UX, Game Design, Game Testing, Interaction Design, 3D

The Lost Magic of Dagon

The Lost Magic of Dagon is an occupational therapy game for children with Cerebral Palsy (CP). This computer-based video game encourages the child to perform hand movements that they must practice, that are tracked and then translated into magical tasks that happen in the magical fantasy world of Dagon, where the children play as the hero who is on a mission to help the villagers restore the lost magic.


There is opportunity to improve the support for children with neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy via occupation therapy and therapy aids. In particularly towards improving adherence towards these aids for faster rehabilitation. This is revealed in a canvassing session, conducted by HvA and we were tasked to explore this space further and to provide measurable data for analysis.


We created a working prototype of a game that would get the child to perform the hand exercises and be able to track & validate their hand movements. In future, with this game, we would be able to test and provide data across multiple vectors including:

  • Duration of and adherence to play
  • Difficulty of acheiving the hand movements
  • Effectiveness of the aid towards rehabilitation
  • Exploring interactive social play and it’s effect on adherence to play
  • Commercial applications and logistical considerations.

Design Process


Desk research provided data from articles, research papers and mixed media relating to cerebral palsy, occupational therapy, as well as competitor analysis to review.

We conducted a couple of cultural probes, as well as other generative research such as interviews & surveys to collect data from children of our target group.


We organised the data via affinity diagrams, empathy and stakeholder mapping to establish themes and crucial insights. With this information, we were able to use the IDEO method to discover the design challenge.


From our research and analysis we were able to define the design challenge.

"How might we promote independence in everyday tasks, enhances self-esteem, and empower belonging with peers for children aged 8-12 with Cerebral Palsy levels I & II?"

And from that we attempted at generating some solution statements:

"By creating an adaptive smart toy that inspires them to increase the use of their spastic hand through intrinsically motivated play."

Main Insight 1
In developing empathy with the user, an emotional need arose. Children with Cerebral Palsy desire social belonging, but their therapy exercises can make them feel disconnected from this.


We went through several rounds of ideation and evaluation of our ideas, using paper prototypes and rough sketching.

Main Insight 2
The responses of children and their parents were similar: they like video games that tell a story, building, fighting, fantasies, and mainly – magic.​


We used rough sketching and rapid paper prototypes to test our ideas.

We were also able to test various technical solutions such as Machine Learning models and hardware to try to find a suitable platform for our aid.


The development process was spread across multiple streams including:

  • Hardware implementation
  • Core game play mechanics
  • Art direction & story telling
  • Game world and character design
  • Software programming


We were able to achieve multiple rounds of game testing.


We were able to complete 3 rounds of user testing and iterate twice. There is plenty of data from the 1st and 2nd round of testing to refine the build further.

Whilst the software can still very much considered to be in a beta state, it can provide the data needed as stated in the brief.

It’s a stable build from which provides the basis to add additional important components such as adaptive difficulty settings and multiplayer support.

Multiplayer support in particular is crucial in addressing the need for belonging and developing connection with their peers.

Adequete documentation has been provided to ensure the product can be developed further.

Deep Dive - The Lost Magic of Dagon

Project description

The Lost Magic of Dagon is an occupational therapy game for children with Cerebral Palsy (CP). These children must exercise their hands routinely to improve their ability of performing everyday tasks like buttoning their clothes or using cutlery.

This computer-based video game encourages the child to perform common hand movements in the real world, it then tracks their hand movements via a lidar-based motion sensor attached to their computer and translates them into magical tasks that happen in the magical world of Dagon, an imaginary world of lost magic, where children play as the hero who is on a mission to restore it.

Design brief

Our goal was to design an intervention for aiding in physical therapy for children with upper motor-neuron or movement disorder that is common with Cerebral Palsy (CP). This design intervention that makes use of game play mechanics that will provide data & insights that form part of the research into a greater study aimed to provide evidence that self-adapting play complexity provided by a smart toy can create adherence to physical therapy at home for children with CP.

Design process

Digesting the brief

We begin to explore the problem space by reading a briefing document based on a canvassing session that briefly delves into the field of smart toys for children with disabilities and also with a base explanation of the end user. We do a full reading and discover a full set of questions surrounding it outlined in this

Framing the design challenge

We use the Ideo method of framing the design challenge to explore the diverse subject of Cerebral Palsy.

