I have been considering ideas for my game these past couple of days and right now although I feel settled on building on Chinese New Year I have discussed with Alan about maybe not going straight to computer games. To make building the mechanics easier I was advised to break the New Year mythology into constituent blocks. So the story that I have studied goes as follows:
- Long ago the monster "Nian" threatened villages, people and livestock
- Villagers would hide out of fear
- One day a stranger arrives in one particular village
- The stranger promised to rid townsfolk beast.
- Nian rampages
- During his rampage, Nian becomes terrified after seeing a red sign on a door
- The stranger drives off the beast by letting off firecrackers
- Panicked by the red sign and the noise, Nian flees the village
- The stranger imparts his knowledge onto the townsfolk
- The stranger then continues on his way
Since that event, it was said that knowledge of how to drive off Nian was spread across China until eventually the beast became a legend as every village knew how to ward him off.
I find it a very intriguing story, It is possible that Nian is scared by red because it is a positive colour; In all cultures, red is symbolically tied to passion, vitality, life and energy. This is also true in China, where red is a celebrated colour. Nian, as far as I can tell, is a spirit. It may seem irrational to be terrified by the presence of a certain colour but spirits in Chinese culture can be fickle (such as previous findings that suggest mirrors can scare off bad spirits by effectively showing them how horrifying or harmful they are), also unlike most normal animals Nian only appears for the first few days of the year's beginning to terrorise and eat and then disappears. What it does for the rest of the year is unknown.
I feel that Nian's nature could work to my advantage from a design aspect. As something supernatural it is something whose look doesn't have to be constrained to looking "natural", it can do things normal animals can't and this can explain why the villagers couldn't simply gather up a militia and kill it either in its lair or during its rampages. It may have simply shrugged off all typical attempts.
The mechanics themselves I have had some thought on them.
- The items used to defeat Nian could be cards collected throughout the game.
- The game itself could be a board representing an ancient Chinese village with entrances Nian could attack from.
- Perhaps players need to be strategic about the best defensive setup
- A limited availability of items (due to the card-collecting nature) opens the door for bonuses in the number of villagers players could save
- There will be a grace period where the players must gather before nightfall.
- As well as Nian itself, the players could be challenged deal with lesser kinds of bad spirit.
Nian might not be the only threat during New Year. Another part of the customs are to wish good fortune on friends and relatives, which in China is magnetic for positive spirits. Players could win cards from encountering spirits in peoples' homes.
But there could also be "bum" or trick cards to keep things exiting. Across the world New Year is seen as a renewal, the old becoming the new. And anything relating to death or the encroachment of the end is seen as bad. So while positive cards could be things like lanterns, red robes, firecrackers and treats, negative or trick cards could be things like clocks, watches and white or black robes.
The core mechanic is that Nian has to be warded off or maybe captured (the latter being Alan's suggestion). And the player can do that with the positive cards placed around the game board. However, while Nian would avoid the positive cards, it could be drawn to the negative cards. If used wisely this can be used to trap it, if misused, the negative cards could speed up a game over.
One of my original ideas was to have the player gather enough cards to be able to score high enough to drive Nian off. With the negative cards however, a new gameplay factor could be considered: The presence of negative cards could reduce the score that would determine Nian's level of threat to the village. Too many negative cards in play and Nian wins.
I had considered other celebrations but so far the Chinese New Year concept appears by far the strongest.
- Halloween - Revolving around bad spirits overrunning a town and the players warding them off. I decided against this one because the number of zombie apocalypse films and TV as of late would make this game an instant cliche.
- Hanukkah - Like Chinese New Year this celebration has an interesting story behind it, but not sure where to start with making it an interactive experience.
- Barmitzvah - A little like a birthday, collectibles could be key ceremonial items and stories from the Torah.
- Birthdays - It involves collecting things but not sure how I can add a mathematical element considering birthday presents don't have some over-arching theme to them - they can be anything from new clothes that fit to the newest toys or gadgets to fun novelties.
- Easter - Collectible eggs that when "hatched" (perhaps with a dice roll) give players various items or creatures with stats that can vary from joke to battle-ender in order to compete and win against friends. Like Pokemon I guess but everyone draws fr.m the same deck and you must build your deck over the course of the game)
- [Unknown,] 2006; Chinese Culture: New Years; Chinese Lessons; available at http://www.chinese-lessons.com/cantonese/culture1NewYears.htm (last accessed 24th September 2015)
- [Unknown], 2014; The Legend of Nian Monster; Cultural China; available at http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/13Traditions474.html (last accessed 24th September 2015)