Canine lives: Rescue a robot dog at Dumbo game festival

The Brooklyn Paper
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Don’t screw the pooch!

A dog is on his last legs, but you can save the ailing ankle-biter during the street game festival Come Out and Play in Dumbo on July 17. The game — called “Veterinarian’s Hospital: Ruff Day” — asks players to perform a series of life-saving techniques on what is arguably the cutest video game controller around.

“We took a stuffed animal dog, ripped it open, and stuck a bunch of sensors in it,” said designer Edward Melcer, a Brooklyn Heights resident.

An overhead projector prompts players to check the toy hound’s pulse, administer chest compressions, and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Follow the directions in the allotted time, and Bark Obama may just pull through — but no hot-dogging, because this plush pooch’s life is on the line, another programmer said.

“If you mess up then the dog dies — no pressure,” said Nolan Filter.

Melcer, Filter, and third partner Ken Amarit made the game as part of a New York University School of Polytechnic Engineering class called “Beyond the Joystick” that explored non-traditional game controllers, they said.

“It was almost like [television’s] ‘Project Runway’ where every week we’d have a different challenge,” Filter said.

When they got an assignment to make a controller with materials from a thrift store, they saw an opportunity they could really sink their teeth into, Melcer said.

“We thought ‘What kind of morbid weird thing can we do that would be fun?’ ” he said.

And then they found stuffed animal Bark Obama (no relation to the 44th president of the United States) on a thrift store shelf.

“We saw a dog and we’re like ‘Welp, that’s it,’ ” Filter said. “It’s this droopy little dog that looks like it might need some saving.”

Other highlights of the outside game festival include “Abba Babba,” in which players try to negotiate the border to a fictional country while speaking in a made-up language; “Bocce Drift,” a variation on the classic ball-tossing game that lets players use obstacles in the surrounding streets; and “RainboDisko,” a dexterity-based game that uses a spinning record player as a board.

“Veterinarian’s Hospital: Ruff Day” at the Come Out and Play Festival (at the Manhattan Bridge archway plaza off Anchorage Place between Pearl and Plymouth streets in Dumbo, 7–10:30 pm on July 17. Free.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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