Generative Research

Literature review

We start by conducting a literature review covering the topics of Cerebral Palsy, Smart toys for children with disabilities, some stakeholder research and we look for any evidence of the effectiveness of these existing toys to our target user.

We find that whilst there was a lot of literature available regarding supporting children with both physical and intellectual learning, there was less knowledge available specifically related to the link between CP and and learning, apart from perhaps a couple of key research papers.

Media review

Our desk research also discovered some knowledge in the form of videos that prove pivotal in the development of our solution given that due to covid restrictions. They allowed us to gain genuine empathy through watching their experiences and listening to them answering the interview questions posed to them. Usability testing was not possible.

Stakeholders Analysis

We develop a full picture of primary and secondary stakeholders are to determine their level of involvement and importance to the solution generated.

Developing empathy

Part of our multi-pronged approach was to use another generative technique  to develop empathy for our end user was through performing a cultural design probe.

Situated design exercises

Cultural probes

We designed and conducted 2 cultural probes to try to develop greater empathy with our target user. Recruitment of appropriate candidates for our research proved challenging as children with CP were not available to us, so we went to a local park and asked children aged 8-12 to participate in a drawing exercise. We would then interview them, asking about what they drew.
The second cultural probe would explore gameplay mechanics and aesthetics to discover what would be considered fun and a free exploration of hand movements performed.

The "5 why's" exercise - Discovering true intent

The activity involved finding out what children that age are interested in, without necessarily resorting to referencing known cultural artefacts, as well as tapping their creativity and imaginations to discover new themes. We would then ask them about what they drew, performing the "5 whys" technique to try discover what might be at the core of their answers.

With each response they provided, we would futher ask them about why they provided those additional explanations and then continue this process until we get at the core of their reasoning and motivations and feelings.

Evaluative Research

Competitor analysis

We collected a raft of smart toys currently available on the market that would be relevant to out target group. We assessed and evaluated what was currently available. Competitive analysis evaluating the current state of the market of smart toys for children with learning or physical disabilities

Surveys and interviews

We conducted interviews with more of our target users and stakeholders. We managed to find some adults with CP to be able to interview them as well as children without CP to discover what their interests in toys were. These interviews were done online and recorded and transcribed.


Affinity diagram

We generate an affinity diagram to try to gain insights on common themes surrounding the subject.
From our exploration, we generate another affinity diagram that begins to reveal common themes for what might be the design challenge.

Emphathy mapping

We generate empathy maps to understand the users needs.


From this research surrounding the users, an emotional need arose. Children with Cerebral Palsy desire social belonging, but their therapy exercises can make them feel disconnected from this. The responses of children and their parents were similar: they like video games that tell a story, building, fighting, fantasies, and mainly – magic.​

As Vesper, they perform magic such as turning a crystal ball or placing magic gems, which engage hand movements that are the core of their therapy.

User summary

Our literature review allowed us to provide this summary of our target user:
Cerebral Palsy is the most common motor disability in children, causing stiff muscles in their hands.​ It is difficult for them to perform everyday tasks, like cutting food or buttoning their clothes. To get better at these things, they need to exercise these movements with occupational therapy​, but current therapy solutions are boring and tedious for them.

Developing a "How Might We" (HMW) question

Combining our findings from our affinity diagram, we develop a "How Might We" (HMW) question and subsequently generate a solution statement.
HMW promote independence in everyday tasks, enhances self-esteem, and empower belonging with peers for children aged 8-12 with Cerebral Palsy levels I & II?

Proposed solution

Once we've define the challenge, we then prepared a solution statement that might address the problem.
By creating an adaptive smart toy that inspires them to increase the use of their spastic hand through intrinsically motivated play.

Researching the solution

Evaluative research - Hardware

When testing with the target age group, it was found that the LEAP Motion was easy to master, the game was understandable, and that the children were delighted by interacting with their hands. Besides their love for magic, children learn through games and are motivated by winning them, and a quest-based format helps inspire replay value​.

Evaluative research - Technology

Through this process we are able to evaluate the technological options and assess each individual strengths and weaknesses. And from this we rate these options according to suitability to the task of sensing the various required hand movements.

Evaluative research - Smart toy/game concept evaluation

We were also able to evaluate potential game/smart toy concepts and assessed each individual strengths and weaknesses and measured against suitability to task such as how it promotes independance or how it helps them to perform every day tasks. We then scored and rated these options based on the suitability factors.

