The Game Plan: Minimum Viable Product

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In the previous posts we talked about how to create a budget for your game, some helpful tips if you’re not a programmer and finally we went over the best ways to help you in getting started. Now it’s time to talk about actually making something you can actually call the game.

What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

The idea of a MVP is to take the core mechanics of your game without any thrills or bells and whistles and put them to the test. This helps you get a working product and make iterations on it if you notice something doesn’t work the way you intended or just isn’t fun to play. This is also a huge way to save time and energy if say, that feature you spent months making graphics and 3D models and sounds for isn’t actually all that fun and you end up just tossing it out later.

How do I decide what is MVP?

First let’s take time to look at the features you wrote down when you were getting started. Now go through your list and take everything out that isn’t 100% essential to a base line working game. This usually includes things like, energy booster packs or power ups or multiple levels, or more advanced variations on a more basic feature. This also includes most graphics and 3D models and sounds and sound effects. While those are nice to have most times they are not actually essential to a working, playable game. Take pong for instance, you can play the core mechanics of the game with square pixel art just as well as you can with a 3D soccer ball with trail effects and a flashy background of a soccer field with soccer goals and kicking sounds every type you hit the ball. The core mechanics of the game remain the same despite the addition of the graphics and sounds and sound effects.

Prioritize speed and working game mechanics over quality

Since your MVP is essentially your playground to test out your game ideas we don’t want to spend thousands of hours perfecting something before we can even figure out if it’s going to work well enough or not. That means your super special spin kick with high quality physics computations isn’t all that important when you realize enemies are too hard to kill or the level isn’t playable or your character can die too easily.

Instead use this time to make something ugly, crappy, and even glitchy as long as the core game mechanics are in place and working. This will start to give you a feel for how what you’re making will actually play. It will tell you right away if something is too hard, or a level is too short, or your character is jumping too high or not high enough, or that your quest system is impossible to complete.

For a lot of people this kind of thing makes them feel “icky” and instead they strive right away for the “perfect, glitch free” game right from the start. This will lead you down the rabbit hole of not good enoughs. The character’s movement isn’t good enough, or the colors aren’t good enough, or the music, etc, etc. Striving for perfection at this stage is a totally moot point when you don’t even know if your base line is even worth putting the time and effort into it.

MVP done? Now it’s time for feedback!

Once you have some semblance of an MVP it’s time for you to get feedback. I like to get feedback as soon as possible that what it’s easier to change things that I may have missed earlier in the process when there are fewer things to take into account in the big picture of the gameplay.

Feedback is also a great way to find issues you hadn’t considered such as the speed of this level gives me a headache or I can’t tell the difference between an ally or enemy. It will also help you figure out what other people think about the game and if they find it fun to play or not. After all, no one wants to spend time playing a game if they don’t think it’s fun, or it’s too hard to learn, or it’s too slow/fast to keep their attention. That

Word of Advice on MVP Feedback

Don’t ignore constructive criticism even if it’s not what you want to hear. That doesn’t mean you have to change or add anything anyone has ever asks you for — it means you need to take those things into consideration going forward. Ignore the feedback that focus on your aesthetics — at least initially — because you can always change and fix those later and an MVP really shouldn’t focus on graphics at this point. Core mechanics and gameplay are much harder to tackle and fix once you’ve invested lots of time and energy into them.

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Game Finances: Amortization

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What Is Amortization?

This is an accounting term for taking multiple payments over time or spreading a single payment out over a period of time.

Example 1: Taking Multiple Payments

One way you can use amortization to your benefit is to take multiple payments for something. So let’s say you have a yearly upgrade that costs $50. Amortization in this instance means you allow the player to break that payment down into multiple payments. For instance, they might make two payments instead of a single one; $25 for the first 6 months of the upgrade and then another $25 for the last 6 months. With amortization you can brake a payment down into as many smaller payment as you’d like. So instead of taking 2 payments you might decide to take 5 or 6 or 30 — however it best suits your player base and brings you good business. Generally speaking, most people tend to break payments down into no more than 12 just because it makes the accounting practices easier if you have one payment a month. If you broke this $50 upgrade into 12 payments then your players could become an upgraded member for only $4.20 a month.

