2023 Recap


This is the fifth year I’ve done one of these recaps. This is the longest and by far the most self-indulgent version of it. You can view all the previous posts in their specific category, but here are direct links to the entries for: 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Here’s a table of contents for this post:

By The Numbers

Game Design and Development

  • 2 iOS apps released (1 board game, 1 open source game-related utility)
  • 82 game design journal entries written (59 tagged tabletop, 15 digital)
  • 28 journal entries were “a continuation” of previous ideas
  • 2 journal entries were ideas from dreams (neither had any merit tho)
  • 9 board game ideas prototyped
  • 1 board game prototype ordered from The Game Crafter
  • 1 presentation given at CrafterCon on digital board game development

Games Played Log

  • 274 unique game entries
  • 195 games played for only one day
  • 240 days I played played some Picross
  • 20 game reviews in my game log

Board Game Arena

  • 457 plays completed there
  • 262 plays where I won (57.3%)
  • 78 different (unique) games
  • 56 plays of Gizmos (the most)
  • 24 different games only played once

Other Activity

  • 52 books read in 2023
  • 15 of those books I rated 5-stars
  • 52 movies watched in 2023
  • 4 of those movies I rated 5-stars
  • 8371 songs scrobbled
  • ~3104 photos taken (all from my phone)

Game Design and Development

Sometime last year I moved all my journals into Obsidian. Obsidian is great, but more importantly, they are all now markdown files, and much more organized than they were before.

A separate, but related project is to move all of my game design related documents and files into a .git repository specific to that purpose. It’s one of those projects that may be perpetually in-progress (although it is finite!), because there are so many files still in Google Drive. Some of those will remain, because they are publicly shared, or collaborations, but in all cases, I’d also like a copy to live in the repository.

The peace-of-mind I’m getting from this cannot be overstated, but additionally I’m finding it much easier to find where I’ve put things, and make progress on projects that have been shelved for ages. This process also surfaced some projects I’d completely forgotten about, and my list of prototypes (by what stage of development they’re in) has grown as a result. (Specifically, before the markdown version, I only had 28 “playable” board game prototypes listed, and I now have 31.)

My Game Design Journal

I wrote 82 game design journal entries in 2023. That’s twice as many as 2022!

After trying to “eyeball” some statistics, I decided to go through and tag all my journal entries, which made compiling the statistics reported above a simple matter of counting the instances of that tag in the file for 2023. (The tag count by file is built into Obsidian, and this was the main reason I decided to split the file up by year.)

My re-reading and parsing of the journal entries revealed a few other observations:

  • First, I think I tend to have a lot of game ideas where I have some game components, and I want to make a game using those components. For example, one of my holiday gifts this year was a set of 4-colors of wooden checkers pieces, and since receiving them, I have thought of no less than 4 new games playable with those pieces.
  • Initially, I wanted to tag new game ideas with whether or not they’re variants of other ideas. But I realized that it’s very hard for my brain to sort this out at a glance. This is actually a really hard question, and I now recall that there was a long thread in BGG about it sometime in the last year as well. I didn’t really resolve this, and decided not to report this statistic.
  • Related to the above, I was very liberal in my use of the #continuation tag. In the past, I always tried to list the date of the previous design journal entry that the idea continued, but this time around, I just went with whether the idea was building on any previous ideas I’ve had. A great many journal entries are about games I’m actively working on, and I certainly don’t list all the previous entries in those cases.
  • 7 journal entries were about variants for existing games not designed by me. Some of these were about new Go variants. I spent a lot of time last year thinking about Go variants, and am still considering publishing a set of them in some form or another.
  • 6 of the journal entries were game ideas that are playable with common components. I generally don’t include those kinds of games in my prototypes list. (Unless I really think they have merit, and then I’ll spend some additional time thinking about how or whether they could become commercial games. Maybe through some component trickery. Or, as was the case this year, perhaps by bundling them with other Go variants.)

Video Game Development

I was fairly focused on non-game contract work this year, but still managed to find time enough to work on (and release) the app version of my game Blither. I still have a lot of tasks on my TODO list for that game, but my enthusiasm for working on it has almost dried up at this point.