Our solution

We decide to focus to empower the children’s hands through therapy and we begin to ideate and paper prototype solutions of how we might do that.



I also implemented rapid prototyped some of the technical solutions in order to evaluate them, such as with teachable machine and camera detection to try to recognise hand movements.

Rapid Prototyping

We sent through several rounds of ideation and evaluation of our ideas for the game, using paper prototypes and rough sketching.
The exact hand movements of the children are captured with LEAP Motion, a hand-tracking device, which is scientifically proven to be effective in therapy for Cerebral Palsy. Using the Unity game engine, the team translated these hand movements into in-game mechanics.

Game story

My colleagues focused primarily on the game story development using popular gaming tropes. We decided that we would have a main protagonist for our target audience to be able to empathise with. We avoided including a game villain to limit the sense of peril and traumatic experiences for a young audience. Our early interviews with parents of children with CP indicated that some of the games introduced some anxiety to their child, and so it was important that we avoided points of conflict entirely.

We create "The Lost Magic of Dagon". Dagon is a fantasy world that lost its magic due to a dark wind. With a stimulating low poly game aesthetic, it encourages play and exploration. The children play as the hero, Vesper, who must cast spells to restore the lost magic of the village.

Art direction

My colleagues primarily focused on generating the games visual aesthetic and art direction. We decided that a low polygon aesthetic was quite popular as well as being less technical and time consuming to be able to implement. My colleague created our game protagonist Vesper and rendered a 3d model of vesper to place in the game.

Creating & crafting

Art direction

Game visual concepts & aesthetics

Character design

The game character was design using blender with skeletal structure integrated.

Game interface story-boarding

We designed game interfaces based on common game interface conventions we had learned.

Learning how to make a computer-based game

We learned to understand the core components to game design and this includes learning about the MDA principle of game design - Mechanics, Dynamics & Aesthetics. That we applied for the game logic.


I developed the prototype using a prefab game with a low poly aesthetic and implemented the Leap Motion SDK to the build. This was to establish if the gameplay mechanic and aesthetics would work with our concept.
In prototyping with the Leap Motion SDK, we discovered that it did track hand motion to a level that was adequate to detect when hand movements like dorsal flextion. The various hand grips like ball grip were also readily detected.

Game environment design

Me and my colleague designed maps for the game based on modifying more pre-fab game assets that we were able to purchase or download for free, as well as learning the native terrain mapping tools.

Computer programming

I initially attempted to learn to script the game code with C#, Unity game engines native game programming language. But to learn C# to be able to develop the game in the timescale we had to work to (3 weeks) proved too much of an ask. Thankfully, there was an alternative to implementing game logic in the form of the build in visual scripting programming language called Bolt.
Game logic applied via Unity engined build-in Bolt visual programming language
Source code versioning control is managed via plastic SCM.


Usability Testing - Phase 1

User journey mapping

We develop UX test journey profiles for each candidate we tested. This evaluates in real-time, their experience and maps how they felt and what they thought throughout the experience. From this we also generated a lot of notes on improvements for the next phase of testing.

Game testing - Phase 1

Sample user journey maps and key insights gather for further development and testing

Game testing - Phase 2

Game testing - Phase 3

For the next phase of testing, we managed to roll in a lot of the suggested improvements from Phase 1 and 2. As previously established, we weren't able to test directly on children with CP due to restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. We were however able to test on children in the same age group. We decided that children without CP were a reasonable alternative because children with CP have the same level of intellectual development as children without. And so we could test if the game would be fun for both.

Project completion phase

Summary conclusions and closing remarks

After the test with Children without CP, we were again able to collect many more notes and suggested improvements that we would be able to roll in our learnings for a next test phase.


Documentation for the game is provided in the form the Process Documentation where I aid in writing the Case Study as well as provide designs for the Service Design Blueprints.I write all of the Product Documentation in the form of a Game Design Document (GDD). The GDD outlines all aspects of the technical development of the game from System documentation and to User Documentation.

Service Design Blueprints

I perform some elements of Service Design by designing Service Design Blueprints for the Game.

Additional info

You can find out more about the project on the Amsterdam University of Applied Science website The Lost Magic of Dagon case study.

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