Why Is Example 1 So Helpful?

Many people are more willing to make smaller payments. This means that even if you don’t get a full year’s upgrade from one member you’re still bringing in income. It also encourages people to try out your upgrade system with a much smaller risk to themselves. If they don’t like the upgrade they’ve only spent half or much less than half the money than if they’d paid for a full year. It also gives them the ability to come and go on their upgrade much more readily than if they had to pay the larger sum each year. They can buy one month and not the other, then come back for the month following that allowing them more flexibility to purchase and keep their upgrade.

What’s The Downside of Example 1?

You may not be bringing in as much money as you like. Because the payments are smaller you also have more online processing fees that are applied, however some payment services will allow you register as a micro-transaction account and will take lower fees since you will be bringing in a higher volume of payments. While payments are likely to happen more frequently they will only be in smaller amounts which may make it seem like your bank account is always struggling to stay at a more comfortable level when you have slower times.

Example 2: Taking One Payment and Spreading It Over a Period of Time

This other example is one that many of you may not know about. It applies the same kind of idea except you only take one payment and you only apply a portion of that payment to your income over a duration. For example, let’s say you got your $50 upgrade and we go back to our 2 payments example. Instead of thinking of that $50 as one payment you apply $25 to this month and then 6 months later you apply the other $25. You may still have the full amount of $50 but you’re not considering it income until a period of time has passed. This idea works best when you break a payment down into bi-annually, quarterly or monthly time periods. So in our second 12 month example, instead of getting $50 for this one payment you apply $4.20 from this payment across every month.

Why Is Example 2 So Helpful?

This is really the icing on the cake and most people don’t realize it! When you take in the one payment and spread it out amongst a period of time it gives you more solid, steady income. Instead of getting $50 one month, and nothing for the next 12 months, you now have a steady stream of income coming in all year long. Generally speaking, with games the upgrade tend to have highs and lows, where people are upgrading a lot and then not upgrading at all. You may get $4,000 in upgrades one month and then nothing or very little for the next two. With this kind of amortization that $4,000 is spread over the rest of the time period. So in our 12 month example you would be bringing in $334 a month instead of $4,000 in one lump sum. This also helps you keep a steady income for the entire year instead of getting less reliable income over the duration of the year, even if the overall total for whatever time period you’re shooting for is lower than what you bring in for a month. It’s great for budgeting and paying your bills and helping you keep your game open even in slower months.

What’s The Downside of Example 1?

This example takes discipline!! It’s a much different way of thinking about the income you’re bringing in because the balance in your bank account may reflect one thing while your calculations reflect another. It is very tempting to just look at your total balance and think I have $4,000 rather than I only have $334 to spend this month. It also requires some math to keep track of how much money you are amortizing over time whereas Example 1 is easier to keep track of because you immediately account for the money from each payment you get.

What do you think about amortization? Do or have you used it? Which type of amortization do you prefer?

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions and experiences!

The Game Plan: Getting Started

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Your game design can run fairly smoothly or it can be a continuous cesspool of hardships and setbacks and pain points. In the next few series of posts I’m going to try and help walk you through the process of getting your game up and off the ground, from what you’re envisioning in your head to an actual working version. So, let’s get started.

1. Get It Out Of Your Head

It’s time you pull out a pencil, pen, or open your laptop to a writing program. First thing’s first, you have to get your game out of your head. Write it down and put it somewhere you can reference it later.

2. Writer’s Block

So if you’ve opened a text editor or you have a pen in your hand you’ve successfully completed step one. Now, what do you write? I like to start with the five W’s:

Whom?

  • Does your game appeal to a specific age range or interest group or gender or even ethnic background?
  • Will you have a large audience your game will appeal to or a small audience?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of the audience you’ve identified?

What?

