow for users to physically jump to help flappy mantis swim. My initial concept involved using 3 piezo sensors soldered together to provide input.


Unfortunately, I struggled with achieving a useable interface using piezos. The data output wasn't reliable enough for the necessary control for enjoyable gameplay.

After attempting to make my game easier to navigate with the piezo platform, Instead I pivoted to a more simple but significantly more usable button powered platform.


This affordance allowed for a much more tactile gameplay:

Then, I covered the platform with a mantis inspired fabric:


However, after user testing, I had a user break the fragile button by stepping directly on top of it. Therefore, I redesigned the platform to have the user step further back on the cardboard platform which still provides enough weight to trigger the button while still keeping it safe.



Not only was this project fun to build, it brought up important concepts of designing with restrictions. At first, the sensors I was using weren't outputing consistant data which was making the gameplay more difficult. I worked around this by making the overall gameplay easier. However, I wasn't satisfied with this approach so I redesigned my controller system using a simple button as an input which made the gameplay more intuitive, more natural, and most importantly - more fun!

Instructor: Maxim Safioulline