Journey to Chang'an: Overture
Play, Experience, and Learn
Journey to Chang’an is a 2D serious game that aims to raise players’ interest and knowledge in the culture and history of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. Different from many cultural heritage digitalization projects which often provide overwhelming texts or visuals for audience to intercept, this game enhances emergent game mechanics to incorporate the cultural contents in dispersive interactions. Players could experience over ten different storylines and explore various collectable items in the game —— in those immersive situations, understand what life would be like in the Tang Dynasty.
▲ Game Walkthrough Demo
Concept & Vision
As digital technology has developed into an interconnected era, practices are being taken in new media approaches to protect and propagate cultural heritage. Serious games, are one of those new media approaches that contribute to the digitalization trend of cultural heritage protection in their unique relaxing way. But a common problem for those serious games is that they are often too didactic and provide too much cultural information for for players to digest in a short time.
In order to explore ways to solve this problem, Journey to Chang'an becomes an experiment of designing more interesting and engaging serious games for cultural heritage. I studied both history materials and successful commercial games, and tried to find the balance between play and learn. As the outcome of these studies, the game enhances emergent game mechanics and multi-media interactions to integrate cultural information in a dispersive but effective way. Hopefully through the combination of various mediums and interactions, people can stay interested in the game thus get to know more about the cultural contents through the gameplay.
In the game, various elements in scenes can be inspected. The playable character's monologues and pop-up tips will be triggered, which naturally introduces diverse cultural contents to players.
Through exploring the traditional-painting-like scenes, players are getting prepared for a deeper dive into the historical background.
The main achievement in the game is to collect items related to cultural heritage. Each item is carefully chosen from a solid cultural research. They may introduce an unknown custom or reveal itself with functions that players are not familiar with.
In this sense, each of those items is a bridge for players to reach the cultural heritage behind.
During the process of collecting items, players will constantly encounter NPC conversations about them. NPCs may have completely different attitudes and points towards one same item.
This non-repetitive interaction system not only makes the gameplay more engaging, but also stimulates players' critical thinking of the cultural contents.
In addition to items, the game also touches non-physical cultural heritages by including multiple interactive storylines. Players can actually participate in and influence those stories, thus gaining an immersive and diverse experience.
From this immersion, the life of the Tang people is depicted in a vivid and comprehensive way.
To better indicate the cultural background of the game through sonic experience, I did research on the Tang music and carefully made choices of timbres, modes, tempos, and more sound features.
In terms of storytelling, I also used music to reflect the contrast between characters and regions. Sound designs are also applied to enhance the interactivity of certain plots.