  • What kind of game are you trying to make?
  • What programming language best suits this kind of game?
  • Does it fit into a specific genre of game or does it span multiple genres?
  • Does it embody a completely new genre?
  • Can you find other games that are similar to the game you are trying to make? If so, what do these games do well and where do fall short?
  • Are there lots of other games on the market similar to the type of game you’re trying to make?
  • What will your charge for your game?
  • What do other, similar games of this type charge?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of the type of game you’re trying to make?

Where?

  • Where does your game take place?
  • What kind of maps or features or environment are unique to your game?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of where your game takes place?

When?

  • When will you have time to work on this game?
  • When can you start this game?
  • When can you fund the development of this game?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of developing this game?

Why?

  • Why are you making this game?
  • Why is your game unique?
  • Why will your game stand out from the crowd?
  • Why will people choose to play your game over other similar games?
  • Why will people pay for your game?
  • What are the benefits and downsides of making this game?

3. Make A Design Document

Your design document is a refined version of everything you’ve written down in step 2. Go back and really analyze what your goals for the game are and if what you’ve written down makes sense in the larger picture. Sometimes a good idea you have for one area of the game will conflict or make another part of the game tedious, uninspired or downright frustrating. For a game design document I like to use the following format:

  1. Intro
    • What is the vision for your game and a short description of how the game is played
  2. Audience, Platform & Marketing Strategies
    • Who the game is for, what platforms you’re making it for and what sets your game apart that will make it marketable and different from others
  3. Core Gameplay & Mechanics
    • How the game is played including physics, rules and limitations
  4. Characters
    • What characters are in your game including what they look like, their names and backgrounds and personalities
  5. Story, Themes & Twists
    • If your game has an overarching story then you’ll outline your plot and how the game progresses with the story line
  6. World
    • Describe the world your game is set in, including maps and locations and their purpose or importance
  7. Assets
    • All the different images, music, animations, etc that you will need to have a fully functional game
  8. Technical Specs
    • What language you’re using, how games are loaded/saved, where games are stored, the number of servers you’ll need and anything else relating to the technical setup of your game
  9. Interface
    • What the game interface looks like and how the player will interact with it
  10. Outside References
    • Articles, links, design inspriations, or anything else that you’re using as a reference for the game you’re making
  11. Appendix
    • Code style guidelines, dictionary of terms, and anything else that is important for understanding your design document that may not necessarily relate to your game directly

Once you’ve fully fleshed out your game design by going into depth about the features, physics, economy, weapons, characters and how the game works it’s time to break it down. Start by creating lots of of small, easy tasks you can accomplish in order to see your core game mechanics to completion enough that you could play a simple version of your game without any extra bells and whistles. Set yourself up to do as little as you have to but as much as you need to in order to get a really simplified, yet completed, version of your game.

How To Get People To Play Your Game

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I’ve learned a lot in the almost 15 years I’ve been running online games. Sure, I can tell you all the different marketing strategies you usually see articles for that show you how to spam your game in every social network and paid advertising service known to man, but that’s not what this post is all about. There’s a difference between getting people to KNOW about your game and getting people to PLAY your game.

Know Your Target Audience

First and foremost you need to know your audience. Who does your game appeal to? If you’re advertising your game for 30+ year old men but the only people who’ve played it so far are young  teenage girls then advertising it on a Cars Automotive Forum is just a waste of your time. If your game is brand new and you’re not sure of your target audience then you can do some playtesting to get feedback on who it appeals to the most. You can also try asking a variety of friend and family to play if playtesting isn’t an option for you — this will give you a varied pool of ages and computer skill levels to draw some basic conclusions from.

Advertise To Your Target Audience

If you’re looking for children to play your game and all of your advertisements/branding/banners/phrases use large vocabulary words and dense/visually busy/highly realistic/dark images then you’re already setting yourself up for increased headaches and hair pulling. If you don’t know much about your target audience then it’s time to stop and do some research. What appeals to children is completely different from what appeals to adults or teenages just like what appeals to women is different from what appeals to men.

