Rosenstrasse

Created by Unruly Designs

A War Birds Story of Love & Survival. Berlin: 1933 - 1943.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Halfway there - and 96% funded!
over 2 years ago – Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 04:44:19 AM

Hello everyone,

We're now halfway through our campaign, and we are 96% funded! Thank you all so much for your support to date. We are so close to funded that we can taste it!

Today, we wanted to share a bit about the physical components of the game. In the video below, I show you the different game elements and explain how they work.

We designed these materials very deliberately, building on instructional design principles, to make the game as easy as possible to play. In particular, we thought a lot about the concept of cognitive load. Cognitive load theory argues that people have a limited amount of mental capacity (e.g. attention, working memory). The lesson for game designers is that any mental capacity that is directed at irrelevant or extraneous things isn't available for the core activities of play. 

In Rosenstrasse, we needed to consider cognitive load for both players and facilitators. For players, we wanted them to focus on the human experience of the characters, since that's the lens through which they engage the history. For facilitators, we wanted them to focus on helping players explore each scene, such as by asking questions that elicit thoughtful responses.

One way we support this goal is by having scenarios printed both on cards and in the facilitator's guidebook. Each scenario includes a description of the situation, followed by a prompt. While the prompt is being played out, players and/or the facilitator might need to reference back to the situation. If there were just one copy of the scenario, then either the players or the facilitator would have to remember what was going on, or they'd have to pass it back and forth to reference. Either way, that would create unnecessary cognitive load and distract participants from the central activities of play. So, the facilitator has each scenario printed in their book, and the players also have a copy printed on a card. 

While we originally made decisions like this for instructional design reasons, we've found that they have lots of other benefits. For example, we've found that facilitators develop their own styles for running scenes. Some facilitators like to read the situation to the players, because they get to emphasize the core themes of the scene in how they perform the reading. Other facilitators hand over the card and make the players read it themselves; when two players have to bend over one card and read it together, it can make them feel connected to one another. Having scenarios both in the book and in the card deck makes this flexibility possible.

In our playtesting, we've found that our materials help participants engage with the core game activities, and not get distracted by other things. In particular, we've looked at how the game supports people who have never role-played before, and people who don't have much background with the history. Players from both groups are able to connect deeply with the game. First-time facilitators do well, too, but we're always looking for ways to make the game easier to run. For example, in the Kickstarter edition we're including some simple exercises that help develop the skill of cutting scenes. We're also doing a visual redesign to make the look and feel of our materials more consistent.

We're looking forward to sharing our work with you. Onward and upward!

Resistance is possible,

Jess

Rosenstrasse is funded!
over 2 years ago – Tue, Mar 12, 2019 at 04:44:11 AM

We made it! 

As of 3:52 this afternoon, Rosenstrasse is fully funded - we are jumping for joy at War Birds HQ!

It is especially meaningful that we crossed the funding line today of all days as it it is the 76th Anniversary of the conclusion of the Rosenstrasse protest! 

THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of our backers and signal boosters for your support- we could never make Rosenstrasse without you. We have been holding our breath for the last few days waiting for this moment, and now that it has arrived, we are filled with gratitude for all of you who backing and signal boosted the campaign to get us here. 

What's next?

We keep going! With 11 days left in the campaign, we're still happily moving forward on towards the stretch goal we would most like to see realized. 

The companion is jam-packed with brilliant minds adding breadth and depth to the conversation that Rosenstrasse aims to start, and we really hope we get to share it with you. 

Beyond that horizon, the two player version will bring new options for play. With a smaller player count and a shorter time commitment,  we hope this version will allow more players access to the game, and bring higher use value and flexibility for our educational and cultural partners. 

Once again, thank you all so much. We are ecstatic to have reached our goal and honoured by your commitment to us and the project.

Love,

Mo & Jess and the whole Rosenstrasse team. <3

90% Funded & First Stretch Goal Targets Revealed!
over 2 years ago – Mon, Mar 04, 2019 at 01:54:31 PM

Hello everyone,

Eleven days into the campaign, and we're now on the edge of our seats at the 90% funded mark! As we are that close, we wanted to share with you what is just over the horizon.

Our first stretch goal, The Rosenstrasse Companion will unlock at $22,500. This companion ebook is a collection of essays and insights from activists, historians, learning theorists and role-playing experts. The companion will be distributed to all backers at the $18 level and above, and will include:

  • An essay on the Rosenstrasse protests from world-renowned historian Nathan Stoltzfus 
  • An essay on the power dynamics of marriage from ground-breaking game designer Avery Alder 
  • An essay on the role of games in activism from life-long non-profit leader Dana Gold 
  • An essay on historical games from field-defining game researcher Kurt Squire 
  • An essay on "upstander" education from innovative Holocaust educator Jackie Reese 
  • An essay on perspective-taking from behavior change expert Geoff Kaufman 
  • An essay on the value of retelling stories from trailblazing historical game designer Julia Ellingboe 
  • An essay about developing empathy in games from pioneering scholar Karen Schrier 
  • An essay on Jewishness and game design from not-so-secret superhero Benjamin Rosenbaum 
  • A reprint of the Manifesto for a Ludic Century by designer-provocateur Eric Zimmerman 
  • An essay on our research with Rosenstrasse, from the designers and research team 

At $25,000, we'll create a two-player version of the game that runs in two hours or less. We hope this version of the game will be particularly valuable to backers who plan on using the game as an educational tool, and or to players who are planning the game in limited time convention or festival slots. If we reach this goal, the two-player version of the game will be delivered digitally to all backers at the $18 level or above. 

Thanks to all backers for getting us so close to goal - we can taste the finish line from here!

