Meet Nugget, the very relatable, round little red character, the eponymous face of a new android based smartphone game, that helps teenagers deal with folks – aunt, neighbour, uncle, friend – who give them grief on a daily basis.
Nugget, developed by BBC Media Action and funded by UNICEF, is an Android-based smartphone game, and is part of a multi-platform communication initiative in India to address gender equality among adolescents.
This multi-platform communication initiative uses a variety of innovative approaches to reach out to adolescents and their parents, in primarily peri-urban geographies. These include the 78-episode whodunit TV drama AdhaFULL, a radio show, IVR content, graphic novels, activity books and now, a mobile phone game.
Today, India is home to 243 million adolescents† in India and they represent a huge demographic dividend that has a critical role to play in building a better India. Reaching that goal, however, will be impossible without building the confidence and competence of adolescents so that they can focus on their dreams and aspirations. In fact, most adolescents struggle as they make the complex transition from childhood to adulthood, which is characterised by significant biological, emotional and psychological changes. They lead lives limited by the ‘forcefield’ (orlakshmanrekha) of social expectations, where they fail to recognise gender stereotyping, and how that limits their growth and development.
The idea for Nugget came from the simple thought ‘every protagonist needs an antagonist’. In the case of the mobile game, the androgynous protagonist, Nugget, has six antagonists who represent the forcefield that limits the lives of adolescents.
Nugget has been developed using a human-centred design process. The cast of characters, gameplay, content, have all been designed based on input from users, and everything has been tested with users multiple times to ensure the best chance of success. Through a series of user-tests, users helped identify and crystallise these antagonists. Therefore, people who represent various pressure points in an Indian adolescent’s life, have been gamified asUngly Aunty or Aunty Needle, Tank-jhank Padosi or Nosy Neighbour, Fenku Uncle or Uncle Hyperbole, Show-off Dost or Show-off Pal, Kalesh Bua or Aunt Give-some-grief and Chugalkhor Chacha or Uncle Snitch. Each character is presented as a stylized arm – one that could crush Nugget – unless the player can help Nugget escape the pressure.
Commenting on Nugget, Radharani Mitra, Global Creative Advisor, BBC Media Action, says, “This was the first time we were developing a mobile game and it’s been an exciting journey. Our challenge was – how do we gamify the forcefield, which was the over-arching insight for the whole project. We made a mockery of the arms that judge and limit teenagers. So that while playing, which is essentially ‘time pass’ according to the adolescents themselves, they recognise these limitations and escape to the next level. Our user tests show that they liked the idea of dodging the arms – it made them feel more confident!.”
“Given the increasing importance the mobile screen has in the lives of digitally enabled audiences – there’s no reason why, done well, a game like Nugget can’t do the job of creating recognition of gender and the forcefield amongst teenagers”, adds Mitra.
As user tests showed, when adolescents interact with Nugget, they begin relating to its motto “Jhel mat. Khel” (Why suffer, Just play) because in the act of playing, Nugget creates, amongst its players, a recognition of gender stereotyping, and the need to escape the forcefield it represents. In fact, when they play the game, they will be able to identify those who kill their vibe and nimbly escape these pressure points if they want to notch up a high score. It was evident during the human-centred design process that adolescents were identifying and enjoying Nugget’s story about the pressures and the forcefield created by these real and recognisable characters.
It is a simple and familiar arcade game that one has played at some stage in one’s life. Because Nugget is androgynous, players, irrespective of gender, can identify with the protagonist. The content in the game – both text and audio – is in Hinglish, a conversational blend of Hindi and English that has become lingua franca for urban and peri-urban teens.