Introductions, Who’s HereWhat we’re going to do todayGo over some general things about story and game and some definitions so we’re all speaking the same languageDefine the challenge/workshop parameters and some things to keep in mind as we brainstormTalk about narrative strategies I use to make sure story and character don’t get lost in the design process.Brainstorm an interactive Little Red Riding experience for preschoolers
So my background is tv. And I spent twelve years hearing “Story and character” and then I came to this game world and started hearing “mechanic” all the time.It’s even a hard issue to talk about, because if you ask a dozen people you might well get a dozen different definitions of what the words “story” and “mechanic” mean. For the sake of this discussion, here’s how I define these terms, using the game Cut the Rope (link) as an example – iPad exampleCut the RopeStory is the narrative and emotional rooting position of a game. For me, it encompasses the narrative structure of the game, any characters that are featured in it, and the world in which the game is taking place. So, in Cut the Rope, the story is that this adorable little monster has shown up in a box at your door and you need to cut the ropes in the proper way to feed him candy, his beloved favorite food. I think of the story as the “Why?” Game mechanic is how the player is using the things that the device can do to interact with the game, as well as the rules of the game. In Cut the Rope, this is largely swiping your finger across the iPhone screen to cut the ropes and drop the candy to the monster. (I won’t get into the higher level dragging and bubbles and all that for the sake of brevity, but those levels are fun too!) So mechanic, then, is the “What?”Given my background in storytelling, I tend to want to start with the why first.Without the integration of story and character, mechanics can seem, well... mechanical. But there’s a compelling argument to work from the side of mechanics first. Until you know what the affordances are of the device you’re designing for and what usability issues there might be for your target audience, you’re essentially coming up with ideas in a vacuum. Whether it’s tapping on a touch screen or jumping with a Wii-Remote, knowing that (1) kids can do it and (2) the device can reliably be programmed to read the input are, of course, core issues to a successful design. Story is going to give you rooting position/social emotional hook. We all know kids love good stories.Mechanic is going to give you usability, it’s what makes a game a game.So today I’m going to share some strategies of how I keep story in mind while developing interactive experiences.
2:45-2:50 (10 minutes in)Explain parameters.Original ideas, CurriculumTalk about if time permits (mention above?)Two things we’re not really talking about in this are curriculum or original ip. We can discuss those as we go and if there’s time at the end I’d be glad to talk about those, but they’re not really the focus of this workshop because we only have so much time.
So, what do I mean when I say eBook?People all say this word a lot, and it encompasses actually a fairly large genre, with different levels of interactions. So I want to look at few examples just to show how many different kinds of things we can do in eBooks.
iPad examples (ask Group for comments as needed)Monster at the End of this BookReally well doneText support, coming in with voiceover and highlightsTurning pagesInteractive moments related to the story (ROPES)When I Grow UpRelated games, not hugely integral to the story, but you can access them through the story (SNAIL RACE)MeanwhileInteresting ways of visualizing narrative, from graphic novelWhat kind of ice cream do you want, chocolate or vanilla?Ability to see your choices (PULL OUT)Morris LessmoreInteractive moments related to the story, gates to go through to proceedWind blowingABCsFlying through bookThis last one is especially interesting to me because you’re truly doing something related to the story. The games and the story are supporting each other. And the controls are really intuitive. I first read through this/played this with my 3 ½ year old and he figured out as many of the controls as I did.
Always provide audio instructions in kids’ games. They might not be able to read.Or many games allow for a “read to me” or “I can read” options that set a default up front. If text and audio is on screen at the same time, highlight the text at the time that the audio is spoken. Monster at the End of this book does this nicely.
The Lorax is a nice example of literacy support that doesn’t get it the way. Its in many ways the most traditional of the examples I’ve shown but it does it really well.Show on iPadGrickle Grass
Avoid bells and whistles and distracting itemsThis is a screen shot of a 3 Little Pigs eBook app. On this page alone, you can click on the sun that spins, the owl flies away, the squirrel swings upside down. And so on. It has nothing to do with the story. If the goal is comprehension and literacy, then adding these little touches, while flashy, are actually not in the child’s best interest. They actually take the child’s attention away from the pertinent items and affects children’s comprehension of the story (Labbo, 2000). That’s not to say no bells and whistles, just choose carefully and keep special effects to key story elements.
3:05 (20 minutes in)So, know that we know what the word eBook encompasses, what are we talking about when we say Preschool?
When I say preschoolers, here’s what I’m talking about, developmentally.It’s important to remember this age group is different, cognitively and physically. We can’t just remember what we were like or use our own kids as examples because there are a wide range of personalities and abilities.Preschoolers (3-5)Egocentric, very literalMatch primary shapes and colorsLearn through repetition, experimentationUnderstand simple cause and effectUse eating utensils regularlyCut on a line with scissorsWalk in a straight lineTake turnsEnjoy physical humorBasic understanding of time
With that in mind, here are some developmental milestones specific to storytelling and preschoolers.They’re thinking about that the dog is going to get wet, not why the dog is jumping off
3:10 (25 minutes in)Focus on the obvious - This is just batman on the potty. And older kid would understand that it’s sad batman on the potty.Sequencing is difficult – the vase on the table, the vase falling off the table, the vase broken on the floor – they’ll have trouble putting it in the correct order.