Add Lots Of Variety

If you go the pay for advertising route, or even if you self-promote your game in forums/social networks you need to vary how you advertise. By this I mean use both different graphics and wording and in what you’re posting. You’ll quickly find out which advertisements and wording works better than others. If you always have one static saying and image that you’re spamming around the internet it will fade into the background noise. Try animated banners and static banners, bright colors and dull colors, varying text sizes and text amounts. If you post just one banner/phrase and it doesn’t attract people then don’t keep posting the same banner/phrase. One thing I like to tell people is the definition of stupidity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you don’t mix things up you won’t get a different outcome.

Make It Easy

By this I mean you want your game to be easy to find, install, run and start playing. If someone clicks on your website and they now have to wade through 15 different links that are randomly dispersed through an already text-heavy blog post to find the link to get to your game download page then you’ve already lost customers before they’ve even started. Have your download or embedded game front and center. Make it easy to download or join — the fewer fields and steps they have to complete to start playing the faster they’ll become engaged and access to the experience they were looking for.

Teach Them How To Play

It’s hard to play if you can’t figure out how the game works or which buttons you need to press to get things started. Make access to instructions or a tutorial just as easy as it was to find and launch your game and keep your instructions appropriate for your target audience. Children need instructions with fewer, easier to follow with less text than adults do. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by writing instructions or a tutorial that they can’t follow or don’t understand.

Start Playing As Soon As Possible

Instructions and a tutorial are great but they can also be tedious and time consuming. Keep them short and to the point, or intersperse brief tutorials/instructions that are introduced progressively throughout gameplay. The longer your target audience has to wade through learning how to play the less likely they are to start playing and stick with it.

Control, Control, Control

If your target audience has made it past your tutorial or instructions and they’re playing there’s one other thing that can really bring everything to an abrupt stop and that’s having difficulty interacting with the game. If your controls are too sensitive or your combinations are too tricky or are too fast for them to accomplish in the amount of time you’re giving them you’ll find that their interest drops off like an air-conditioner falling out of a window. I’m not saying your controls can’t have a learning curve, just that it should be a fairly short one or even a progressive one where you start off simple and add more and more complexity as you go.

Make It Fun

So you can do all of these things I’ve mentioned and people still don’t play your game because they don’t think it’s fun. I could go on and on about this topic and in fact I already have if you’re interested in reading about it so I won’t drag on about it here and now. If people don’t think your game is fun then it doesn’t matter if you’ve hit the mark on all the other points you’ll still find yourself back to the drawing board. So I hope this helps you in your endeavors to get people playing your game because in my experience if you can master these points here you’re well on your way down the path to success.

 

Use Play Testing To Reduce Your Game Development Costs

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What Is Play Testing?

This is a technique where you build a working version of your game and play it before you ever release the game to market. So you may be asking yourself, how does this reduce my game development costs if I need a working version of the game before I can play test it? The answer is simple: create your working game in an inexpensive medium. So what if your marketable game is going to have cutting edge graphics or high poly 3D models or even stunning visual effects that require months of complex mathematics and physics and matrices — with play testing you can see how well your core gameplay and mechanics work (or fail) without any of those expensive bells or whistles and in a lot less time.

How Do I Play Test?

I generally break this down into six steps.

1. Define your core game components, mechanics and boundaries

Start by sitting down and thinking about the core components of your game. How does your game work? How could someone play a physical manifestation of your game?

2. Write the game rules

Now that you know all of the components of the game you’ll need to write up a set of rules. Your play testers will use these so they know how they should play your game. If you can’t identify any rules for your game then you’ve found your first problem — you don’t actually have a game yet and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

3. Gather your materials

Not all games need materials but you probably will even if it’s as simple as a few pencils and some blank sheets of paper. It’s time to visit a local arts and crafts store and buy whatever you think is necessary for someone to play a simplified version of your game — be creative to keep your costs low (ie use paper balls instead of nerf balls). You will need enough materials for at least one person to play your game. If your game is multiplayer you may need to invest a bit more so you can let multiple people play together.

4. Get lots of people to play your game

This is pretty much self explanatory but it’s also a really deep topic. Other than to say the more people who you can get to play the better, I’ll come back to it later.

5. Analyze your results

You can take a lot away from a play testing session. Did your player(s) struggle understanding the rules or sticking to the rules because they weren’t clearly defined or they didn’t make sense. Did your players pick up the general mechanics and components of the game quickly? Even if you have a negative response to both of these areas don’t panic! This is a good indication that your rules need improvement and that other materials or aids might be required (ie tutorials) before your players can really understand what you’re asking them to do.

6. Finding the fun

Ultimately your play testing session boils down to did your player(s) enjoy themselves? Was it so long and complex that they quickly lost interest or was it so fast paced that they finished almost as soon as they started? Where they laughing and becoming immersed in the experience or growing frustrated and angry? Did they feel sufficiently challenged? Some people find asking their play testers questions about their experience helpful and often times will ask for them to fill out a feedback sheet or a survey when they’re done. Personally I prefer just watching people play. Watching someone play your game will give you a huge amount of feedback and target areas in need of improvement all without breaking the bank. Remember that it’s okay to go back to square one and start again if your play testers don’t have a positive response to your game. The best part about negative feedback is that it just saved you from spending lots of time, energy, resources and money on a game no one thinks is fun.

Who Should Be Play Testing Your Game?

Okay so I kind of glazed over step four because I wanted to devote a whole section to it. I always start play testing with my target audience. Your target audience should be the age range and gender you believe your game will most appeal to. For instance, if I was intending to make a game for young children I would keep in mind their computer skills, the types of devices they are most likely to play on, their hand-eye coordination, their cognitive abilities in understanding themes, stereotypes and story development. Each of these would be adjusted based upon what I expect young children would find fun and amusing — loud silly noises, larger buttons, brighter colors, less text to read and rules introduced slowly and over time to build complexity.

Now your target age range and genders should all be play testers — but so should other groups. Don’t limit yourself to only your target audience or your may miss gaining valuable insight to how people play and interpret your game. Although you may be designing a game for young children you may find that your target audience has missed it’s mark when the young children have only negative responses to your play testing sessions while a different group of play testers find your game the perfect mix of fun and challenging entertainment.

There’s also a matter of size to consider. Even if your game is single player, what happens when you ask two people to play it together? This may (or may not) change your game dynamics for the better or lead you in a completely different direction that ends up becoming something much more successful that what you had to start with. In that same vein, push the limits. What happens if you triple the number of players who are playing at a time? This is especially important for multiplayer games where your play testers end up being on a small segment of the number of players who will ultimately be playing your game. You might suddenly find your calculations for resource management fall short when your player base grows exponentially or that the influx of players completely changes the pace and feel of the game — for good or for bad.

So, What Are The Advantages of Play Testing?

  • Testing early makes it easier to discover and fix problems
  • Increasing and decreasing the number of players at a time can help you find new and interesting perspectives and aspects of your game you had not yet considered improving or expounding upon — and they may be the best features of your game
  • You can work in a controlled environment and see how your games is affected by a specific number of players influences game factors such as economy, resource depletion, or competition.
  • Watching people play will help you areas of the game players find confusing or not challenging enough
  • You can find your true target audience, not what you think or feel your target audience should be
  • Players can give you valuable feedback before the game is put out to market
  • Reduced costs of game development, you won’t have to go back and fix features of the game players don’t like when the game is out to market — you’ve already identified those areas through play testing
  • This gives you the ability to go back to square one at any point in time, and then bring your changes back to your play testing groups until you get it right

Summary

Game development is expensive so do yourself a favor and make sure you’re spending your money on a game that’s going to help you reap the rewards of all your hard work. Play testing is easy and much cheaper than spending your money on a game that’s only going to flop when it hits the market.

How Do I Get Started Making An Online Game?

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This is something I’ve been asked fairly often. If you’re interested in starting your own online game here’s a few things to get you moving in the right direction.

What game are you going to make?

