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Hanukkah Special — Day Six | Narrativity

Yesterday’s design territory, Plurimediality, was about “compelling aesthetics,” seen from the viewpoint of functional aesthetics and working toward a game’s consistent look-and-feel for a holistic user experience.

Narrativity, our design territory for today, is about “emotional appeal,” seen from the viewpoint of narrative qualities or properties that work toward conveying specific meaning in a specific dramatic unit for a memorable gameplay moment.

For the latter, the Ludotronics paradigm works with four content domains: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and mythological. Obviously, to be able to plan specific narrative qualities or properties for memorable gameplay moments, we need to know a lot more about our Hanukkah game than we know at the moment. All we can do right now is sketch a few general principles that we can apply in each domain.

As for visual qualities or properties, we will work with the muted color palette and the two “guidance colors” we sketched yesterday that represent the positive and negative motifs from our theme, respectively. Here, it’s about how these elements can be staged in important gameplay moments. The guidance colors can become stronger or weaker according to the direction the player or players are taking; they could become outright threatening at times or fade away completely, depending on setting, plot points, or player actions; they could become part of all kinds of tasks the players have to solve together, i.e., physical tasks (jump, run, etc.), cognitive tasks (commonly called puzzles), or empathic tasks (interpersonal and intrapersonal decisions).

For the auditory qualities or properties, we can play with the sound elements that we also discussed yesterday, particularly music to represent various Hanukkah traditions in terms of ceremony, including prayers and recitations and so on, to mesmerize and to evoke emotions, but likewise to illustrate dramatic developments and to identify times, places, characters, and similar, all effectfully staged for key events and key player actions.

Then, kinesthetic qualities or properties, i.e., player movement, avatar movement, and camera movement. While we haven’t talked about the platform yet, we can be pretty sure that it will be a mobile game for smartphones and/or tablets, probably both, for several reasons—among them the likelihood of finding those devices in nearly every household, which isn’t true for gaming consoles or several personal computers for coop play.

Here, in the kinesthetic domain, the game can and should shine because its core experience falls into the ludological dimension and player interactions should be particularly compelling!

To these ends, we can employ all the sensors modern smartphones and tablets have to offer: accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer, proximity and orientation sensors, display pressure, ambient light sensors, and maybe others. And we should do this for three different purposes:

  • First, they can be applied to player navigation, movement, and puzzle solving.
  • Then, they can be used to simulate collateral Hanukkah traditions like, certainly, frying latkes or playing the dreidel game, but also different and lesser-known Jewish traditions from all over the world and across time.
  • Finally, they should be explicitly applied to the Hanukkah ceremony as such—from positioning the Hanukkiah to lighting the shamash (the candle with which to light the Hanukkah candles) to lighting the Hanukkah candles, accompanied by the appropriate ceremonial elements.

That’s a lot to play with for the design team!

What’s left is the mythological domain. Within the Ludotronics paradigm, that’s a special class with four elements that together constitute the game’s world narrative (also called environmental storytelling): setting, location/environment, backstory, and lore. As the game’s very topic, Hanukkah, is already packed with precisely these elements, notably in terms of backstory and lore, designing this domain compellingly shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish. Along all four classes, these mythological elements will build the world narrative mainly through artistic abstraction—archetypes, memes, chunks (i.e., elements clustered into higher-order units), associative relations, compression, simplification, exaggeration, metonymy/metaphor, symbolism, and many more.

To sum it up, we have our muted color palettes and our guidance colors in the visual domain that will do a lot of work for memorable gameplay moments (and also aid the player toward solving all kinds of tasks). We have the sound elements, particularly music, prayers, and recitations, that will boost key actions and key events, illustrate dramatic developments and identify times, places, or characters. Plus, foley for all kinds of stuff, including “mundane” Hanukkah sounds as discussed. In the kinesthetic domain, our game will be putting the pedal on the metal by using the whole array of sensors from smart mobile devices for player navigation and movement, puzzle solving, “mundane” Hanukkah activities, and the Hanukkah ceremony itself. The mythological domain, finally, will almost take care of itself through the game’s inherent “mythological” qualities or properties in terms of backstory and lore, and through appropriate design work for the game’s—as yet undecided—general setting and level locations/environments.

See you tomorrow. Happy Hanukkah!

→ Day Seven

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