Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Meaningful games

Thus far I have created quite a few games since 2011. All of which are casual games. Casual games are simple games where anyone can just jump right in and play and enjoy. There are no wordy texts or lengthy tutorials to wade through just to play the game.

Take for example Kopi Tiam game which I made back in 2012.
A photo posted by Afzainizam Zahari (@afzainizamzahari) on
This game hasn't got much text in it. Players can just tap away and "cook" to their hearts' content.
It is compelling to see the familiar local foods on your screen being turned into a game. But is this game meaningful?

This is the topic I'd like to touch on. Would you consider Kopi Tiam game as a meaningful game?
The animation in the game shows you how the local food is being cooked and presented. It is simplified but I think it did it's job to preserve the local culture in a media that is interactive and compelling.



Showcasing our local culture in a game such as Kopi Tiam game. Perhaps that is something that could be meaningful to someone local or foreign who has never seen foods like these before.

Fast forward to 2015, I have just released a new game called Satay Club.
A photo posted by Afzainizam Zahari (@afzainizamzahari) on
This is yet another casual game and also dealing with food. When Satay Club game was first conceptualized, I wanted my game to have more depth and to be more meaningful for players. I didn't want it to be just another tap, tap, tap and serve. I wanted to incorporate the rich history of Singapore back when it was part of British Malaya. I wanted an interesting story based on real life. And most importantly I wanted to capture the mood and feel of that long gone era.

I wanted my game to have historical facts in it, but I didn't know how to add it in. So the natural way of thinking was to present it in a "fun facts cards" way. This is what I did at first:


As you can see, the facts presented in such a way is not really very interesting.

This is a problem for me. casual players know when a game screams "TYPICAL EDUCATIONAL GAME!" from a mile away. To me this way of presentation is just like those kind of games. Not that there's anything wrong with...Sorry I can't continue that sentence. There's a lot of wrong in those types of games! LOL!

 I didn't want my game development to go down that route. I don't want my game to turn into a glorified textbook. I wanted something different. So I thought about it and decided a better way would be to weave these facts into a storyline made just for the game. As an example, the facts presented in the picture above is now turned into this picture:
A photo posted by Afzainizam Zahari (@afzainizamzahari) on
Now that little picture above might intrigue someone enough to go find out and research for themselves about Tay Koh Yat buses, the bus depot etc. That is what I'm trying to go for in my game. That subtlety. Or it might not and the player might just tap next and continue on with the game. But at least they've got that picture in their subconscious.


I wanted a story in my game. But honestly I'm like the worst story teller ever. People fall asleep the moment I start telling stories. Really!

This is totally not the case for my cousin though, who now goes by the pen name Nizam Zakaria. He however has published several popular novels and has directed many Films and TV series in Malaysia. He has actually influenced me quite a bit when I was a teenager. His novels are really easy to read and the stories are very compelling. But still, I'm not a writer. Far from it.

So I decided to learn.


(To be continued in the next post...)

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