Dissecting a Game

iD Tech in action

Howdy! (the other) Pete here with YAIP*

iD held the annual staff trainings over the past month and I was lucky enough to participate in two, while my business partner, Bryan aka Brylock, visited the other two. Every year we get to show off some outdoor games while teaching the value of our collective brain-dump called the Activity Curriculum (The AC). Although iD Tech is a specialty camp for kids of all ages (7 - 18), a well-rounded camp experience that encourages growth in all areas, not simply technical skills, is our primary focus. Additionally, since we have college-based summer camps, we make any excuse to get the Campers outside to take advantage of the (almost universally) stunning campuses (I wanted to write campii)!

The AC is an incredibly deep vat of content relating to the experiences that the iD Tech Campers have during non-instructional time. There are all sorts of different initiatives within the AC that get Campers social, active and excited about coming back again and again. The more that our Campers communicate in a positive way, the better their projects turn out, whether they are creating iPhone games, learning professional photography or editing digital video.

One charge I had for this year's trainings was to create a bunch of new games*** that we can use to inspire the staffers while giving them new ideas for keeping the camp season fresh. There are two games that I put together with Brylock that were a big hit, although they had a few small issues that need to be fixed.


The first game is called "Ingredients." The game is fairly simple: 20 players are each given a single, simple ingredient that they must keep secret (such as Ice Cream). These ingredients form 4 different recipes with 5 ingredients each. The players must self-arrange into the recipes without talking, using sound or (obviously) showing their card.

The first time I played Ingredients, two groups did very well, one struggled a bit and the last group didn't finish. The suggestion from the testers was that the game was too difficult without actually knowing what the recipes were. My second playtest included two variations of the game - one with the recipe as one of the ingredient cards, and the other standard set that I originally used.

The results from the second playtest were actually very surprising. Out of six groups, two struggled a bit while the other four succeeded. Of the four, two had the recipe name and two did not! Each group even preferred their set of cards!

The next step is to share the PDF of both game tests with all of iD and see what the Campers think. I also may change the name from "Ingredients" to simply "Categories" because there are dozens of other groupings that would work with the same concept. In fact, I think that the ingredient-based variation is only the beginning of a complex group challenge, with varying groupings and concepts. I can even imagine an advanced level where the groupings are based on group consensus more than something preconceived by the facilitator.

Fish in a Barrel

I love this concept, but fear that the present risks for injury are too great. This is a simple variation on Sharks & Minnows. Two players start as Throwers and have to stand outside of one of the long sides of the "Barrel," a fairly oblong rectangular boundary. The Throwers are given a bunch of Trashballs (safe, cheap, green, homemade balls) as, for lack of a better term, ammunition. The Fish all start on the same short end and have to run inbounds past the other short end without being hit by a Trashball. If a Fish is hit, they become a Thrower in the next round.

Now, the game is tremendously fun. All of the players during both playtests were incredibly engaged for the entire game. The problem, however, was that there were moments of risk that made me uncomfortable. The Trashballs are 80% harmless, but I noticed too many players getting hit in the face, which doesn't seem acceptable to me. I don't think that anyone would get hurt by the Trashball, but they may get annoyed, which can lead to bigger problems. Another issue was that the Fish would clog up the Barrel and create an unsafe environment for running - especially when players are dodging left and right without looking.

I think the solution the needs to be tested is sending the Fish out in small waves. This will make everyone more aware of the surroundings (so no one gets trampled) and it would be easier to instruct Throwers to aim below the shoulders. Otherwise, the mad rush of Fish overwhelms the Throwers and Trashballs are thrown haphazardly. Brylock also suggested the addition of some form of shields to protect the Fish, but this may make the game too difficult for the initial Throwers!


* Yet Another Interesting** Post

** Interestingness not guaranteed!

*** New to me. I am positive with a little research that I can find similar variations to the games I proposed, but I like discovering ideas from scratch and seeing where the concept can go instead of relying on already worn paths.

A photo of iD Tech

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