Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Game Design Challenge: Merry Christmas

Last week I submitted my second entry to Game Career Guide's frequent Game Design Challenge feature. The theme this time was "Merry Christmas" with the goal of, you guessed it, designing a Christmas themed game. Unforgettably my submission was not chosen among the top entries, but I was very happy with my design so I'm still posting it here!

My primary goal was to incorporate the themes and traditions of Christmas into the gameplay itself, rather than simply slapping a Christmas skin on top of a conventional genre. Secondly, I wanted the game to be about Christmas as a whole and explore what the holiday means to different people around the world, rather than just focusing on a single subset such as elves and Santa or the Christian mythos.

Thus was born World Wide Christmas, an "annual global collaborative social game". A game designed to  connect friends, family and strangers, study different cultural influences on Christmas, and make real-life differences in the lives of the players and others.

I was inspired to take this unconditional approach after reading Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken, a fascinating book about how games and lessons learned from them can be used to make the world a better place. In the book she examines a variety of examples of how games can (and have) been used to build communities, improve quality of life, and encouraged people to achieve amazing things together - in virtual worlds AND in the real world.

I had never contemplated designing a game like this before, so it was a great exercise in thinking outside my comfort zone and a very enjoyable experience. I wanted to incorporate so many ideas from Reality is Broken that it was difficult to cut it all down to just 500 words!

World Wide Christmas

A global collaborative social game where players work together to build the World’s Largest Christmas Tree. The game is designed to leverage the social and charitable ideals of Christmas in order to engage players in an epic quest to spread joy throughout the world. WWC is sponsored by organisations from around the globe who have agreed to donate a contribution to selected charities based on the final height of the Tree.

Played annually, WWC begins on December 1st and ends at 6am on December 25th GMT. Players sign up to the WWC website which interfaces with Facebook and smartphone apps.

The goal of the game is to collect Decorations by completing Quests, which the player adds to the Tree, causing it to grow higher based on the Decorations’ Value. Each Decoration also represents a Donation Value by the sponsors. Players can make their own donations, which awards a Decoration.

Example Quests:
Regional (low Value)
Check-in using the smartphone GPS app at various locations around the world.
Awards a Decoration themed specific to the area and a brief description of the Declaration's significance to the Christmas holiday. Eg. Checking-in at a decorated Square in a Osaka awards a Japanese Christmas Cake Recipe, with a brief description of the cake and how the Japanese celebrate the holiday.
Decorations can take many forms: writing, photos, music, videos, etc.

Regional Decorations can be shared with an unlimited number of people by sending “Christmas Cards”, allowing cultural Decorations to spread around the world. Sending enough cards awards another Decoration, and recipients can also share and add the Decoration to the Tree.

Solo: (mid Value)
  • Write a Christmas themed poem or short story
  • Send a Christmas card to a friend or relative overseas
  • Cook Christmas food and take a photo of you and your friends enjoying it
  • Take a photo with a family member
  • Invite a friend to play WWC

Collaborative: (high Value)
  • Record a Christmas themed song
  • Film a Christmas themed video
  • Create a Christmas themed video game
  • Create a Christmas themed collaborative public art piece

Solo and Collaborative Quests are posted on the WWC website and can be shared on Facebook, where “Likes” increase the Decoration’s value. The contributed media itself forms the Decoration.

Players may design a Tree Top Decoration. On Christmas morning the player with the highest score will see theirs grace the top, and every player will receive a virtual Christmas Gift commemorating their participation in that year’s game.

Players can view a variety of statistics in real time as the game plays out:
  • Tree height, predicted final height, height vs previous years
  • Total money raised
  • Individual contribution, contribution of friends, contribution by country.

  • Spread the varied cultural histories and traditions that have shaped modern-day Christmas.
  • Bring people together via mechanics that encourage reaching out to friends, family and strangers, and by leveraging social media.
  • Empower players to make a real difference in other people’s lives through the Charity and Donation systems.

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