Critical Play: Competitive Analysis

Ninja is a predominantly physical game that emphasises everyone-against-everyone-else competition. The theme is that the players are all ninjas seeking to eliminate the others and be the last one standing. The mechanics of the game are as follows: each play has 1 action per turn. In this 1 action, the player may perform any physical movement in 1 consecutive motion. The objective is the hit the limb of another player, rendering that limb “useless” and not able to be used later on in the game. The last person with active limbs wins. The limbs predominantly refer to arms (not legs). The fun from the game derives from the element of competition in this game. The physical contact in the competition makes it fun to engage with other players in a tactile way. The fun also derives from the expression of players. There are multiple play-styles: passive, aggressive, et cetera. The game does not require graphic design, and purely relies on the self-directed rules of the players. It is designed to be simple and easily playable in events such as during a party or as an impromptu/spontaneous activity.

The game doesn’t handle abuse. Rather, it assumes that players keep an eye on the game and make call outs and self-direct as necessary in case the activity becomes overly physical. Improvements I would immediately suggest are graphical cues to increase the difficulty of the game. This would create a parallel with the game my team and I are developing together, which requires the game to happen on a physical space marked out using cards. Adding a graphic component to Ninja could look like having a tiled floor filled with cards, and have each “ninja” try to occupy, or reach, as many tiles a possible. Currently, the game is too simplistic, so adding a sense of spatial competition will add another dimension of fun and to the game.

My friends and I played the game on Windy Hill and some key insights were that the players (as a group of 19-22 year olds) got a bit bored after we started playing, so instead of hitting the two arms as limbs, we collectively decided to involve all 4 limbs instead, and that ended up with many of us hopping about on one leg / kneeling on the ground. Another insight was that the playing could get a bit too physical — there were complaints of someone hitting someone else too hard, a player being scared of playing, etc. Perhaps another improvement could be that instead of the “whacking” motion associated with ninjas, we could do a different sort of touch.

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