A Game My Mom Might Play

by Steve Bowler on May 24, 2008 · 2 comments

in casual,design,webgames

Back at the GDC Game Design class I took, one of the things they really stressed was “fiction.” Making sure your game adhered to a fiction could help set it apart, make it stick in someone’s head, or even help make your game mechanic make a bit more sense. It’s important for something even as simple as a board game. It’s also one of the reasons why I feel that even the simplest and most narrative neutral gameplay mechanic can be made even better by injecting even just a touch of narrative to it (in this case, in the form of fiction).

So today my wife is playing some shockwave game online, and I look over at what she’s playing, because the music is so soothing, and I see Patchworkz!: some kind of patchwork quilt puzzle game.

Patchworkz!

It’s really nothing more than a spacial relations puzzle game. The kind you see on IQ or SAT tests, but in a much larger and more complex form. What’s interesting, however, is that they put the patterns into a traditional quilting pattern (rather than asymmetrical ones), and then made sure the pieces had a fabric swatch that would correspond to an approriate quilt pattern layout.

Even more patchworkz!

The result is something much more compelling than any spatial relation puzzler with the same shapes. The soothing music, the fabric, the pattern layouts, everything combines to gel into their “fiction” that you’re assembling some kind of quilt against a clock. My only nitpick would be that they replace the soothing bubble popping sound effects with sewing/fabric tearing noises, in order to maintain the tentative illusion that we’re in quilt-land.

Certainly not a game I’d seek out and play on my own, but a very enjoyable and compelling one that has crafted itself around a fiction I really didn’t think anyone would ever attempt to make a game out of, even something as simple as a web game. I’m always on the lookout for “oddball” games like this one; ones where someone takes a fiction nobody else would attempt to make into a game. I just find things like Cooking Mama and Pheonix Wright to be these happy little anomalies that round out a world of games dominated by first person shooters and MMOs that involve warring factions.

Now if only my quilting mother would stop being afraid of the computer…

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