In Development

I’ve been focus testing some new games for Merscom in Chapel Hill… I was a bit nervous going in, but they didn’t seem to hold my recent Create-a-Mall review against me. Merscom is a casual games publisher, I’ve played mostly hidden objects, casual puzzles and, sadly, another Build-a-lot game.

I expected focus testing to be just like reviewing games, I’ve written game reviews on this blog, over on Thumbgods, and for Indie Game Mag, but it’s much harder to actually look at someone and tell them you don’t like their project.

I’ve complained a few (dozen) times about overusing pink in casual games targeted to girls, how it feels too girly, too generic and even condescending sometimes, like the choice of games are either childish for girls, or bloody for boys. But when I’m actually in the room with a developer? Who’s asking me for my opinion on the game?

“The pink titles are terrible! I mean, uh, some people really like it, and um, I’m sure it’s very pretty, but… um… I don’t think it’s really quite as good as it could be, you know? But that’s just what I think, so… you picked a very nice shade of pink… um… and if I liked pink and didn’t think it was an awful choice, I’d like that shade a lot… um…”

Yeah. I’m smooth.

But focus testing is actually a dream assignment — I’m supposed to play games and be critical.  And playing in-development games and talking about them is always interesting, even if it’s a game I wouldn’t ordinarily pick up. And I’m sure all my negativity about the Build-a-lot style games is offset by the bazillion awards the games have won.

The Mersom office has an idea whiteboard, full of suggestions for new games. Every time I see it, I’m tempted to write in “No more Build-a-Lot clones. Create new game about Julio-Claudians.” Think anyone would know that was me?

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