Game Design for Breakthrough
This post is on a game we idiated, designed and executed for Breakthrough, a women’s advocacy organization, you can see the game live here: http://in.breakthrough.tv/missionhazaar-play/
Breakthrough launched ‘Mission Hazaar’ a campaign aimed at increasing awareness and started on-ground discussions on the declining child sex ratio and the overall sex ratio in India. We had been asked to work on the Digital side of the campaign: to look for an engaging way of starting and sustaining online interactions on this issue. As part of the campaign, we wanted to highlight the smaller number of women in public areas and how that impacts their lives and larger society. We wanted to bring this experience online.
To do this, we felt the best way would be to create a ‘point and click’ HTML5 game. In the game, users would be taken across illustrated scenes from 5 states that have the worst sex ratio in India: Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Chandigarh, Haryana & Punjab. All the scenes would be of busy and crowded urban or rural spaces such as a crowded market, the local ISBT, village mela,neighbourhood park & a college. In each scene we wanted to hide women and girls. The player then has to find all the hidden girls and women in a very limited period of time (30 seconds). But thats not all, as the timer starts running out, the scene also becomes darker, making the hidden characters harder to find. For each successful women character found, the player gets a certain number of points. The purpose is to win 1000 points for Mission 1000.
The scenes in the game have hidden women and girls, and the number of these characters is less than the number of male characters in the frame, to emphasise that there are fewer women than men in public spaces. The falling darkness in the scene with disappearing women characters is to emphasise societal pressure on women’s mobility, of how they are not allowed outside their homes after nightfall. Each scene from the state also mirrors the sex ratio of that state. Which means that as players go to states with lower ratios, they have a short period of time to find fewer hidden girls in the same area of the screen, making the game harder to finish. The women depicted in the scene, are shown in both traditional patriarchally accepted roles and those that defy them.
The process of this entire game graphic production was quite fun and interesting. We have been experimenting with various graphic styles, colours, character development, and to create this game we had to find a style that would look inviting but would also be easy to navigate and code.
We decided to execute all the game creative in flat design, which we find attractive, minimal and colourful. We also came up with the idea of using zero perspective in all the environments, where we don’t need to stick to the perspective and its vanishing point. Every single elements, buildings, trees, buses, etc. are flat and they do not follow the perspective lines and makes it easy to fit in and blend with the characters, shifting and reusing them all around the scenario.
The first part of this execution started with the characters development of Indian females and males in flat design. In this process, we had to stick to the strict design principles of flat design where every structures like faces, body, hands, etc. should be made out of basic geometric shapes. This gives the character a sense of proportion and is ideal for digital media, especially for people using smaller phone screens.
Secondly, we started with the five environments, ISBT, College, Park, Mela and Market, keeping in mind the zero perspective that we mentioned above. Here the depth in each scene can only be created through the placements of the elements and how they fade out in the distance. The final composition of each scene, placements of the twenty female characters that need to be hidden in the scenes, along with all the secondary male characters were all been set up for each scenario.
The third process includes the planning of the user flow chart, telling how the game would respond and building all the functional graphics like: pop-ups, home page, menu buttons, frames and loading page. The entire colour schemes of these graphics are based on the brand colours of Breakthrough.
Since the game is meant for the pan-national audience, the selection of states is important, to show that societal problems caused due to the falling sex ratio affects people across the country. The ‘fact’ displayed at the end of each scene, is also to emphasise how sex ratios affect people in all parts of the country.
After a month of very intense work the game went live two weeks ago. For us, watching people play it and getting their feedback has been one of the greatest feelings we have ever had. We feel its time to create more interactive content! The finished game is here: http://www.breakthrough.tv/missionhazaar-play/