When designing Tiny Games, I tend to employ a three phase approach. I call the first step the Ideation & Design Phase, where I take an initial idea and rough out the experience’s essential game design structure. Second comes the Playtesting & Refinement Phase, where we test the game and develop a final rule set. Third comes the Spend A Really Long Time Rewriting The Game Trying To Reduce Its Game’s Character Count Because Tiny Games Ought To Be Short And Sometimes It’s Really Hard To Describe A Game Without Using Lots And Lots of Words Phase. Believe it or not, the third phase is usually the trickiest.
Even in the best of cases, it’s often a challenge to communicate a Tiny Game’s rules in an efficient number of words. It’s a challenge worth tackling, because that’s the whole magic trick of Tiny Games: like little poems, they squeeze a lot of stuff into a little box.
But occasionally, words just don’t seem to be the right tool for the job. So, we’ve been playing around with using photographs to teach some Tiny Games. Specifically we’ve been using Backspaces, a great service that lets you string together text and photographs into little sharable stories.
Here’s an example of one of our Backspaces games, Dot Wranglers: http://backspac.es/
Now you *could* teach someone that game using words alone, but we think this way works pretty darn nicely.
Here’s Alpha-Gami, a game that involves a folding mechanic that’s dead simple once you see what it is, but that’s surprisingly tough to describe: http://backspac.es/
And finally here’s an example of a game that’s just fun to see in action: http://backspac.es/r/
Tiny Games will always have a special relationship with words, and that’ll continue to be the standard way we get them across, but for now we’re enjoying testing out some other approaches and seeing what we learn. Playing this forward to Tiny Games app itself, we anticipate being able to communicate game rules in a number of ways, stretching beyond text. We think this opens up all kinds of possibilities for play…
We’ll be posting more photo-based Tiny Games on Backspaces over the next several weeks. Follow us there to see more of them: http://backspac.es/
PS – I’ll mail a prize to the first person who can get to “M” in Alpha-Gami. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you crack it.