Understanding the Game
From a very high level, Hitchery is a game/app that lives on your mobile device. Each player owns a bus (their device) and several autonomous “hitchers” who travel from place to place in the world via other player’s busses. Think Flat Stanley or a Travel Gnome + Foursquare. The device serves as a tool (bus) to check-in (pull over) to real locations. Once at a location, a player can “pick up” and “drop off” hitchers owned by other players of the game.
What becomes difficult is explaining the concept that the phone represents a bus that is attuned to real locations and that each user has autonomous characters that are out in the world in real locations (but not real characters). Users who are familiar with digital games or a certain type of lateral thinking have no trouble understanding the nature of having independent and dependent representatives in real life locations. The difficulty is trying to explain this to new users to whom this concept is completely foreign.
We are currently trying a tutorial approach for new users (with some hand-holding) to walk them through the game the first time through. Tweaking copy here and there (to account for the fact that users simply skim over instructions) has had mixed results. Our next approach is to try it with graphical overlays over the interface to explain how things work without so many of those pesky words.
At the end of the day, I don’t think anything could beat a great info graphic that simplifies the experience even more. Time will tell.
I’m open to suggestions.