Resistance is possible....

~Mo

A Special Day, A Special Visit
over 2 years ago – Sun, Mar 03, 2019 at 12:12:58 AM

Today is a very special day – the 76th anniversary of the beginning of the Rosenstrasse protests.

In honor of the anniversary, we wanted to tell you a bit more about our visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday. It was a private event for museum educators and other staff, including exhibit designers and teacher trainers. We were incredibly grateful to be able to introduce Museum staff to our work and get their feedback.

In the morning, we gave a lecture about our work on Rosenstrasse. We started by explaining the game and how it is situated within a larger landscape of transformational game design, but the meat of our talk was about challenges related to game design and Holocaust education. 

Jess, mid-lecture!
Jess, mid-lecture!

To identify these challenges, we drew together the literature on simulations in Holocaust education with what’s already known about issues in educational game design. We came up with eight different challenges. For each one, we talked about how we addressed it through design, and what evidence we had from our playtesting and research that we’d done so successfully. 

These are the eight challenges we discussed:

1) Historical misconceptions. Players might learn incorrect information about history, or take the wrong lessons away from the game.

2) Over-identification. Players might think that they “really get it” because of their play experience, which is disrespectful to the survivors and victims of the Holocaust.

3) One-dimensionality. Players might stereotype or otherwise flatten the characters, particularly the Jewish characters.

4) Lack of context. Players might fail to situate the experiences of the characters in the larger context of German society, including the roles of bystanders and perpetrators.

5) Blaming the victims. Players might think that they could make better decisions than real people could have, and fail to understand that sometimes there were no good choices.

6) Unrealistic expectations. Players might try to solve in-game problems in ways that are inappropriate for the context or time period.

7) Inappropriate fun. Players might have playful or otherwise light-hearted experiences that could conflict with the seriousness of the topic.

8) Upsetting experience. Players might feel upset while dealing with intensely emotional themes and difficult subject matter, particularly if they have a personal stake in the Holocaust.

To get a sense of how we responded to these challenges as designers, we can look at “inappropriate fun” as an example. Mo and I decided that instead of trying to prevent players from having lighter experiences with the game, we actually wanted to build in moments of laughter, joy, and relief. Dread and tragedy need space to breathe or they don’t have the same emotional impact. Happy moments in the game amplify the game’s overall elegiac, tense feel; by inviting players to include those feelings when we wanted them included, we saw that players were willing to limit those types of fun to the scenes where they were welcome. We were even able to show evidence that players understood that joy and sorrow could live side by side in the same story.  

If you want to know a bit more about our lecture, here’s a link to our slides!

In the afternoon, we ran a demo of the game for museum staffers, with a Q&A session afterward. Our demo follows Max and Annaliese Edelman, who are the game’s romantic young lovers. In this demo run, Annaliese was quiet and nature-loving, while Max was boisterous and risk-taking; they tried to protect each other and care for each other, even in the most difficult of circumstances. It was a lovely interpretation of the characters and I really enjoyed spending time with them.

In the post-game discussion, we talked about the decision-making process involved for the players in individual scenes; how to facilitate post-game discussion effectively (how meta!); what it was like to run a game with observers in the room; why the game experience was different from a theatrical approach; how the game might scale; and more. One particularly interesting conversation was about how to communicate the reasons why people were complicit with the regime. We have some specific ways of addressing that in Rosenstrasse, such as the character arcs for Kurt and Inge Schmidt who are deeply invested in the status quo.

Mo at the museum entrance, under a sign that says "Never Stop Asking Why"
Mo at the museum entrance, under a sign that says "Never Stop Asking Why"

During our lunch break, we also got to tour the museum. I’ve been to a number of Holocaust museums and memorials, including Auschwitz and Yad Vashem; the main exhibit here included artifacts from Tarnów, where my grandmother grew up. I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about the experience. It’s hard seeing your family’s history on display, even when it’s beautifully done.

Overall, it was a fantastic day and a very meaningful experience. We’re so grateful to the USHMM for hosting us, and we’re looking forward to continued conversations!

Resistance is possible,

Jess

Rosenstrasse at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum!
over 2 years ago – Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 09:57:26 AM

Here’s our big news: we spent today at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum!

The designers at the USHMM
The designers at the USHMM

We got to share our work on Rosenstrasse with some of the foremost Holocaust educators and researchers in the world. We also ran a demo and took a tour of the museum; we’ll have more details to share on Wednesday.

Before then, I wanted to tell you a bit about why today’s visit was important to me, over and above the impact of visiting the Smithsonian with our game. 

Rosenstrasse is dedicated to my grandmother, Helen Gartner Hammer. She survived five camps, including Auschwitz, and in part I created the game to honor her memory as a Holocaust survivor. But surviving isn’t the only reason I wanted to honor my grandmother with this game. She was an exceptionally brilliant, exceptionally compassionate woman who gave me a model for how to be both deeply Jewish and wisely engaged with the secular world. As I grow older, I see more and more how much I owe to her.

When I was growing up, I would get to visit her all by myself – no siblings allowed – for one week every summer. She would make me her special scrambled eggs and we’d watch Jeopardy together. (She knew all the right questions, but she’d let me guess first.) She showed me math tricks and hosted Seders and let me try on her perfume. She took me to the library and let me take out as many books as I could carry at a time. She handed me Plato’s Republic and talked me through the arguments in her thick accent, again and again until I understood. She taught me to imagine better worlds, and to ask how I could put them into practice in the smallest of actions today.

I miss her terribly, and I am so very glad to be able to dedicate this game to her memory. I’d like to think she would have been very proud of me today.

Fondly,

Jess