Early this year, the ACBL Educational Foundation announced a contest to create an easy-to-use program to teach beginners how to play bridge and offered a $20,000 prize as an incentive. The foundation board received several entries for the contest, and this week, the Ed Foundation announced a surprising winner: 16-year-old Eric Lou, working together with his brother, 19-year-old Tim Lou, of New Jersey.
“We were skeptical at first, but their presentation was amazing,” said Barbara Heller, president of the foundation. The relative youth of the contestants gave some of the foundation trustees pause, but Eric, the impresario of the brotherly duo, was unfazed with these concerns.
“I know what kids want,” said the high school junior, arguing that his (and his brother’s) youth was an advantage in this type of project because they knew what types of features young players – and new players of any age – like to see in tutorial software.
Eric stressed that the software needs to strike the right balance between being fun and being educational, with the greater weight given to the former.
“Current programs used to teach bridge may be interesting at first, but as the teaching goes on, it becomes too complicated and beginners lose interest. I believe that I have the perfect idea that will be able to effectively teach beginners bridge while keeping their attention on a daily basis. The components of my program incorporate many different entertainment factors that will make the learners want to open the program every day. With my program, we will be able to keep their interest going and give them the motivation and opportunity to attend clubs and tournaments,” Eric said.
One of the main features of the brothers’ planned software will be the Daily Challenge.
“Every day, a new challenge will be stored in the application. The challenge will always include bidding and playing. Not only will these make the user willingly come back to the app every day for a new experience, but the user will also be learning along the way! After completing each daily challenge, an overview of the best strategy to completing the challenge will be explained. Each day will give a new tip to the user and virtual coins will be awarded if they complete the challenge.”
Using virtual coins as an incentive to use the software will tie into encouraging users to try live bridge at clubs and tournaments.
“The application will feature an in-app store that will award the user ‘coins’ whenever the daily challenge or a hand is completed. In this virtual store, the user can spend their coins and buy items to customize the app. For example, the user can buy different table backgrounds and card backs to look more appealing in the app. If possible, it would be great if they could buy items from bridge supply houses using their coins.
In the store, the users will be notified that if they go to a club or tournament, the director will give them a code to enter into the program and this will award them with a bunch of coins. This will give the users an incentive to leave their house and go to local events, and that is exactly what we want them to do,” said Eric.
The chief emphasis of the software will be entertainment, a point that Eric repeatedly emphasizes in the presentation.
“This game will definitely be fun to play. While previous bridge games focused only on the education aspect, my new game is actually like a game. With the daily challenge, the store, and rising levels, the entertainment aspect of the game will be greater than the educational aspect.
“In addition, the user can create their own login account and profile. This way, they can personalize the application and save their progress across multiple devices. It will also seem more real when they are playing against other people online.
“The game will be appropriately challenging. The daily challenge will be set to a certain difficulty based on the level of the user. For example, when the user just downloads the application, their level is beginner. After they rise to the intermediate and expert levels, they can be given daily challenges that are more complex.
“To increase the competitiveness of the game, there will be a monthly leaderboard. The more experience points you earn from winning games, the higher you are on the leaderboards. At the end of the month, your rank on the leaderboard determines how many bonus coins you earn.”
The Lou brothers plan to have a beta version ready to demonstrate in time for the Spring NABC in 2017.