Horizns – an augmented reality, collaborative storytelling game

Horizns logo 1_croppedHorizns is my thesis project for the M.A. Program in Digital Media Design for Learning at NYU, created (in 2015) using the ARIS (Augmented Reality Interactive Storytelling) platform.

Here’s the back-of-the-box description:

Playable by anyone aged 12 and up, Horizns is a narrative-based, augmented reality (AR) game ultimately designed for collaborative storytelling in grades 7-12 ELA and/or Social Studies classrooms.

Players begin by participating in the (fictional) “Horizns Rewards Program,” an AR tour of the history of Times Square, NYC. The plot takes a dark turn, however, as players must “dystopify” the world around them; and everyone’s best chance at escaping a dire future means interacting with the dystopian visions of others.

If you’re interested in my (six-minute) talk introducing Horizns to attendees of the ECT-DMDL Design Expo (5/15/15), you can find it here. [Warning: Contains spoilers! ;-)]

My general aim with this project was to make something that was a) genuinely constructivist and constructionist; and b) a genuinely engaging gaming experience. More specifically, as far as learning theory goes, the  game’s design is ultimately driven by the notion of “Social Imagination,” which Maxine Greene defines as learners’ “capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient society, on the streets where we live, and in our schools” (Releasing the Imagination, 2005, p. 5). And for a bit more on the theory behind Horizns‘ design, please feel free to check out my Design Expo poster (pdf).

Choose Your Own (Grammatical) Adventure – Ambiguous Pronoun References audio narrative

Created for:

Project length:

  • Short (one week).


  • Matt McGowan (solo project/assignment).


  • “Create an audio piece that uses narrative to help teach a topic you know well, but that is typically narrative-free.”

For my “typically narrative-free” topic I chose ambiguous pronoun references, an error I saw time and again when I taught undergraduate composition and literature courses. Here’s the audio narrative (with me reading the script):

And here’s a brief sketch of the target audience, learning goals, and applicable learning theories:

Target audience

Middle school-age, language arts class.

Learning goals

By being immersed in a narrative environment, students will listen for and learn about the lack of clarity that can result from ambiguous pronoun references. As the narrative is audio-only, in addition to learning the grammatical issue addressed, students may also improve their listening (and therefore audio-processing) abilities.

The attached example merely shows one player-student choice for one example of an ambiguous pronoun reference. Further examples/encounters will allow for a certain amount of branching of the storyline. Player-student choice is not about making the right decision, but rather exploring different options for editing and/or rewriting so as to avoid this grammatical problem.

Learning theories

Affective Learning: The relative immersiveness of the (focused, audio-only) narrative aspect of this lesson is designed to engage and motivate students on a certain emotional level.

Gamification: The mild (chose-your-own-adventure-style) gamification of the lesson is designed to increase student motivation and encourage review via replayability.

Information Processing Theory: The focused, deep listening that students are required to do for this lesson should aid in the development of their listening skills–that is, their ability to process, store and eventually draw from information and stimuli that the audio narrative provides.

Self-determination Theory: The choose-your-own-adventure-style format enables students to have a certain amount of autonomy in the way they progress through the lesson.

Audio credits:

“StoryPix” – a digital storytelling card game

StoryPix app - Interpret path - order images

Created for:

  • Digital Media Design for Learning (DMDL) degree; Cognitive Science and Educational Technology II course (Fall 2013).

Project length:

  • Medium-long (approx. last quarter of the term, final group project design document).


  • Robyn Berland
  • Heather Kim
  • Matt McGowan
    • my principle contributions: “Summary of Project,” “Points of Viewing Theory,” and “Wireframes.”
  • Cooper Wright


  • As a group, produce a full, thorough design document on a project of mutual interest.

The full design document for this project can be found here:

“StoryPix” design document (pdf)

But here’s an excerpt from the “Summary of Project”:

StoryPix is a platform-agnostic, digital card game designed for middle-school-age children and older. It is an image-based storytelling environment that both visualizes and verbalizes the multitude of ways that people interpret the world. Like other social media platforms, StoryPix users will share images with the intention of telling their “story.” Unlike other social media platforms, StoryPix users will be encouraged to present their images in a more deliberately sequential manner, to present them more like a story, and to create an interpretation of the visual stories of others.

The learning objective of the game is to encourage players to think about their own and others’ thinking. Players will create a story constructed from a series of “cards” or “frames,” static images being either self-created or found (photos or drawings). These images are then sequenced to tell a story (as do, for example, comic strips and photo essays). Players then add a title (of no more than three words) and a descriptive, narrative text (of no more than 200 characters) to accompany their picture sequence. Once a story is completed, the player “publishes” the story and shares it with another player. The recipient of the story, however, only sees the story’s title (not the original narrative text) and a “stack” of images/cards/frames that have been “shuffled” and placed in a random order. The recipient player must then guess the originating player’s story in the original order of the cards and send their guess back to the originating player, along with their own (under 200-character) narrative text. Recipient players are allowed three tries to “get it right.” Players also have the option of sharing one story with multiple recipients, allowing the creator of the visual story to view the multiple ways in which their story is being interpreted. Finally, the player has the option to publish their story, giving other friends or the community a chance to interpret the story as well.

and a few of of the wireframes we included: