Introduction: A Hybrid Digital and Physical Game for Dogs and Humans

About: I am interested in the relationships between humans, animals, and technology.

As part of our Interaction Design Master's, for a course called Play and Ludic Interaction at Malmö University (Sweden) we built a prototype for a game that can be played together by both dogs and humans.We wanted to explore how two different species can enjoy a playful activity together. This game is a hybrid between a series of physical objects that contain dog puzzles and a digital videogame that is projected on the wall.Next to enjoying time together with a dog, the goal of the game is to build a stairway for the dog towards a dog treat and defend this treat from the cookie-monsters in the video game. Each part of the stairway contains a puzzle that the dog needs to solve, before the player can build further.

The video game is made with GameMaker Studio and is projected on the wall. The player controls the game wireless with a PS3 controller.The physical elements of the game include 8 different MDF shapes and 14 different dog puzzles that we cut out with the lasercutter and painted with non-toxic materials. The puzzles are attached to the shapes with magnets for extra safety. In this Instructable I will explain how we built this game and provide you will all the files so that you can built it (or parts of it, like these really cool dog puzzles) yourself.

Step 1: The Digital Game

This game consist out of two elements, a digital and a physical one.

For the digital game you need:

  • a projector that can be places a couple of meters away from (a white/bright) wall. Try to project the image as low a possible to the floor. The game itself shows a grid that you can use as a reference (one cube should equal approximately one grid)
  • the digital game file. I attached both the executable (Windows) file so that you can start playing immediatly, as well as the Gamemaker Studio project, so that you can make changes or use the code as a basis to make your own game.
  • a computer that can be used to run the game. It should be connected to the projector.
  • a wireless controller. we used a PS3 controller connected to the computer via bluetooth. A good link for how to set up this connection can be found here:

That's all for the digital part.

Step 2: The Physical Game - Parts

The physical element is a bit more complicated to make. First, a list of all the parts you need for both the (tetris like) shapes (8) and the dog puzzles (14)


  • A lot of MDF, in 6mm sheets of 45x60 cm - if I remember correctly we used about 16 of those.
  • Glue for wood
  • Superglue for the magnets
  • Sandpaper (and a sandpaper machine might be handy)
  • 2 Strong magnets per shape (to make the attachment points for the puzzles)
  • Filler paste (to equal the edges of the shape)
  • Paint (to paint the shapes in the colors you like, we used a white base paint and 4 cans of colored paint (black, white, bright green, and deep green, to make different tones of green). Obviously you also need brushes and mixing bowls for this.
  • The illustrator file for the shapes (attached in the next step)


  • A decent amount of MDF, both in 3mm and 6mm sheets of 45x60 cm - I think we used about 12x 6mm sheets and 5x 3mm sheets
  • A 4 cm diameter round stick of approximately 50cm long - for the puzzle parts
  • Glue for wood
  • Superglue for the magnets
  • iron wire or pins that you can use to keep the layers of the puzzle straight on top of each other
  • Sandpaper (and a sandpaper machine might be handy)
  • 2 Strong magnets per puzzle (to make the attachment points for the puzzles)
  • the illustrator file for the puzzles (attached in another step)

Step 3: Making the Shapes

Attached to this step you'll find the illustrator file for making 8 shapes with the laser cutter. Use the 6mm MDF sheets. In this file, all the parts are collected on one worksheet, so in order to cut them out you'll need to copy them to a new file that fits in the laser cutter. Use the speed/power settings that fit with the type of laser cutter you are using.

For each shape that you cut, check if the shape fits together before moving on to the next one, and mark them to make sure that you don't get confused over which part belongs where.

Next, glue all the shapes together. Each side has a press-fit cut, so you need to put the glue on the 6mm edges of all sides. Use the image of all the shapes as a reference. Each shape has one side with two holes for the magnets. The second illustrator file of this step contains the design for a bigger and smaller ring. You can print those on 3mm MDF, then glue the small ring onto the bigger one, glue the magnet on top of the small ring (with superglue), and now you can glue the bigger ring into the shape-part (on the inside) with the two holes so that the magnet is securely fixed to the shape. Do this for each shape. Make sure that you glue the right side of the magnet to the ring, so that the puzzle-magnet attaches to the ones on the shape.

When all the shapes are glued together use a sandpaper machine to make the shapes smooth. We also used some filler paste on the sides to make everything equal

For the painting, start with a white base layer and then continue with the colors.

Step 4: Making the Puzzles

Attached to this step you'll find the illustrator file for the dog puzzles. There are 14 puzzles in total and the files are named according to the puzzle number. Each of the puzzles starts with a 3mm sheet that will be used for the magnets. The rest of the layers are cut out of 6mm MDF.

When you cut out the files, mark all the layers so that you don't get confused which layer belongs to which puzzle. You can use the image of the puzzles as a reference for the type of puzzles that we created. Maybe you'll even have better ideas for puzzles and you can adapt and change the illustrator files.

Glue the layers for each puzzle together. All corners have a 1mm hole so you can use pieces of iron wire or pins to keep the layers straight. Make sure that you don't forget to include some of the sliders that are fixed inside the puzzles. Next, glue the magnets (with the correct side) on the bottom of each puzzle with superglue.

Some of the puzzles have separate elements (see puzzle images). The flat ones are also part of the illustrator file. The round ones you can cut from a 4cm diameter stick. We cut a 50cm stick in pieces of 5cm each and drilled a 2cm hole in the middle to make space for hiding the dog-cookies.

Sandpaper all the edges and burned parts. Make sure that especially the parts where the dog can find dog treats are free of the burning marks from the laser cutter, because this might not be very healthy for the dog.

Step 5: Play!

Everything is ready to enjoy the game! Check out the video to see the rules.

The shapes that we made in this game are particularly suitable for small dogs to climb on, so if you want to play with bigger dogs, make sure to enlarge the size of the shapes!