Tweaking the Rules of the Game


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by moonlightbulb

If you’ve ever played Bananagrams you know the stress of hearing the word “peel,” particularly with a good player that says it a dozen times in less than twenty seconds. If you don’t know Banagrams, it’s a word game like Scrabble in which you arrange words into a crossword except each player builds their own board with letters. Everyone starts with 11-21 letters apiece and they a race to build your own crossword puzzle with all your letters. The first person out of letters says, ‘peel’ and everyone must grab another letter to add to their crossword. Good players typically play that letter quickly and say ‘peel!’ again, and again, and again…

When all the letters are gone, and if you’re the first to finish your crossword you say ‘bananas!’ and win.

I love this game vs. Scrabble which tends to be much slower as you deliberate over your seven letters trying to find a place for them on the board while maximizing points. Bananagrams on the other hand is very fast, there are no points assigned to each letter, you just have to make words. Also there are two other changes to Scrabble – you can rearrange your crossword at anytime as well as dump a hard letter (such as a Q or Z) and take three letters. Both of these rule changes foster speed in Bananagrams.

This is a great example of a modified game that led to a very successful product. Many of the games we play are modifications of existing games or game systems – think of how many card games there are out there – practically an infinite number.

To finally get started on your educational penny arcade game, I want you to research an existing game and start tinkering with the game rules and mechanics. We’re going to look at the core components of a game by looking at The Institute of Play’s Gamestar Mechanic Learning Guide.

Then we’re going to rebuild a paper/pencil mockup of a game found on the List of The Price is Right pricing games. Search for video of the game you chose (it’s likely out there on Youtube), and then define it’s five core design elements. You’ll next have to translate the game into a paper/pencil mock-up. So if there is a wheel spun that has five choices, then recreate those choices on five slips of paper so they can selected at random.

Next follow Modifying Games exercise on pages 51-54 with a group of three. Choose one of the pencil/paper mockups to modify and each of you must choose either a rule or core mechanic to change (see worksheet on page 54). Everyone should play based on your change. Report out the results asked for in the modifying a game exercise.

You will need to put all of these results in a blog post. First your own mockup and then the modifications of the game you made in your group. The post should include the following:

  1. Embed a video of the original Price Is Right Game.
  2. Define the five Core Design Elements of the game.
  3. Document the pencil/paper mockup you created and embed images/video. Describe the mockup as well.
  4. Share the report of your modification to the group game.

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