The only other video game development of note that I tackled in 2023 was to spend a few weekends porting Go Tetris to Swift. That project is maybe 50% complete at this point. I’m using an open source cross-platform game engine, called GateEngine, and I documented some of the exploration and learnings around using the engine (and my port more generally) in a series of posts on the Swift.org forums.

Games Played Log / Journal

Not including BGA turns, other turn-based board games, or Picross, here are my most-played games of 2023:

  1. Diablo 4 (Xbox): 117 days
  2. Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom (Switch): 80 days
  3. Army of Ruin (Steam): 30 days
  4. Coral Island (Steam): 25 days
  5. Stitch (iOS): 21 days
  6. Hogwarts Legacy (Steam): 21 days
  7. Grimoire (iOS): 19 days
  8. Garden Tails (ios): 13 days
  9. Rogue Genesia (steam): 13 days
  10. Sumaddle (iOS): 12 days

Note that there are no tabletop games in my top 10, but I did play tabletop games (in person) on 49 days in 2023, which is a heck of a lot more than the 31 days from 2022. My most played “in person” tabletop games, by number of days played were:

  1. Passo: 5 days – I played this a lot with my kid, and because the game is relatively short, most of the time we played at least 2 out of 3 games, so this number may be way low compared to number of completed games.
  2. Cascadia: 5 days – My guess is I “just” played this 5 times.
  3. Go: 4 days
  4. Gizmos: 3 days
  5. Say?: 3 days – This game’s designer, Khanat Sadomwattana is really on a roll. I just received Yuma from the kickstarter, and am eager to play it.
  6. Aegean Sea: 2 days
  7. Meadow: 2 days – Shout out to Nate and Ellie, who own this game.
  8. Euker: 2 days – This is a thanksgiving tradition among my dad’s side of the family.
  9. Splendor: 2 days
  10. Splendor Duel: 2 days – I mostly got this to see what makes it tick. It’s a fine 2-player Splendor variant.

It’s obviously an idiosyncrasy of my “played log” journaling that I don’t currently log when I played a game more than one time in a day. I’m going to try and think of a way to fix that for 2024.

Board Game Arena

My top 10 games played on BGA this year were:

  • Gizmos: 56 plays
  • Innovation: 43 plays
  • Splendor: 26 plays
  • Race for the Galaxy: 23 plays
  • Azul: 22 plays
  • Jump Drive: 20 plays
  • 6 nimmt!: 20 plays
  • Stone Age: 17 plays
  • Ticket to Ride: 15 plays
  • 7 Wonders Architects: 14 plays

It’s no secret that I love the game Gizmos. I was happy to see it at the top of my most played on BGA list. All the games in that list are ones I play with folks on my Tuesday night online game night. We play asynchronously all week, of course, but an hour or two on Zoom definitely helps keep things moving along. Notably, the group has shrunk a bit in the last year. I stopped inviting other folks, even when it looks like it’s not going to be many people on the call, because a) I’m lazy, but b) it’s easy to end up with too many. (We usually try and play only one game concurrently.) c) I also think it can be sometimes awkward when folks on the call don’t know each other. It’s always hard to align everyone on which games to play and when, maybe even more than with an in-person game night. Even when everyone has known each other for years (as with our core group), it can sometimes be hard to pick a game, which is why we end up falling-back on these staples we know everyone already knows and loves.

If you’re reading this, and are one of the people I’ve stopped pestering to come play with us, please know that I still want to play with you!

I also wanted to remark on some of the games I personally really enjoyed learning this year on BGA:

  • Ark Nova: 11 plays – Just barely missed the top-10 cut off. I’ve never played this in person, but I’ve enjoyed getting to play it on BGA.
  • boop!: 9 plays – I saw this in person and dismissed it as yet another commercial game that’s too simple, and probably broken. But it was something much more rare: a commercial release of an abstract strategy game with some actual depth and clout! I have yet to pick this up (at least in part because I can play it any time on BGA), but I probably will do so eventually.
  • Let’s Catch The Lion! – 7 plays – more about this one below.
  • That Time You Killed Me – 3 plays – I’ve owned the physical version of this since it came out, but have yet to play with my copy. The digital implementation was the push I needed to finally learn to play, and explore this game a bit.
  • Earth, and Forest Shuffle – 2 plays each – I think it’s interesting that I only played both of these tableau builders twice. They were both new to me, and I thought I’d played both of them more than I had. I really enjoyed both games, and have considered picking up physical copies. (More so Forest Shuffle than Earth, but only because I think it would go over better with my wife & kid.)

Abstract Strategy Games

Toward the end of December, I started playing games on AbstractPlay.com. I only finished 2 games there by the end of the year (one game of Tintas, and one of Adere, both new-to-me and excellent games!), and I’m eager to continue to play there daily. I’ll include stats for those games next year in a similar way to BGA. I’m always saying abstract strategy games are my favorite, and I do like to try out new ones whenever I get a chance, but in general, they seldom make my “most played games” lists. So I decided to take a closer look at my plays of Abstract Strategy games in 2023. (And additionally, maybe I’ll try and change this somewhat in 2024.)

One of the standouts for me this last year was a game I didn’t acquire until mid-November, called Passo. Shortly after that, I convinced my 13-year-old to play it with me, and my game log says we played it 5 days. I don’t remember a day that we played it where we didn’t play best out of 3 times. And there may have even been a day or two where we did that twice. On the other hand, one of the 5 days was introducing the game to Nick Bentley, and I believe we only played it once.

Passo is one of those short games with simple components that I really wish I’d designed. I’ve even spent some time in past years working on designs played on modular boards! Before taking our first plane trip in 3 years, one of the things I did to prepare was to write up a list of about 10 modifiers to try out while playing Passo. Then on the plane, I presented these to my kid as a “challenge” for us to figure out which ones are fun. (The grid of 5×5 board spaces fits perfectly on one of those back-of-the-seat tables, by the way.) Interestingly, we tried a bunch of combinations of all my ideas, and none of them felt as good as Passo. I don’t know whether we gave them a fair chance, but the impression I came away with is that Passo is incredibly “honed” in its simplicity. It’s hard to make a better game out of its components!

Looking at my log again, the abstract strategy game I played on the most days was Blither, (the game I released as an iOS app) played on 10 days. I’m certain I actually played it more days than I logged it, since I’m also sure I worked on it more days than that, and I doubt there was a day I worked on it that I didn’t finish at least a game or two.

Other notable abstract strategy games:

  • My friend Mike and I played boop! on BGA 9 times in the course of about 3 months between March and June. At first, I thought it was broken. (Mostly because you can get into cycles, or at least very long sequences, but it’s also possible to get out of them.) But the more I played, the less I cared. I enjoy it well enough, and really loved reading the boop! designer diary on BGG.
  • In contrast, Mike and I only finished 7 games of Go in 2023, though we always had a game going throughout the year. I played at least 3 games of Go on my phone this year (in the Smart Go app). And notably, I played at least 3 physical games of Go, although all three were against either my 13 year old or other teenage friends they had over.
  • It’s hard to say how many, but I also played quite a few Go variants this year. Mostly on Ludii, and AiAi, but as I mentioned I spent a lot of time thinking about them, and part of that time was just spent googling around for what’s out there.
  • Notably, I found that Stephen Lavelle has two excellent digital Go variants: Pachingo, and Go48 He is one of my game-design idols. Arguably a genius.
  • I played 7 games of Let’s Catch the Lion! on BGA – I think of this little Shogi variant to Shogi as Tic-Tac-Chec is to Chess. I love both of those small games. My impression is that they give just the tiniest taste of the tactics you can find in the larger game, while still being their own totally satisfying self-contained experiences. Although I’ve wanted to for many years, I never spent the time to learn how to play Shogi. I think I’ve been intimidated by the usual look of the pieces, which are indecipherable to my western-biased eyes. I enjoyed Let’s Catch the Lion! so much that I ordered the full version (also known as “Dobutsu shogi in the Greenwood”) from a little shop in Japan. It’s my understanding that version is essentially Shogi, with kid’s pieces. I haven’t received it yet, but when it arrives I’m eager to explore some of the other variants described in this Shogi geeklist.

