Game A Week Three: Balance

Game A Week Three: Balance

Screenshot 2014-03-24 13.16.26balance

(play it online)

Idea: In my first week and second week of this Game a Week challenge I worked with ideas that had been in the back of my mind for a while. This week, I was at GDC and I definitely didn’t have anything in mind small enough to fit in my available time. However, I found my inspiration in my own conflicts over priorities. I was thinking of creating a game about the balancing of work and life, an act that has been the subject of much discussion among academics and frankly seems like an impossible achievement most of the time. I considered several different ways to map the concept on game mechanics but went with a simple catch game. Appropriately, I read Jennifer Howard’s review of Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time as I was finishing this game. Jennifer Howard’s line–“Dispatch one task and six more take its place, a regenerating zombie army of obligations”–definitely suggests a tower defense game that might have worked quite well. I wanted to game to serve as a reflexive lens for “busy”-ness, which is so often self-imposed and–for me at least–can come from a failure to meaningfully prioritize and accept that some things are always going to fall to the wayside.

What went right: I returned to Construct 2 for this game, which worked well for the simple mechanics I had in mind. I added a few elements to increase the urgency: the player’s Pong-esque paddle for catching tasks shrinks slowly whenever the player’s work and life are “out of balance.” The screen progresses towards black as the player’s capacity to complete tasks, as represented by the paddle, fades out of existence. Keeping perfect balance between work and life can replenish the bar, but never for long. There is no win condition, only the number of tasks completed before getting overwhelmed.

What went wrong: For this type of simple mechanic, refinement is everything. I’d like to make everything more gradual and really tweak the rates at which tasks drop and the screen fades to black. I’d also like to add more representative graphics, particularly at the bottom and in the background, and of course sound effects would be helpful. And of course, this game should really be mobile, but it still uses arrow keys at the moment.

What I learned: I definitely scaled my plan appropriately for GDC week–now on to something more ambitious.

Other Games from Week Three

Mark Danger Chen was also at GDC this week, so his game is an extension of his previous Space 4X Co-op Card Game ruleset. I have a much better idea of how the tile placement and resources work now, and there’s a very cool science fiction vibe developing.

Melissa Peterson’s game Muintir is built in Construct 2 and uses an awesome mechanic drawn from knitting. It has a great space-defense theme which brings this “low-tech” inspiration into the world of force-fields, so there’s definite potential for this as a more complex pattern-based simulation. Her reflection for this week is here.

Dennis Ramirez’s game for this week is a downloadable game that interfaces with Twitter, Top Tweet. The integration with current Twitter feeds is very cool, and I pulled tweets from hashtags like #THATCamp and #GDC14. Play requires guessing which tweets from a group are the most popular, which I turned out to be terrible at.  It reminds me of Twitapocalypse in its use of Twitter metadata.