Playing to Your Demo

by Steve Bowler on February 1, 2008 · 2 comments

in board,design

Awhile back I was playing (yet another) game of Strawberry Shortcake’s Colorform Boardgame with my three year old daughter, and we came across an interesting situation in game design I meant to backlog to write about here later.  I feel kinda lame using Strawberry Shortcake as the primary example here, but it was the catalyst that got the ball rolling.

The gist of playing SS is that it’s a Colorforms game, which means the Colorform company sat around and dreamed up a way of using their vinyl stickers and the SS license together in the same box.  Basically you spin the arrow and move to a new spot on the board, and either you put a colorform food piece on your game card if you land on a food icon, or you pull one off if you land on the dog.  Once you get to five or ten pieces (however many you set at the beginning) it’s a race to the finish line to see who can get to the picnic first.

The funny thing is that all kids want to do is play with the damn Colorforms.  It’s not really much of a game (just a random number spinner), and let’s face it, Colorforms are fun for kids.  So when she winds up getting all the pieces she needs to be allowed to head for the finish line, she doesn’t do what she should and try and win the game.  She just wants to keep going around the board and picking up more Colorforms.  Instead of taking the shortest route to the exit, she will go whichever direction gets her more stickers to put on her card.

This begs the question*:  Why didn’t they make the condition for winning who has the most stickers, or who can get to X pieces first?  I realize this scenario is the worst anecdotal kind of evidence, but I’d wager that most three year olds (the target demo for this game) would play it the same way.

So I’m wondering if there’s some more contemporary examples out there in video games.  The only things I can really come up with are older titles, such as Pilot Wings, where all I wanted to do was skydive all day long, and was forced to keep doing the other more boring (at least to me) elements.

Have you played games where the primary gameplay wasn’t what you wanted to do, where the secondary gameplay was the most interesting aspect?  What could the designers have done differently to improve on the experience?

* “Why is he still talking about lame children’s board games?”  Yeah, didn’t see that one coming ;P


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