Let’s not put the cart before the horse. Before you can even consider making an online game you need to decide what kind of game you’re going to make. I don’t care if it’s as simple as tic-tac-toe or hangman or as complex as world of warcraft, you’ll need to sit down and put some serious thought into what you want to accomplish before you set yourself to the task. Take some time to write out all of the things you want your game to do (or not do) and create a design document with an easy to follow checklist — this will allow you to check off all the things features and functionality in your game as you work on it.

What programming language are you going to use?

Take a day or two to look at several different programming languages. Which one will make it easiest for you to accomplish all of the goals and tasks you set down in your design document? Choosing the language you’re most familiar with won’t always be the best choice in the grand scheme of things. If you’re not sure which programming language your game is best suited for then try joining a programming forum and getting some honest feedback from senior programmers and developers who can help steer you in the right direction.

Can you afford an online game?

Now that you have a design document and you know what programming language you’re going to use it’s time to get down to facts and figures. How many servers will you need to get your game up and running and what will that cost you? How will you pay for your domain name or any specific software or artwork you’ll need to get your game where you want it to be? Pull up some kind of spreadsheet software and track down the prices for everything you need and add it all up. What will it cost you monthly and yearly? If you’re short on cash you can try to develop via a local machine however this won’t always give you the same experience, environment and the same range of problems as a live setup will. In addition, some programming languages/games require multiple servers in order to work properly so developing locally isn’t always an option.

How long will it take you to develop your online game?

Once you’ve figure out prices it’s time to consider how long it will take you to create your game. This will help you understand what your development costs are before your game is even up and running. There’s no easy way to figure out how long it will take you to make your game, however, you can break up your game design document with estimates (and DEADLINES!!!) on how much time you want to spend on each feature. Try to stick to those and you’ll be more successful in getting your game up and running on a timeline you can afford.

Do you have enough time and money available to dedicate to an online game?

Now you know what it will cost you and you have an idea of how long it will take you to complete your game. This is the make it or break it point. Can you afford the financial burden of getting your game developed and open to the public? What happens if it doesn’t bring in any money? Can you afford sustaining your game (or sadly closing it) if it doesn’t live up to it’s expectations? What happens if you go past your deadline and your game isn’t done yet? What will you do? Do you have enough time to set aside for the development of your game and stick to your deadlines? Will you have time to devote to your game after it’s done to answer emails, manage content, fix bugs and add new features? If the answer to any of these questions is no then you’re not ready to make this game. Shove it in a file — please don’t throw it away and waste your hard work or time — and come back to it again in the future. Go back to the first step and start over again. You can design a new game or the same game over and over again until you can answer every single one of these question with a yes. That means you’re ready to start.

Get setup and start, don’t procrastinate.

When I say you’re ready to start I mean it. Don’t put it aside another second, pull out your wallet to rent some server space or build your local development environment and get started. No excuses. The longer you wait and the more you put it off again and again the less of a chance there is of anything ever getting done. It might be hard and it may take a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears but your efforts will be rewarded with a finished product — whatever that may be.

Start small and simple.

There’s nothing wrong with starting small and keeping things simple. Most working, successful ideas and concepts start out that way. Over time you can refine and re-work the idea until it becomes larger and more complex. Let your game follow the same example. Start with anything on your list that’s simple and you can finish quickly. As you finish these small, simple tasks and features of the game you’ll get a greater feeling of accomplishment and it will encourage you continue to working towards the larger and more complex parts of your game. It will also help you stay focused and stick to your deadlines.

Push through the pain!

When all hope seems lost keep going, don’t stop. Even if your code is horrible or your have hundreds of bugs that you can’t fix don’t let it prevent you from completing your game. Nothing is or ever will be perfect. Instead strive to do a little bit better next time, and a little bit better the time after that. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your game or your programming skills.

If at first you don’t succeed… don’t be afraid to close the game and try again.

