Temple of Treasures: Teenagers in Temple Street transform the hospital into a game environment

An urgent communication has been received from an intergalactic voyager. You must join a team of players to decipher the clues and travel between parallel dimensions in Temple Street Children’s University Hospital where you will encounter unusual characters on your mission to recover stolen treasure. The clock is ticking!!

On June 13th, young people, their families and staff at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital took part in Temple of Treasures, an interactive game event designed by teen patients with artists Siobhán Clancy and Rachel Tynan and the hospital’s Play Department as part of Helium’s Fireflies project.

It’s about a girl called Maya and an alien who took her (treasure) and she has to go and find it and there’s gonna be a cool box with audio and good clues. It’s gonna be so fun. I can’t wait.
– Teen collaborator and participant, Temple Street Hospital

Josh & his mum Kelly take part in Temple of Treasures. Photo Paul Gallagher.

‘Josh loved meeting characters and the amulet to take home is lovely. This activity was great to get him out of bed. It captured his imagination in his love for quests and computer games. You made his day today; he’s still talking about it.’ – Josh mum’s Kelly

Teenagers and artists create a game…

The content for the game was constructed by weaving imaginative concepts developed by young people working with Fireflies artists-in-residence Siobhán and Rachel. In 2017, this collaboration involved Siobhán dropping by a young person’s bed one day a week and asking if he/she/they would like to work on some arts, crafts, technology, media or if would they like to hear about a game that is being made and help to design it. Through conversation and ‘workshopping’, both artists then processed the ideas that come out of each session to further develop the game concept.

A key priority in the creation of the game and the rules of engagement was that these were placed in the hands of the teenagers, promoting their independence and decision-making skills in an environment in which they often have little control.

Space exploration emerged as the favourite theme amongst participants so Temple of Treasures consists of portals in and out of other sci-fi worlds layered onto a typical children’s hospital. In response to conversations with Play Specialists that a) highlighted the value of tactile stimulation and play-based exchange, b) requested more creative interaction, and c) advised on the limitations of using screen-based technology, the artists designed a device that would emphasise touch in the process of play without risk to cross-infection. The outcome is the ‘Firefly’.

Mercy is a participant on Helium’s Fireflies Project and helped to design the Temple of Treasures game. Photo Paul Gallagher.

The ‘Firefly’ and how it works

The game was played with the ‘Firefly’ cube (seen above), a custom-made device with sensors that activates light and plays audio files when touched. The ‘Firefly’ was created with the support of Make Create Innovate.

The audio files are recordings of a script read by a young person acting the part of a young intergalactic explorer. Broadcasting from the moon, the explorer requests help seeking a lost amulet.

Our “Fireflies” illuminated and guided the participant on a journey through the hospital. It’s really exciting to be able to reimagine the hospital environment as a space for adventure and play.’
– Rachel Tynan, Fireflies artist-in-residence

The ‘mobile’ version of Temple of Treasures is akin to a large area role-playing game in which the players physically navigate around a hospital building. Participants encountered installed artworks and met live characters ‘Nebula’ and ‘Dialysis’, performed by actors. The character ‘Firefly Hunter’ performed the role of Game Master. The teenagers incorporated elements of their hospital experience into the game: Nebula is inspired by the nebuliser used in treating asthma and Dialysis is inspired by the haemo-dialysis machine used to filter blood. A ‘table top’ bedside version of the game was also designed for patients whose mobility is limited.

Josh interacts with Billy the Alien played by performer Miriam Needham. Photo Paul Gallagher.

Inspiration: Gaming and the Health Journey

Siobhán and Rachel drew from elements of play inspired by the philosophy of hospital play specialism to structure a project around the ‘gamification’ of the hospital environment for in-patients, incorporating elements of a patient’s experience in a play activity.

The experience of young people transitioning to adult healthcare is a core focus of the residency (see below). By creating an interactive treasure trail within the architectural and social framework of a hospital, the artists aimed to offer young people the chance to explore creative ‘way-finding’ skills that might resonate with their own journeys through change.

‘The highlight for me was seeing what can be done with technology to teach kids life skills’ – Adult Visitor

The game concept dovetailed with the journey-mapping approach being used in the design of the New Children’s Hospital to fully understand and provide for patient needs.

The artists also drew inspiration from live, immersive gaming experiences produced by arts organisations such as Blast Theory and Playable City.

It was great to see everyone in the hospital getting involved and playing the game, including staff and parents. It demonstrates the real power of the arts to connect people and place and create a common experience and understanding through the stories and ideas that matter to the teenagers.’ – Helene Hugel, Artistic Director of Helium Arts

Fireflies participants take part in Temple of Treasures at Temple Street Hospital. Photo Paul Gallagher.

About the Fireflies project

Transition to adult health services can be a particularly challenging time for teenagers with chronic illnesses. In 2016, Helium Arts developed the Fireflies project for teenagers in hospital, to explore how art processes can provide a form of support and a creative outlet for young people preparing for or undergoing transition. In the second phase of the project (February-June 2017), artist in residence Siobhan Clancy and teen participants have been experimenting with underwater filming, printmaking, light projections, animation, portraiture, game creation and prop production. Working alongside the dedicated team of play specialists in the Play Department at Temple Street and inspired by their patient-centred approach, the project puts the young person at the heart of the process.

This project made a huge difference to my day. It cheered me up and kept me busy which I loved.’ – Teen patient at Temple Street

A partnership with the new children’s hospital, the Fireflies project is currently taking place in Temple Street and teenagers from the National Children’s Hospital Tallaght will have an opportunity to take part from autumn 2017.

The Fireflies project has received three-year funding from the BNP Paribas Foundation through the Dream Up Programme with additional funding from the Arts Council, Dublin City Council, HSE Lottery funds and other sources.

For more information on Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, please visit www.cuh.ie