Sunday, July 5, 2015

My game designs

When I was interviewing Randy Lein and Roger Miller a couple of weeks ago, they asked if I had any game designs. I've alluded to them in the podcast, but I've never really said anything about them.

Maybe it's time to unleash them on the world. Actually, I already have, but not in the gaming hobby. I use games quite a bit in my day job, as someone who helps software professionals become better innovators. A lot of it falls into the category of Agile training and coaching, if that means anything to you. If not, don't worry, it's just a way of saying, "There are times when a game can get a point across better than a slideshow." I also use games to help people test out different software innovation strategies, using games as a kind of simulator.

I've also been inspired, on the odd occasion, to design a game that I thought would help the dialog about important public policy issues. Most recently, the sad state of the health care debate inspired me to design a couple of games on the topic, with two goals: (1) educate people a little on the topic; and (2) encourage constructive discussion among people who disagree strongly.

Last but not least in the "serious game" category, my wife and I have worked on a couple of games together, with an eye to using them in psychotherapy. They started as games strictly for fun, but she spotted their potential usefulness in therapeutic situations.

There are also games for fun in this list. Yes, I do know how to have fun.

I'm glad to answer questions about the game, and take any helpful suggestions about them. If you're interested in serious games, here's a handy introduction I put together.

SERIOUS GAMES

Agile Portfolio Management
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 1
  • Goal: Provide a way for software professionals to assess the impact of going Agile on portfolio management. For many organizations, particularly IT departments, the shift to a team-centric approach opens many questions about managing the flow of projects or products.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Part of my Agile coaching toolkit, used when needed.

Dice of Debt
  • Type of game: Boardgame with lots of dice.
  • Number of players: 1 (though really designed to be played as a team)
  • Goal: Show the effect that investment in technical debt-reducing measures has on a team's ability to deliver value. Often, teams find it hard to justify making these investments in the face of short-term pressures, even when the long-term benefits are substantial.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Considering donating it to the Agile Alliance as part of a technical debt working group. Demonstrated at the Cutter Consortium's 2015 Summit. Part of my Agile coaching toolkit, used when needed.

The Planning Fallacy
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 3-5
  • Goal: Show how susceptible we are to over-optimistic estimates. Although the inspiration was helping Agile teams account for the unknown and make more realistic assessments of the impact of overhead, the game could easily apply to any methodology. 
  • Status" Designed and playtested. Part of my Agile coaching toolkit, used when needed.

Business Vs. IT
  • Type of game: Card game
  • Number of players: 2-4
  • Goal: Illustrate the structural sources of friction and failure in corporate IT. Limited information and communications undermine their ability to collaborate. Primarily a 2-player game, with the option of adding two other players as intermediaries (who don't help).
  • Status: In design.

Volcano Island
  • Type of game: Board game
  • Number of players: 2-6
  • Goal: Show how teams can effectively collaborate, even in the face of great unknowns, and still reach their goals. Designed to be a fun way to address a frequent source of anxiety for teams.
  • Status: In design.

Premium
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 1-4
  • Goal: Demonstrate the public effects of private health care choices. Designed to fill an informational void during the debates over health care.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Looking for a publisher.

Health Care Tug-Of-War
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 4
  • Goal: Describe the tensions in health care policy among insurers, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals. Patients are pawns moved around a grid, representing the current state of health care options. Government actions restrict the players from making some policies.
  • Status: In design.

It's Like This
  • Type of game: Card game
  • Number of players: 2-6
  • Goal: Get more interesting insights into customers, who have to describe their wants and needs in unconventional ways. Designed to be both funny and revealing, as opposed to some market research efforts.
  • Status: In design.


DUAL-PURPOSE GAMES (SERIOUS, AND FOR FUN)
The Old Dark House
  • Type of game: Card game.
  • Number of players: 1-8
  • Goal: Provide an easy, fun way for people to collaborate on a ghost story, with each person adding another character, plot twist, and other story elements. Also useful in psychotherapy as a form of narrative therapy.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Looking into publication options.

Legends of the Old West
  • Type of game: Card game
  • Number of players: 1-8
  • Goal: The same as The Old, Dark House, but with a Western motif. The genre inspired me to add mechanics that help players flesh out characters more, and deal with the kind of direct conflict that's assumed to be part of Western stories (but can bring them to a rapid end, if you're not careful). Also useful for narrative therapy.
  • Status: Designed and playtested. Looking into publication options.


HOBBY GAMES (STRICTLY FOR ENTERTAINMENT)
Insurgency
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 2-5.
  • Goal: Show a real marriage of the political and military elements of insurgency and counterinsurgency. At its core, it's a 2-player game, pitting the insurgents against the regime. Optional rules allow for additional players, representing different guerrilla factions and the regime's superpower patron. I actually started working on this long before the COIN games appeared, even before Brian Train was the first guest on the podcast.
  • Status: Playtested, making revisions based on feedback and results.

Battle Cry Of Freedom
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 1-5.
  • Goal: A multi-player Civil War battles game.
  • Status: In design. I've tried and rejected a couple of earlier approaches before finally hitting on something that looks like a promising design approach.

Space Opera
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 2-5
  • Goal: Create a space empires game in which the focus is on the epic story. Players compete to finish important story arcs to accomplish the goals of their species (not always through conflict). The experience is less like Master of Orion, more like reading a novel.
  • Status: In design.

Warhammer: Titan
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 2-6
  • Goal: Warhammer 40,000 factions battle over the galaxy. Uses core ideas from the classic boardgame Titan to streamline the 4X mechanics, while also giving each faction a definite personality and toolbox from which to pick units and abilities. Done purely for my own enjoyment, since I imagined publishing options might be limited.
  • Status: Core mechanics drafted.

The Starry Road
  • Type of game: Boardgame
  • Number of players: 2-4
  • Goal: Create a science fiction boardgame with a strong emphasis on exploration. Early FTL technology lets humans explore a handful of the nearest stars...And then things start getting interesting.
  • Status: Core mechanics drafted.




1 comment:

  1. Okay, you probably knew this would bring me out of the woods... I want to know more about your Insurgency game!
    The Planning Fallacy sounds interesting too... I'm interested in games about how we fool ourselves.

    ReplyDelete