Video Games

I mostly played Diablo 4 with friends, and I had sort of grown tired of it at one point not too long after it came out, but then the second season content sucked me (us?) back in again. Plus, at some point my brother got an Xbox, so I was also playing with him too for a while.

Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is easily my game of the year. It’s just a really solid sequel, with tons of little improvements over the first one, giving me plenty of reasons to keep playing. Just thinking about it makes me kind of itch to play it again, though it looks like the last time I played was back in September.

I was surprised to see iOS appear so many times in the top 10. Although it’s kind of disappointing which games are on there. Stitch is a nice “easy” puzzle game. I think it’s puzzles aren’t all that great, but it’s art is very nice and the experience is meditative. I think it has a similar feeling to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Both my wife and kid are also playing it. (And have probably played a lot more than I have.) I was actually going to drop Apple Arcade with the recent price increase, mostly because I haven’t played many of the games lately and have been disappointed with the recent releases, but I mentioned it at the dinner table and was told that would be unacceptable.

I had to open Grimoire to remind myself what it is, and it’s definitely a stupid idle clicker game. Garden Tails isn’t much better, though at least it’s got some match-3 in there, and it’s pretty. I should play more Sumaddle though. That’s a good puzzle.

I didn’t start playing Coral Island until November 18th, so it’s impressive that one got to 25 days. I’m kind of done with it, but there are a few other objectives that I could imagine playing just to get to. It’s definitely got content to play a lot more than I have already, but I only started playing because my kid wanted to play it. I definitely got sucked in. Notably, our friend Angela got it for Xbox, and ran into a ton of bugs that don’t exist (as near as I can tell) in the Steam version.

I play Picross fairly frequently as part of my daily workout, so it doesn’t seem fair to include it in the list above. Yes, it was (again) my most-played game of the year, at some 240 days. But this is fewer than last year’s 297 days, and at least part of the reason for that is that I figured out how to use a “spare” pair of Joycons with my Steamdeck. So I bought a dock and hooked it up to my TV, so it’s pretty functionally equivalent to playing a game on the Switch. It’s a little more effort to get it set up, so I still play Picross for my workouts 75% of the time though.

Video Game “Platforms”

Here are the results of tracking “where” I played games last year:

  • bga – 71 games on 355 days
  • tabletop – 51 games on 49 days
  • ios – 46 games on 131 days
  • steam – 36 games on 130 days
  • web – 33 games on 32 days
  • xbox – 14 games on 136 days
  • switch – 9 games on 279 days
  • oculus – 8 games on 9 days
  • aiai – 8 games on 5 days
  • ludii – 5 games on 2 days
  • playdate – 1 games on 1 days
  • ps5 – 1 games on 1 days

Poor Playdate. I played so much of it last year, but the last time I fired it up was to update it and check out the new catalog (store) built into the OS. But apparently I didn’t actually play any games that day, or I forgot to log them. (I honestly can’t remember.) There are at least a couple that I really want to try out now, so hopefully it will get more entries in 2024.

PS5 is a weird one. I’m sure I turned my PS5 on more than 1 day last year… but it’s true that there weren’t any games on it that I got into the way there were in 2022. I still have a small stack of games for it that I haven’t even opened yet, but that’s true for every platform.

A few words about “web” – It’s worth noting that, when entering a web-based game into my log, I often have the dilemma where I wonder if “web” is the correct platform. For instance, BGA is a website! Obviously I treat BGA as its own platform, and it’s tracked separately anyway, so that’s a bad example, and I’m planning to treat AbstractPlay.com the same way, but what about Yucata? (I actually didn’t log any games on Yucata in 2023, but I did in 2022.) Ludii is also a website, but I log plays as Ludii, because it’s also a stand-alone app. I think this year I’m going to try and avoid using “web” as a platform, and use the domain instead. So if I’m playing a game on itch.io, I’ll put that as the platform instead. This decision is at least in part because I realized I didn’t log all the times I was playing Glory to Rome on the website that exists for it, or solving puzzles on Puzzmo, which I can’t imagine I did more than a small handful of days. Even so, I should be tracking those, and will endeavor to get better at remembering this.