So at this point your game should be finished and open to the public. Even if you advertise the heck out of it not every game will be a success or work out quite the way you wanted it to. Some people may laugh at it, criticize the graphics, or even tell you it’s repetitive, boring or it’s all been done before. Don’t let anything stop you from taking everything you’ve learned so far from going back to step one to try, try, try again. Whether you close your game or go through a few more iterations to add new features, fix problems and make it better, it will be GUARANTEED to fail in some way, shape or form. Nothing in life is set in stone — if something doesn’t work change it over and over again until it gets the job done and then exceeds your expectations. Every time you make a game or improve upon an existing one you’ll learn more, become a better programmer and game designer, and take another further step down the path of having the next big hit game on the Internet.

Game Journal 1.5: Ten Games You Played As A Child

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In my last post I created a game with a passive player. I also included a short blurb to describe what I consider a passive player. This exercise challenges you to list ten games you played as a child and describe what you liked most about them.

Exercise 1.5

When I was 6 or 7 I had a best friend right down the street. Tyler was totally into video games, and better yet his dad got him nintendo, SNES and SEGA as soon as they came out — in addition to a number of game cartridges for it. Tyler was one of the reasons I started playing and love video games. I can remember spending hours on the floor beside him trying to beat the next boss or get to the next level and our pieces of paper with all the skip level passwords on them. Yeah, that’s right. When I started playing video games there were no saved games, only special passwords or codes that would advance you back to the level where you last left off. So thank you Tyler for all those hours we spent trying to beat Shredder on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

  1. Mario for original Nintendo. This was the first game I felt like I could play over and over again without ever getting tired of it. Even though the controls were so simple (jump, duck, fire a fireball) this game was, and still is, one of the most challenging platform games I’ve ever played. One of my favorite things about this game was all the surprises that kept cropping up as you played it – hidden 1ups, beanstalks, and tubes with bonus coins or fire flowers.
  2. Donkey Kong for original Nintendo. I loved this game because it was simple and challenging. I don’t think I ever got past level 3 but that never stopped me from playing it again and again. I loved not knowing where the barrels were going to fall and the crazy mad dance of the monkey when you finally get the top of the level and save the princess.
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for SNES. I probably played this game with my friend Tyler more than any other game. I remember we used to fight over who was going to be Donatello and who was going to be Leo. This is the first two player game I remember playing with someone. I know the graphics were bad and the sound was pretty pitiful but I think this game holds a place in my heart because it was the first one I experienced in 2-player mode — and that made everything else seem unimportant.
  4. Pac Man the Arcade Game. I used to take Gynmastics when I was little and one of the things I loved about the place was the old Pac Man machine they had in the lobby. I use to waste quarters on it several times a week waiting for my mom to come pick me up from the gym. What I liked about this game was the foresight and planning it required. You had to think long term — keep in mind where all the ghosts were going, and save your power dots until the last minute.
  5. Mario Kart for SNES. This was the first racing game I ever played with my friend Tyler. I used to kick his butt in this game and he hated every minute of it. What I liked most about this game was the clever use of items to give you advantages over other racers, and the obstacles on the course that could give you the speed boost you needed or condemn you at the same time as you weren’t paying attention and fell off the side of a bridge.
  6. Super Mario World for SNES. This game was a cool mix of puzzles and reflexes. I loved the new items and the take off spin on the original Mario game. However what I loved best was the introduction of Yoshi. This was the first game I played where you could use another character beside your own character’s skill to complete a level.
  7. Sonic the Hedgehog for SEGA. This game was all about speed and reflexes. I loved the fast pace, quick to finish levels and the fact that I could play as a secondary character (Tails) without worry about dying and as a helping addition to the first player — without being the main player.
  8. Kirby for the original game boy. This was my first game on my game boy that I couldn’t put down. I’d spend hours trying to eat things and “puff” fly away from enemies. I loved the music, cute graphics, and the simple controls.
  9. Tetris for the original game boy. Okay, so I rock at Tetris. Although it was also available on SNES I’ve always felt this game was best played on a small screen where you could curl up on a couch and work your way through the simplest and most challenging five blocks invented.
  10. Paperboy for SNES. I loved this game for the random events and occurrences that would pop up but it was way too hard to play for more than a few levels. However this makes my list because this was the first game I played that took it’s inspiration from real life and made it into a game.