Saturday morning at IndieCade was the Iron Game Dev Challenge. I was excited to see so man creative devs together, and I’m kind of fascinated by what goes into a game. No matter how many games I playtest or how many developers are kind enough to talk with me, I always see it as a three-step process.
1: Clever idea
In the spirit of community-based video game design, the moderators opened the session by taking suggestions from the audience for the game’s theme. I was hoping differential calculus, the Spanish Civil War or ginger ice cream would be chosen from the list of shouted suggestions, but the panel picked a more art-game theme, birth. (I blame Brenda!)
Nine developers formed three teams of three, quickly proclaiming themselves East Coast, California, and People Who Aren’t American. Everyone had access to a table of office supplies and summer-camp art supplies, audience volunteer playtesters and one hour to work on their game.
And then moderator Eric Zimmerman revealed the super-secret ingredient: Band-Aids. Team International would like you to know they’re called “sticking plasters.”
Other IndieCade talks discussed how games are never really finished (I feel like my writing is never finished, I just stop improving it around the time my editor’s requests become death threats), but the three teams had to produce a working prototype in an hour.
East Coast immediately chose to call their game BirthSpank, and in what seemed like minutes, they had ten audience volunteer playtesters in a huddle, holding their breath and sticking band-aids. Their game asked players to form two teams and compete to make a band-aid chain, while holding their breath. When a player’s need for oxygen overcame their need to play, the team had to stop, and one player — the doctor — would cut the band-aid chain in two. The band-aids had different point values (Hello Kitty were worth the most. No word on the point value of Spiderman bandaids), and the team with the highest-valued smaller half would win.
Since the game relies on players holding their breath, it was pointed out that it would be easy to cheat. I don’t really like anti-cheating mechanics. Whenever I’m presented with anti-cheating rules at an exam, I start thinking of how easy it would be to get around it. Seriously.
Team Not-America used the band-aids for my least favorite use: Pulling them off. This is a partner game where one person must guess how many seconds between their partners’ breaths. Let’s not dwell too much on the ow factor of band-aid — sorry, sticking plaster — removal here.
Again, the themes of breathing, birth, teamwork and pain appear pretty clearly in an experimental game.
It was clear the California team had a completely different approach when they changed their name from Blind-Babymaking into SuperSperm Each player stuck on 1, 2 or 3 patch band-aids, which divided them into Egg, Sperm and SuperSperm. I was laughing too hard to take down which number was which, but the object was for sperm and supersperm was to find an egg. The egg was trying to avoid the ordinary sperm, and find the supersperm, all by blindfolded groping, er. by touch.
At this point, a guerrilla team of audience members demoed a PC game they’d thrown together during the session. (I didn’t get these guys’ names — let me know if you did!)
Winners were decided via audience clap-off, but it seems like West Coast’s, uh, conception-related activities, were the most fun.