Hopscotch Rhyme was an attempted improvement to the regular Hopscotch game, which I did for my Game Design class.
Hopscotch Rhyme is an adaptation of the regular Hopscotch, but it can be played by more than one player at the same time; whereas in Hopscotch only one player is in action at once. Hopscotch Rhyme has a slightly modified layout design when compared to the regular one (as shown in figure), so that it is symmetrical to both people playing it.
Before Game starts:
A certain layout as shown in the diagram has to be drawn on the ground,with chalk or sticks. The dimensions of the box has to be 2 feet * 2 feet, and there is not much room for inaccuracy as the size is crucial for gameplay experience. This particular layout is for 2 players (It can also be played with two teams of equal number of people in a relay mode). For ease of communication let’s call them player A and B. Both players position themselves on opposite ends of the layout facing each other, as shown in the diagram. The player who starts first is decided by mutual consent,coin toss or by any other random event. This does not have too much bearing on who wins the game, it is just so that someone can start the rhymes.
The person who starts has the responsibility to act or, for the purpose of this game, the ‘onus’. Let’s say player A has won the coin toss and now has the onus. Now the game starts when A asks B a question, regarding a nursery rhyme, any nursery rhyme. As soon as the question is asked, two things happen:
- Both A and B start a regular game of Hopscotch, where they have to throw the marker in the box, jump one-legged to the respective box, retrieve the marker and jump back to start position.
- Since B has been asked a question, the onus is on them. They have to answer the question by reciting the entire nursery rhyme (usually four stanzas) back to A. Once the poem has been recited, B can ask A a rhyme question in turn. Until they ask the question, the onus will remain on B, but as soon as they do ask, the onus is on A to answer.
Each player has to throw the marker to the boxes in order from 9 to 1 (the numbers are inverted for player B). At several points during the game, the players will have to cross paths with each other. This involves being very clever with switching boxes efficiently, as the boxes aren’t really big enough to hold two players comfortably.
In case any player falls out of the boxes due to being crowded out, they lose the game. If both players fall out at the same time, the player who has the onus loses the game. This gives the player waiting for the onus a big advantage, and he can use the box space to his advantage, as long as it is fair play.
Finally I playtested it out, and it went better than I thought it would. I used the classic juggling balls, but squished out so that they don’t roll around much and I used tapes to mark edges of the boundaries. I had Himanshu,Ketul and Won Jae test it out and they picked it up pretty quickly after one failed run. The concept of nursery rhymes weirded them out initially, but they got used to it as they started playing. They also seemed pretty immersed. Initially they worked collaboratively, trying to make space for the other guy to pass by without any trouble, but once I reminded them that the person who’s reciting has a disadvantage, they started getting competitive.
After a while, I started noticing a few minor problems. For one, I had started out with the rule that if the players fall out, the player without the onus wins and the game is over. But this kept happening regularly and in short intervals, so we frequently had to restart the game. Also, people soon started taking a long time to come up with a nursery rhyme to ask questions about. Another interesting flashpoints were the ones were people had to squeeze past each other and eventually ended up falling over. Several times I had to step in to determine if it was a fair fall, ie, if the person who didn’t have the onus on him forced a fall. The balance in how much the non-onus person can do/should do for the singing person to pass by peacefully is interesting, and it was quite like what constitutes a foul in football (also known as soccer in several savage parts of the world). I had to establish that pushing, pulling and basically anything to do with the hands was forbidden. But you’re allowed to stand your ground if you wish, and also use your strength to hold your stand.
I think the game played out very close to what I wanted, it was engaging, very easily manageable (resource and time-wise), just like the original Hopscotch. On the flipside, I was having second thoughts about nursery rhymes. I had initially contended with using trivia or any topical questions being the back and forth, but it usually is a one word or a one sentence answer so the pace of exchange would have been too fast. Reciting the nursery rhyme while hopping would have taken longer, and hence gives plenty of time for the onus to settle on a person. But nursery rhymes aren’t something people are still in touch with (I wish I could have tested with 10 year olds) so that problem crept up repeatedly, to the point where Ketul even pulled up a list of rhymes on his phone. So I decided to tweak a couple of things.
After the first iteration, I changed the end state so that people don’t lose so easily. Now, if you lose out during a clash, for whatever reason, you just have to go back to your Start position and rethrow the marker from where you left off. So, just a temporary set back. This worked well for the flow of the game.
Regarding the rhymes, I made it kind of open ended by including all songs. So if u frame a question for any song, you can sing or recite the song,a minimum of four verses/stanzas. As long as someone doesn’t try to break the game by pulling out a question for the most unheard of songs (luckily/unluckily that didn’t happen during the playtest). This change actually showed up the most curious trend, people who were more musically inclined were smoother in their transitions between questions and answers, and could come up with a song easily. Once I’d cleared the air about fair crossovers, the game proceeded really well and smoothly without my interventions, and I can fairly term it a success.
The improved game solved the older problems described above, and when compared to the original Hopscotch, it can potentially to be termed as an upgrade. I believe I have partially if not fully solved some of the main problems I saw in the regular hopscotch. Instead of one player watching at all times, now both can play it simultaneously. Also there’s a slight element of luck, with the player who starts and how easily compatible people are with singing/reciting; it doesn’t affect the outcome of the game though. This game’s design can be scaled up to include 3 and more people too with new layouts.