Ma Nishtana: What is Jewish about Jewish Games?




Judaism, Jewish, Learning, Passover, Seder, Game, Game Design, Education, gamevironments


What makes Jewish games Jewish? We argue that it is not simply Jewish content, but an engagement with Jewish ideas through ritual, intertextuality, and/or culture. We explore this thesis through the analog role-playing game Ma Nishtana: Why Is This Night Different (2023). We show how the game engages Jewish knowledge transmission in all three modes, over and above its overt engagement of the Exodus story. This approach can introduce players to Jewish modes of being, including how we intertwine history, ritual, stories, and rules. This in turn can help address misconceptions about Jewish experience, particularly those that derive from Christian supersessionism and hegemony.

Author Biographies

  • Jessica Hammer, Carnegie Mellon University

    Jessica Hammer is the Director of the Center for Transformational Play at Carnegie Mellon University, jointly appointed in the HCI Institute and the Entertainment Technology Center. Her research focuses on transformational games, which change how players think, feel, and behave. She is also an award-winning educator and game designer.

  • Gabrielle Rabinowitz, American Museum of Natural History

    Gabrielle Rabinowitz is a computational science educator at the American Museum of Natural History and an independent game designer. In both domains she seeks to create welcoming spaces for creative exploration and discovery. She is the co-creator of the Passover storytelling game Ma Nishtana: Why is This Night Different?.

  • Ben Bisogno, Kyoto City University of Art

    Ben Bisogno is a graduate student in Concept and Media Planning at Kyoto City University of Art. His craft in Larp and Tabletop challenges participants to confront the odd and the othered, often interlacing with themes of language and sensuality. He is a co-creator of the Passover storytelling game Ma Nishtana: Why is This Night Different?.