We were presented with a picture of a child staring at a statue of Phillis Wheatley, who was the first african-american woman to have a book published, back in 1773. We had to create an original game from what that picture could inspire us.
After reading about her ill-fated life and tragic death in Wikipedia, I thought there was nothing 'fun' about it, but somehow found interesting to use poetry in a game without making it feel like lame edutainment.
So this concept burst into my mind: help an aspiring poet so all her public readings are a success, as a posthumous homage to this brave woman who deserved a nicer end.
Here's the full entry:
Hope: a game which combines memory, reflexes and poetry.
You must help a poor and talented black girl, called Phillis, become a universally acclaimed poet.
As an anonymous supporter of Phillis who attends all her readings, you must ensure that everyone in the audience is paying attention to her, getting rid of any distractions and noise that may happen. Interaction is through mouse-clicks (or pen-clicks on tactile devices). The challenge is knowing and remembering where (and when!) to click.
The game perspective is from the eyes of Phillis: in front of audience, looking at you.
The sequence of distractions is fixed for each stage: the same sequence of distractions will happen every time at the same moment of the poem.
- Someone coughing insistently -> click on his/her face to put mint in their mouth
- Loud snore -> click on person next to the snoring one, who'll nudge him.
- Baby crying -> click on big crystal lamp over child to distract him with light reflections
- Children playing -> click on old lady behind children, which calls their attention with a finger over her mouth
- Random Vendors -> click on janitor, which tip-toes to vendor and takes him away while covering vendor's mouth
- Someone doing the wave: click on hands when raised to tie them
- A prankster tickling her girlfriend -> click on handsome guy, which calls her attention posing his muscled arm. Prankster stops tickling, gets jealous and holds his girlfriend hand
Distractions should be conceptually and graphically hilarious. The player's job is to have fun while avoiding funny things from happening. Each stage will introduce new distractions, relevant to the reading context (place and audience), and reuse previous ones when possible.
When the poem is finished, the score will be calculated based on the loudness and length of the applause. Each level has an applause threshold to determine if Phillis can advance to the next one. If too many persons get distracted, or there's too much noise during the reading, people will either leave, clap briefly, not clap at all...or throw vegetables at her.
The first stage has a teenage Phillis reciting to a bunch of cats and children in front of the shack where she and her family live. Each stage will have increasingly demanding (and distracting) audiences. The final stage will have Phillis, now in her late fifties, reciting a poem as her acceptance speech for receiving the Literature Nobel Prize.
The end sequence shows Phillis back in her 'shackhood', reciting poems to cats and children.
The game will feature classic English poems (one per stage) from the public domain, read aloud by several voice actresses, to reflect Phillis growth (teenage, young, middle-age). Reading speed will determine the pace at which distractions happen, and will be increased in each stage. Besides, the text of each verse will fade in and out at the lower part of the screen as it is spoken.
What I like most from this design is that the player, while advancing in the game, probably will get to memorize inadvertently all the poems being read, as he retries time and again each level until reaching the end.
The other key sentence is: "The player's job is to have fun while avoiding funny things from happening". The player plays as an invisible janitor, having a 'serious' role but actually having fun.