Play the Knave is a motion capture video game for Windows that enables 1 to 4 players to design and perform in scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.
Players can choose the scene they want to perform and select sound, costumes, and theater space to complete the set’s design. They then perform the scene karaoke-style by reading the lines that appear on the screen.
Immersed in the material labor of dramatic production, players can now understand and enjoy a Shakespeare play while staging it.
The concept, content, and design for Play the Knave is the product of an established collaboration between faculty members and students from the University of California, Davis. Our team includes literary critics, theater artists, web designers, computer scientists, and others from various disciplines.
We use the Kinect motion-capture camera, which picks up the players’ bodily gestures and maps them onto 3D avatars on screen. This camera enables the avatars to mirror the users’ gestures in real time. The players’ gestures and voices are also recorded so players can produce an animated film of their production, which they can edit or share with others.
We have created a prototype of the game, which runs on Mekanimator, an open-source platform we are developing in-house. The Mekanimator platform is explicitly designed so the game assets can be easily switched out, and thus Play the Knave can be quickly modified to serve the needs of different audiences and institutions.