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What’s a Hidden Hero?

A Hidden Hero is an older person in our lives whose life story and wisdom inspired, transformed, and guided us. A non-fictional older person who your game is about or who inspired your game.

Here are three tips in identifying a great ‘hidden hero’ for this game jam:

  • Impactful – Pick someone whose life stories, experience, and wisdom resonate strongly with you. Maybe you learned from them for your own life, or maybe they are just fascinating stories that you would like to share.
  • Close – Pick someone that you are genuinely close with and whose stories are not public already. Family members are the obvious choice, but you can also pick a non-relative with whom you share a close connection. 
  • Older – Pick someone that is older than you. A hidden hero typically provides advice and inspiration through personal experiences, so they are usually significantly older. If needed, you could pick a posthumous hidden hero.

While you are more than welcome to pick a hidden hero that is no longer with us, it is easier, and oftentimes more rewarding, to pick someone that you can reach out to and show your game to afterwards. 

How to make a Hidden Hero game?

Perhaps the most obvious way to do a hidden hero game is to create a documentary or simulation game about your hidden hero, and while that is certainly a good option,  there are many other ways to do a hidden heroes game as well!

Here are three tips towards making a great Hidden Heroes game:

Analyze your inspiration – The first question to ask yourself is what inspired you to pick your hidden hero? What aspects of their personal story and wisdom do you want to form into a game? You will want to ensure that your narrative is engaging and will make sense to an outsider. What game mechanics will communicate your hidden heroe’s wisdom interactively? It is a good idea to start with analyzing your inspiration.

Any mechanic goes – While this game jam lends itself easily to a documentary game with a lot of narrative – think That Dragon, Cancer, This War of Mine or Brukel – your game does not have to be all about its narrative. Narrative-heavy games are very welcome, but you can design any kind of game you want for this! As long as your game relates meaningfully to your hidden hero, you are doing it correctly. For example, is your hidden hero a skater? You could make a skateboarding game to share their experiences., Is your hidden hero an artist? Why not create a game that embraces their creative process. Maybe your hidden hero’s life is full of overcoming perceptual challenges – a puzzle game could fit! In a way, if Tony Hawk was not famous, or if Paper Please’s protagonist was real,  Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Paper’s Please could both qualify as Hidden Heroes games.

Involve your hero (optional, but highly recommended) –  Participants are encouraged to interview their hidden hero and record the footage, or audio, of them doing so. Previous projects have shown that players respond strongly to games with authentic voice and video, so maybe you can use those elements in your game? Alternatively, participants are welcome to bring the person that inspires them along (in person or remotely) to collaborate on the project.

Here are three questions that could help guide this conversation:

  • If your life were to be a short film or game, what would it be like?
  • If you could pass on some of your wisdom to future generations in a time capsule, what would it be?
  • What would you say is the most important lesson you ever learned, and how did you come to learn it?

Possible Themes

  • Identity – A game that celebrates the uniqueness of the hidden hero
  • Intergenerational Connections – A game both would love to play together
  • Empathy – A game that uses the hidden hero’s story to inspire others
  • Wisdom – A game that shares a specific lesson from the hero’s life experience
  • History – A game about an experience that intersects with historical events
  • Cultural Connections – An experience about exploring other cultures
  • Creativity – A game that builds on the creative talents and hobbies of the hidden hero
  • Co-design – A game with meaningful content contributions by the hidden hero
  • Health and wellbeing – A game that uses the hidden hero’s story towards promoting a healthy lifestyle

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