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Big Matters Discovered Behind Student-Built Game, ‘Little Matter’

An Arduino controller coupled with a NEXIS-themed, 3D-printed case pairs well with a brand-new video game developed by two iSchool students.

The combination produced a new experience last week – the video game Little Matter–a central exhibit at the NEXIS Lab #FutureFriday event. Jay Getman and Alexander Krapf, both sophomores at the iSchool, collaborated to make their own video game based on visual programming. Our very own Syracuse University Chancellor, Kent Syverud was there, and even took the game for a spin.

Little Matter
Chancellor Syverud visited NEXIS and played Little Matter, a video game developed by two iSchool students.

 What is an Arduino controller?

In simple terms, Arduino provides an open-source controller with an empty chip that is programmed to a certain game or program. The controller, also known as the Esplora game controller, looks primitive to any average onlooker. But to these two students, it was an opportunity.

With this new video game, Alexander was able to program the controller with VVVV,  a rapid prototyping and development program, to make it compatible with the video game. Alexander says he prefers working with Arduino because of the freedom it offers; he is not restricted to any game console or software.

Old School Inspiration

Asked to talk more about their video game concepts, Jay and Alexander say they get their inspiration from video games of the 1980s and the ’90s. Little Matter was born out of a curiosity about using space as an environment for creativity. (Think of an ’80s game with a 21st-century rendition.) The game is coded in a structure of C#, represented visually through a series of connected nodes and boxes. Each node and box has a code assigned.

Arduino.com/Units for purchase
Arduino.com/Units for purchase

Collectively, Jay and Alexander worked on the video game for 25 to 30 hours per week. Remarkably, though, the game took only about a week to develop. (They may have developed a great video game, but did they go to class?)

All joking aside, the pair demonstrated their game at #FutureFriday to positive feedback and good player experiences. However, since the game is only in beta right now, the pair plan to upgrade the existing Little Matter version with improvements and final touches.

Yin-Yang Style

It came as a surprise to me that Jay and Alexander were working together on such a large, ongoing project. Roommates since freshman year, the pair are friends of mine. They told me they like to work together because each person brings something different to the task. I asked them how each contributes, and they responded: 

“We both see the end result and what it could be, yet we approach the same goal from two vastly different directions. Alexander often starts with the minute details and pieces them together one at a time. Jay usually begins with a broad sense and works to focus it. We eventually meet somewhere in the middle. You could say that Jay asks, ‘how does this work,’ while Alexander thinks about how it should work.”

Learning Criteria for Building

This dynamic duo plans to make more video games in the future, they say. Even though they don’t have a new project at the moment, they are working to develop learning goals and criteria for any future efforts. That’s because they see games as a great proof-of-concept, both common and foreign. And they share the objective, capacity, and ability to learn by pushing the development of new interfaces. 

Jay and Alexander can often be found in the NEXIS Lab, on the third floor of Hinds Hall at the iSchool. As passionate gamers, I’m sure you’ll find them more than glad to talk about their upcoming ideas and projects. 

Want to learn more about NEXIS projects and how to get involved? Check out the Starship NEXIS website.

Hikari Matsuo

Currently, I am a senior in the iSchool majoring in Information Management and Technology with a Global Enterprise Technology minor. Recently, I picked up a growing interest in the upcoming Internet of Things and am curious about its applications in the future. Tweet me, connect with me, let's talk!

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