So, now let’s talk about the device we’re going to use a bit. What are the inputs and affordances we have to play with.How many of you have one of these? Two of these?Make a list for the board – pull the pad outNow’s the part where I get to apologize for my handwriting
Brainstorm with the GroupTheseare the tools we have to play with when we go into design.Touch Accelerometer/Shake MicrophoneScrollResize/pinchGPSInternet Keyboard Typing We’ll only use the first three. The others have different design constraints or considerations or they’re learned behavior for the age group that we can’t really deal with. It’s reasonable to use some of these in a co-play situations, but we’re not going to go down that rabbit hole today.
3:10 So now have all of this information as to what we’re designing, who we’re designing it for and what platform we’re designing for.So, let’s take this information and I’m going to walk you through some of the strategies that I use when writing games to make sure story remains integrated with the game and has a prominent place.
3:15What are the things that are core to the property? These aren’t all necessarily going to be in the final product, but will help you remember what you’re dealing with.Peanuts example:Charlie Brown and Lucy and the footballSnoopy and the Red BaronLucy’s psychiatrist boothLinus playing the piano with Sally listeningIt’s also, maybe most importantly, about being a kid. All the great things, also the humiliation ,the faceless parents. Etc. Charlie Brown is deep.Group Input/Write Up Little Red Quintessential StuffQuintessential Little Red Girl in a red clock Journey through the woods- What big eyes you have
3:20Winnie the Pooh ExamplePooh is great.Pooh and Tigger and Eeyore is something far more interesting.Then think of everyone there is to add to the mix
When you start to think about character web, you see them everywhere.Almost every great sitcom you can think of operates this way. Seinfeld, 30 Rock, Friends, Cheers, etc.Also most great kids properties doBear in the Big Blue House, Harry Potter, Mickey MouseGroup Input – Brainstorm with the GroupLittle RedGrandma/Little Red/Huntsman/WolfWe can invent a new character if we wantThey don’t all have to be in one game but keep the dynamics in mind, maybe see multiple characters throughout as opposed to one person leading you through everything.
3:25Example: Cinderella-- Cinderella at home with miserable Stepmother and Stepsisters- Invite to the ball arrives- Fairy Godmother- Ball/leaving the shoe- Happy endingBrainstorm with GroupPacking basket for grandmas (tilt/catch)Trip through the woods (*example – over the shoulder)What big eyes you have tap (looks like a wolf)Wolf’s defeat/kill the wolf/Grandma freed
3:30-3:45Break into 3-4 groups of at least 5 people. Split room in half, pick 3 events – have 2 groups do each eventEach take one of the key events identified and develop an interactive moment, whatever that means to the group.Idea for exampleTraveling through the woods. Avoiding stumps, branches, etc. by tilting iPad screen. Avoiding wolf periodically? Something that plays in web.10-20 minutes, then put it together.
3:45-4:10Review ideas, 3-5 minutes per group
4:10-4:15Original ideasCurriculumTalk about if time permitsThink about some of the properties we’ve already discussedCharlie BrownWinnie the PoohMickey MouseThree Little PigsThink about some other propertiesBusytownWhere the Wild Things Are
Sandbox narrative v1.0
Once Upon a Time:Writing Children’s Games Isn’t Just Mechanics Anne Martin Richards No Crusts Interactive
Overview – Story, Character, Kids and Games – Little Red Riding Hood Challenge – Narrative Strategies – Brainstorm/Design#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 2
Today’s Challenge • Little Red Riding Hood – eBook – Preschool –iPhone/iPad#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 4
eBooks#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 5
The Monster at the End of This Book When I Grow Up Meanwhile Morris Lessmore#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 6
Best Practices: Text • Sync text highlights to voice over to further support audio-visual link of words and their sounds. • Support text with audio whenever possible. Toy Story#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 7
Best Practices: Bells & Whistles Children’s Development • Children’s attention is drawn to the features that move, flash, blink, or are otherwise visually interesting. This impacts children’s comprehension. • Keep highlighting and effects to key story elements. The Lorax#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 8
But Beware Distraction… 3 Little Pigs#Sandbox @NoCrusts (c) No Crusts Interactive 2012 9
Preschool#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 10
Preschoolers#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 11
Narrative Guidelines • Focus on the most physically obvious features of their environment • Limited knowledge of story sequencing • Recall isolated events rather than full plots#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 13
iPhone/iPad#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 14
Affordances of the Device#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 15
Narrative Strategies#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 16
Quintessential Elements#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 17
Character Web#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 18
#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 19
Key Events#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 20
Brainstorming#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 21
Review#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 22
Core Approaches • Think about your objective – What does the format (e.g. an ebook) promise? – What do you know about the audience? – What are the affordances of the device? • Narrative Strategies – What are the quintessential elements of the property? – What are the relationships between the characters and how do they contribute to the richness of the property? – What are the critical moments in the story?#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 23
Thank you! • Email: info@noCrusts.com • Twitter: @noCrusts • Blog: Kids Got Game on kidscreen.com#Sandbox @NoCrusts No Crusts Interactive 2012 24