Yesterday I playtested my semester-long game (well, a small portion of it anyway) and I was pretty pleased with the results! Thanks so much to all the people who contributed ideas and suggestions (and patiently listened to my spiel)!
I was really happy with how my test players interacted with the puzzle; it was really cool to see that they each worked through the puzzle differently. However, the model itself was a bit flawed; one of my playtesters pointed out that if I gave that much information in the first puzzle, there wouldn’t be much room to grow as players leveled up.
I got some really great ideas from my playtesters, as well as some good questions to think about. One suggestion was that I manipulate the view of the game depending on what the puzzle was; I had only ever thought about showing the puzzle from the side, but he pointed out that if I showed it from the top, I could do some maze-type (and other, more complicated) puzzles as well. Another idea that I really liked was the suggestion that guides could come back for multiple puzzles, and that they’d remember your performance from earlier puzzles; for instance, if the player really frustrated a guide, the second time the guide came up he’d remember and be annoyed with the player right from the start.
I also got some good questions to think about, mostly on game mechanics. I hadn’t really thought about what the maximum number of levels was, or how much the player’s abilities would improve with each level; that’s still something I need to work out mathematically. I do know that I don’t want to give the players enough levels to max out both their signing ability and oral abilities, because I feel like that defeats the choice component of the game a bit.
Finally, one of the biggest breakthroughs I had during class actually happened with someone who didn’t playtest but heard the concept of my game. She was a little more familiar with the history of deaf education and was somewhat surprised that I was going to represent oral learning in as positive a light as signing. Answering her question first made me realize that I needed to clarify my position and reasoning and second, defined for me what one of the core messages of my game is.
Deaf education is extraordinarily controversial; the debate over how the deaf should be taught/communicate is one that has been very long, extremely heated, and hurtful on all sides. From the interviews and essays that I’ve heard from people on the issue, people will pick one and only one form of communication as being the ‘right’ way for deaf people to communicate. I’ve heard many oral learning advocates insist that a deaf person cannot get by in the ‘real world’ with sign language, and many signers say that there is absolutely no place for oral learning in deaf education. One question that really bothered me during my studies was why there was such a remarkable divide. Why do people so firmly hold on to one method and reject the other in its entirety?
I believe that much of the oral learning advocates’ problem lies in a misunderstanding of what ASL is. ASL truly is it’s own language with it’s own nuances, and is an entirely effective means of communication. But what about signing advocates? It is true that there has been a long and honestly embarrassing history of oral teachers forcing oral methods onto deaf students in oppressive and downright inhumane ways. There were definite wrongs done in the oral era of deaf education. However, what I think is really important is that we not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Oral education was bad because it was forced, wrong because of the methods used by oral teachers to force their deaf students to stop signing; however, speaking and lipreading in and of themselves aren’t bad. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a deaf person choosing to supplement his/her signing abilities with oral methods, or even substituting them entirely. Whether a deaf person chooses to sign, speak/lipread, or do a combination of both, is a choice that is theirs and theirs alone. We don’t need someone to decide what the ‘right’ way is and mandate that everyone follow that method of thinking, because there is no one way that works for everyone. Instead of trying to find one solution, I believe that we need to recognize that people are different, and that the best solution for an individual is what that individual wants to do.
And here’s where my game comes in. The player isn’t told how he/she must communicate with others; it’s the players’ choice. There is no right way for the player to play the game; instead, the player receives a fair and comprehensive assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each method and is given the ability to navigate the world however he/she wants. And that’s one of the core messages of my game: people have the right to choose how they interact with the world. We don’t need one set system; what we need is to give people the opportunity and the freedom to discover what works best for themselves.
Phew. If you got to the end of this post, thanks for sticking it through, and I can’t wait to playtest other people’s games on Thursday!