Week 02 – Rosenstrasse Research and 5 Prototype Ideas


-Start playtesting and doing sprints as soon as possible 

-Know your audience. Knowing your audience can answer design questions before you learn the hard way through playtests. 

Department actions: 

-UI/UX: Minz completed our first pass logo, posters, half-sheets, and website. 

-Game Design: Derek researched recommended games/theater pieces 

-Engineering: Ryan summarized his thoughts on Hololens vs. Mobile vs. Oculus AR 

Week 2

In Week 2 of the semester, Project memoiAR’s meteoric rise to greatness continued in the usual fashion: with everyone reminding us to start prototyping and learn about our audience as soon as possible. This message was echoed broadly from our faculty advisers, our first playtest/brainstorming workshop (hosted by Mike Christel and John Dessler), a workshop on the Transformational Games Framework (hosted by Sabrina Culyba), and even our weekly client meeting with Jessica Hammer. 

Our team began the week with a brainstorm session on Monday. In the course of our brainstorm, our team also began to coalesce around two of the five original games: Rosenstrasse and Beyond the Stars. We decided not to build anything concrete before playing Rosenstrasse itself. 

Tuesday saw us touching base with our faculty advisers. I personally asked for their perspective on what to do about the creative direction to “go and kick ass at the coming conference.”* Tom and Heather recommended we trust in the iterative design process, which begins with the first prototype. The trap teams fall into is the trap of indecision: we don’t know what direction to go in because we don’t know which will be good. Spoiler alert: all paths start with a bad first build. Iterative design works to make bad prototypes less bad over time. Since our team felt the most confident about Rosenstrasse, we were directed to play the full 4-5 hour version of the game. We planned to play it on Thursday. 

Wednesday saw us attend a playtesting and creative workshop with Mike Christel and John Dessler. It also stressed the importance of starting the iterative design process, or playtest loop as Mike called it. One thing it made crystal clear was that we were struggling to understand the emotional core of Rosenstrasse. Our team settled on something along the lines of “a large and foreboding entity threatens something you love and here are available ways to grapple with it.” That felt unsatisfactory and frustrating, but we decided that we’d figure it out in greater detail when we played the game on Thursday. 

Thursday saw our team attending the Transformational Games Workshop held by Sabrina Culyba. Of note, our team decided that Rosenstrasse’s original transformational goals revolved around 2 features: emotional engagement with historical contexts. It honestly shed light to design processes that had previously eluded me personally and my teammates. Our team further reflected that Rosenstrasse in its current incarnation was likely already doing the Transformational heavy lifting, which left us to grapple with what our AR version could do to add to it. We settled on either widening the intended audience or potentially tackling the shortcomings of verbal roleplaying as a primary means to tell stories with other players and explore emotional spaces. We threw this onto the pile of questions we’d ask Jessica Hammer on Friday. 

For Friday, we ran our 5 prototypes by Erica. In short they were:

1) a wordless interactive graphic novel/film version of Rosenstrasse using cards to communicate emotional states. 

2) an asymmetrical puzzle game. Since the events leading up to the Rosenstrasse march impacted different groups differently, why not explore asymmetrically impacted perspectives through asymmetrical mechanics? 

3) a Florence-style non-interactive story with interactive mini-games 

4) an AR Digital Boardgame 

5) a real-world scale room escape. 

Erica saw we were more excited about some prototypes than others, but challenged us to challenge our platform assumptions: “Get away from the table and get away from the screen.” 

Jess echoed this advice and offered feedback on the prototypes: 

1) Jess has seen games flounder in this space. Tackling both a platform change and a mechanics change for Rosenstrasse would radically increase the scope of the project.  

2) An interesting idea that hits at the heart of Rosenstrasse. She advised us to consider weaving in the complicity card mechanics. 

3) A Florence-style version might be an avenue for reaching teens, something Rosenstrasse explicitly avoids in order to explore the full, graphic historical context. 

4) A digital boardgame might also be an avenue for a museum installation

5) Like the first concept, a real-world room escape version might struggle with both platform constraints and reengineering the wheel that is Rosenstrasse’s current mechanics. 

As a designer, Jess also elaborated on the heart of the game and made a very strong case for verbal mechanics as a core vehicle for emotional exploration. Our team had previously balked at the prospect of constructing an English-language role-playing game, especially given the fact that most of our team spoke English as a second language and had little experience with tabletop roleplaying. It was an illuminating discussion that gives me confidence in the creative future of the project, but also makes me stressed at the work necessary to get there. We’ll all look back fondly on this moment someday. Not today. But someday. 

Our meeting with Jess concluded with the lovely constraint/challenge to make 5 concept prototypes by our next Friday Meeting. Our team responded with a gameplan to play Rosenstrasse, read all the design documentation, brainstorm new prototypes, and then execute on the prototypes in 3 days. I’m skeptical of such an ambitious goal, but am heartened at the engagement and passion my team has thus far shown for this project. 

We’ll definitely have stories to tell at Quarters. That’s for sure. 


*While that wasn’t the exact phrasing or even intent of Dr. Hammer at our first meeting, that is how I affectively encoded the event.