Shel Silverstein + Flash = The Giving Tree Hangman

My opening composition. Click to play.

For my assignment, I created a “The Giving Tree”-themed hangman game (called, simply, “The Giving Tree Hangman”). “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorite books and while I was deciding how to display players’ progress, it randomly occurred to me that the story lends itself perfectly to this type of game. In Silverstein’s book, the titular tree continually makes sacrifices for a loved one until nothing but the tree’s stump remains. In my game, the tree loses something each time a player guesses an incorrect letter (first apples, then leaves, then branches, and so on). If the player fails to guess the word, the old man from Silverstein’s book appears, sitting on the tree’s remaining stump and asking if the player would like to play again.

In designing my game, I considered the book’s primary demographic (children) and mixed bright colors with simplistic, lighthearted imagery, drawn on Adobe Illustrator. The color palette I used is very elementary and the fonts are mostly soft, sans-serif, and informal. I didn’t want to lose sight of the book’s bittersweet nature, however, so I designed the last few frames of the tree movie clip to be somewhat more morose than the initial imagery. I think these choices adequately capture the mixture of innocence and sorrow that the original story contains, though my design is a bit more lighthearted than the images in the book.

If you lose the game, this is what shows up.

In “Seductive Interactive Design,” Anderson discusses the idea of applying game mechanics to e-mail, emphasizing the notion of creating a fun feedback loop. To do this he suggests (among other things) displaying the score in a “compelling or emotional way” (p. 185). I think the use of “The Giving Tree” in keeping track of players’ scores captures this idea pretty well. Even if players are discouraged after guessing incorrect letters, the progression of the tree movie clip may hold their interest and possibly evoke an emotional reaction among players who feel connected to Silverstein’s story (or simply the image of a tree decaying). On the other hand, if players guess correctly, the stimulation of success and the anticipation of discovering the word will likely be enough to hold their interest.

Throughout the coding process, I encountered a few problems, but most of these were solved through simple troubleshooting. Specifically, I would examine my code line-by-line to see what could be wrong and making adjustments until it worked the way I intended. I also used my code from previous assignments for help with coding syntax (for instance, if I forgot how exactly to phrase a for-loop or a conditional statement). I was pretty pleased with the process of creating this game because I relied on very few outside resources. My coding definitely isn’t very efficient, but it works exactly how I want it to. I think the reliance on logic in designing this game turned out to be helpful for me because the problems I encountered could be solved by careful thought rather than searching for new ActionScript functions online. The main exception to this occurred when I got stuck trying to figure out how to keep track of the number of right and wrong guesses (initially, my wrong guess counter was extremely inflated)–I got past this when a classmate suggested I look into using a boolean. Overall, however, the coding process went very well (despite taking a long, long time).

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