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Sean Lam/Francis Tan, art directors
Alex Goh, writer
Sean Lam, creative director
Francis Tan, developer
Kinetic Singapore, project design and development
Hear and Be Heard Fund, Centre for Hearing Intervention & Language, client

"A clever and subtle way to attract worldwide attention to a social problem. It is pure pleasure to play all three games and nothing in the design distracts you from the purpose of the site." —juror Vas Sloutchevsky

"The approach on this project really impressed me. While a standard site that explained the subject matter in a big block of text would have sufficed, the creators took a huge leap and let the audience experience the effects of deafness firsthand. Every experience drove home the message loud and clear. Simple and effective." —juror Jason Zada

Overview: Using experiential games, this innovative site brings the effect of specific hearing impairments home to its visitors. Intended to produce empathy and understanding, What Noise? also serves as a fundraising vehicle for the client.

• Built with Adobe Flash, Photoshop and Audition
• 3 interactive games
• $70,000 raised as of May, 2007

Comments by Sean Lam:
"This was a challenging project because all we had were pages of facts and figures to work with. Unfortunately, hard facts about the disability were never going to be enough to get people's attention, so we persuaded the client to allow us to explore a more from-left-field way of presenting this information, one that would capture a person's attention. Through interactivity, we placed the user in the position of a hearing-impaired child.

"In order for the site to work, it had to be stealthy. We had to sell visitors on a message that, though considerable, is easily ignored in this day and age if presented using traditional methods. We needed to draw people in by playing on their curiosity.

"With this in mind, we came up with a rather vague-sounding, yet relevant, URL 'whatnoise.org' as our working title. Then we set about finding ways to relate the experiences of a hearing-impaired child to the user. After several brainstorming sessions, we decided that the best way to go about it would be to use very simple games to engage and 'entertain' the users. It was no easy task. The game ideas needed to be relevant and, at the same time, not come across as overly contrived.

"Eventually, we crafted three micro games, each one specifically relating to a symptom of the disability. The first levels are all relatively easy to complete. But, when it comes to the second levels, the user begins to feel physical challenge and will find it almost impossible to complete the task. At that point, when they feel the frustration and the plight of these children, relevant information is revealed to them.

"It's only after playing the game and returning to the homepage, when the logo and a menu bar with more information appear, that visitors discover that the site is actually for a charity."


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