Nativité, a pastoral Christmas game

My girlfriend has three sisters. Once, she had told me about a nativity game her parents played with them as children. Each daughter had a little toy sheep. When one of the daughters did something good, she was allowed to move her sheep a little towards a shared model of the Christ Child. But if, forbid, she did something bad, her sheep was turned back, away from Jesus.

No advent calendars full of chocolates, no Black Friday, no wish-lists; just girls competing in niceness to be a little closer to God. I found this story funny and charming. True, I was also raised in an austere and religious atmosphere, but one which condemned Christmas entirely as a pagan festival. Later, I celebrated Christmas in its modern form, a semi-secular commercial holiday. I suppose I found her childhood Christmas game so funny because it sounded like a genuine Christian attitude to Christmas.

Whereupon I decided to destroy the innocence of her childhood pastoral game by converting it into an app. I worked for a couple of days and nights before Christmas 2016, and this was her Christmas present. Behold, Nativité, the game of the Christ:

Here you see the web view, with a “pixel art” feel. There’s a secret “admin” panel, which I gave to my girlfriend’s parents. The admin panel lets her parents move the sheep forwards or backwards. When a sheep is moved, they move in realtime in the web view, and everyone receives an SMS, such as:

Sophie a fait une bonne chose! Dépêchez-vous, elle pourrait gagner le prix mystère!

The game played out well. I emailed her parents the admin link late on Christmas Eve, and the girls woke up to the game on Christmas morning. The game played out through Christmas Day. I’m reliably informed that the game changed the girls’ behavior, competing for their parents’ affections. I really liked this idea of a computer game played out in real life. It’s a gamification of the real world’s chores; a gamification of the Spirit of Christmas.

That was 2016. Coming this Fall, the Holy Infant is back (and this time he’s … consubstantial?). Instead of playing out over a single day, I want the game to be drawn out over the advent period. This means it will start on December 3rd, Advent Sunday.

I wrote this because I felt like it. This post is not associated with my employer.