Everywhere you go, there are games: how Tiny Games wants you to involve everyone in play
There are posters scattered around PAX, and if you’re at the show you may have already seen one. Each one features the rules to a simple game, a game you can play with people you find and meet on the show floor. It could be a verbal game, or it could give you rules for lining up and fighting another group of three people like a turn-based Japanese RPG. Each game is simple, social, and designed to get people interacting.
The promotion isn’t just fun for PAX-goers, it’s designed to draw attention to the Kickstarter run by Tiny Games for an app that offers a collection of games, each one simple and easy to play. The idea being that, at a dinner party or just hanging out with friends, you can open the app, see what you have to work with, and play a fun game.
Adults at play
Trying to get people to play games out of the house is different from what the group of designers is used to; they usually create games and installations at events where people are expecting to play. You may remember our story about Drunk Dungeon.
“Something we've thought a lot about when working on the app is the idea that someone in any social group would rather be playing a game - the app is designed to make it easier for that person to get their friends playing,” Tiny Game’s Alex Fleetwood told the Report. “A lot of that is about making the games super-simple to understand and pick up, but we're also thinking about how people will use the app in a group and how we make selecting a game and getting started (almost) as fun as playing the game itself.”
The games are designed to get people playing quickly, and to keep their attention. Many of the games are high concept, and you want to jump in and try it. One game has you re-arranging the words on a menu at a restaurant to try to create the most disgusting dish possible.
“I think a crucial element of what makes a Tiny Game a Tiny Game is that there's something about it that makes you want to play it right here, right now. That's partly about simplicity, and partly about there being a relationship between the rules you're reading and the place you're in,” Fleetwood said. “The format usually begins by describing the number of players and the kind of player it would appeal to, and then asking you to notice something in the environment, and then giving you the rules. That way, players can gradually feel their way into the game.”
They were at a large advantage when designing the PAX games, as they can assume most people here understand who Gabe Newell is, or what Ezio looks like. That allowed them to create themed games for a dedicated audience.
There's also a few tricks to helping people feel comfortable playing together. “In the game itself, we always try to remember that playing with people you don't know can be a little nerve-wracking,” Fleetwood said. “It's important to give players clearly defined roles, so they know what's expected of them and they know what to expect from other people. Giving people specific bits of vocabulary to use, or little stage directions ('the loser should bow to the winner' etc) can take some of the pressure out of the situation, because it means you're not asking people to improvise.”
What’s fun is that they have yet to find any demographic trends in how people play their games. Children love them, as do adults. The games allow men and women to play together without requiring any previously-acquired skill. Not only that, but people change how they act when they’re playing a game.
“We've seen everything at our events, from people climbing the sides of buildings in order to complete missions,” I was told. “Don’t do that kids, it’s a bad idea.” The Kickstarter is live now, and is worth your support.