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Hanukkah Special — Day Four | Interactivity

To recapitulate our insights from the first three days of Hanukkah, our purposeful/educational Hanukkah game’s theme will be “hope”; its core will fall into the ludological dimension; it will have a complex primary and secondary target audience of Jewish and non-Jewish children and Jewish parents and relatives; and its USP will be intergenerational cooperative gameplay.

Today, we will explore the first design territory for our Hanukkah game, Interactivity. Within the Ludotronics paradigm, Interactivity is informed by game mechanical aspects, i.e., the mechanics and rules of the game, and ludological aspects, i.e., how players interact with the game and with other players. (The other three design territories besides Interactivity, to be visited in the following days, are Plurimediality, Narrativity, and Architectonics.)

As an aside, the most important thing in the Interactivity territory is, without doubt, the game loop. The game loop describes on an abstract level what the player will do again and again, for hours, days, weeks, perhaps years. But to sketch a game loop, we have to know a lot more about our game than we do right now. Therefore, we will wait until the eighth day of Hanukkah, and hope that we can consolidate everything by then into a preliminary sketch.

The first thing we need to do now is generate a sample set of motifs with the potential to establish and reinforce the game’s theme, “hope.” This is done to facilitate design decisions across the four territories, including today’s, that are neither random nor merely a matter of taste. From these motifs, we will then select and allocate a few for the Interactivity territory that can shape our game’s rules and interactions.

Here’s our sample set for “hope”: aspiration, anticipation, expectation, ambition, optimism, enthusiasm, belief, faith, trust, confidence, desire, longing, passion, pursuit, fortune, aim, goal, objective, destination, utopia, chimera, fantasy, pessimism, suspicion, doubt, disappointment, hopelessness, despair, indifference, surrender, apathy. There are a lot more, naturally, but these will suffice for the time being. We can always enlarge our set if need be.

Today’s territory, once again, is Interactivity. We have to look into our set of motifs and find those that are well-suited to be translated into rules and player interactions. As rules and player interactions are on a very different level of abstraction than aesthetics or narrative, this isn’t trivial. We have to be very imaginative. Yesterday, when we decided on our target audience configuration, we talked about how children are inquisitive and like to explore and want to learn and know everything. With that in mind, the motifs “anticipation,” “ambition,” and “trust” from our sample set seem to fit well.

The first motif, “anticipation,” can define the playing experience on the level of game mechanics and rule dynamics in three different ways:

  • Anticipation that precedes player action and supports inquisitiveness and the urge to explore and to try things out.
  • Anticipation that follows player action and supports the “hope” that the action will lead to the expected positive outcome. (This combines aspects of “taskless play” from the Ludotronics paradigm and aspects of “situational, non-interactive play” from Brian Upton’s.)
  • Anticipation on a meta-level that, if the player tries hard enough, is persistent, and won’t lose hope, they will prevail and succeed in the end.

The second motif, “ambition,” seems very useful when it comes to defining our game’s difficulty settings in terms of learning conditions and challenges. Besides giving players a number of difficulty levels to choose from, a well-designed ambition mechanic could also give the player the option to reflect on, and perhaps overcome, expectations about themselves in both directions, i.e., how they underestimate or overestimate their abilities, how resilient they are, what can be accomplished in principle, or what is feasible in the first place.

The third, “trust,” will perhaps be the most prominent of the three, for all that we have discussed:

  • A trust mechanic would be the glue that keeps the different players together beyond more mundane considerations like, e.g., beating the game.
  • A trust mechanic would implement parental support and guidance for some of the darker sides of the game directly into the rule system.
  • A trust mechanic would complement our interaction design around aspects of “anticipation.”

To sum it up, our Hanukkah game’s rules, mechanics, and player interactions will contain design elements of anticipation, ambition, and trust. At this point in time, we can’t yet say exactly how these elements will be implemented into the game’s mechanics and rule dynamics, and eventually its game loop. But on the eighth and last day of Hanukkah, when we have gained a good understanding not only about the Interactivity territory, but about the Plurimediality, Narrativity, and Architectonics design territories as well, we will certainly try and sketch at least some rough patterns.

See you tomorrow. Happy Hanukkah!

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