Favorite Video Games of 2023

I already spoiled this section by saying that Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is my game of the year. And obviously I liked Diablo 4 just fine as well, or I wouldn’t have played so much of it. I kind of hate how loot-box-y it is, but there’s always plenty to do without paying.

Other notable games I loved this year included:

  • Cocoon (Xbox) – I finished this over 5 days. I’m pretty sure it would have been 3 days, but I got stuck on the very last puzzle of the game.
  • Walkabout Minigolf (Oculus Quest) – This is a surprisingly fun VR game, especially when you play with other folks. It feels basically exactly like playing regular minigolf, except you’re in a virtual world, where strange and interesting things can happen. (Also where you can fly around.)
  • Six Match (iOS) – I’ve had this game on my phone for a while, and have played it previously, but I played a bunch of it again this year. It’s a very interesting take on match-3, I think. They added puzzles at some point, and I enjoyed those quite a bit. (Probably haven’t even beat them all yet.)

Shout out to the weird (new-ish?) subgenre of “avoid-em-up” games, also known as “survivor-likes”, since Vampire Survivors was the one to bring a lot of attention to games like it. Army of Ruin made my top 10 most played, but there are a kind of ridiculous number of them in the middle of my games played log this year. A lot of them sitting at 5-10 days played, including Brotato, Boneraiser Minions, Pathfinder Survivors, and 20 Minutes Until Dawn. They all have upgrades that scratch a particular itch, and feel sort of like eating popcorn to me. Not filling, and certainly not nutritious, but satisfying none the less. My favorite of the bunch is probably Boneraiser Minions.

Other Tracked Activities


I marked 15 of the 52 books I read last year 5-stars. My favorites were probably these:

  • Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult, by Maria Bamford – I am an unabashed fan. This was a hilarious memoir.
  • Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me, by Ada Calahan – Two memoirs in one year? I loved this book almost as much as I love Frank O’Hara. His best poems are on another level, but this included some very choice lines, and got me thinking about O’Hara and his work again, and was also lovely in its own right.
  • Legends & Lattes, by Travis Baldree – This was an excellent cozy book about an orc warrior whose life is changed by trying coffee for the first time, and decides to open a coffee shop. Delightful.
  • A Heart that Works, by Rob Delaney – Okay, seriously, I NEVER read memoirs. Comedian, actor, and writer Rob Delaney writes here about how he got his first book deal by being funny on Twitter. It’s probably worth noting that I listened to both this one and Maria Bamford’s book read by their respective (celebrity) authors.
  • Witch King, by Martha Wells – This was the first in a new series by one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read Martha Wells, start with either Murderbot or the Raksura books (sci-fi robot or fantasy dragon/changlings – to taste).
  • Defekt, by Nino Cipri – This short sequel to an equally short first novel about the multiverse connected to the backs of big box furniture stores is compelling and lovely.

If you read this, and follow me on Goodreads, know that I’ve stopped updating there, and may even delete my account eventually. I’m now posting my mini-reviews, as well as rating and logging the books I read, on The Story Graph.


The number of movies I watched each month of this year was quite variable. I only watched one movie in August (a really weird french Power-Rangers-inspired movie called Smoking Causes Coughing, 4-stars), which was the least, while in December I somehow watched 11 movies.

I marked the following four movies 5-stars in 2023:

  • Nimona (2023)
  • Barbie (2023)
  • Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)
  • Twelve Monkeys (1995) – This was a re-watch, and remains one of my favorites.


I scrobble all my music, and last year sometime I imported everything from Last.fm into ListenBrainz.

I still send my scrobbles to both places, however, and interestingly enough, they have conflicting numbers for how many tracks I listened to. Last.fm says I scrobbled 8,578 tracks, while ListenBrainz says it was only 8,371. Last.fm’s report includes a bunch more information, so I’m not ditching it any time soon, but its totals for “most listened” both albums and artists are lower! I think there must just be some difference in how both services compute albums as “listened”.

Both sites do agree on a lot of numbers, so I think this is accurately my most listened to albums and tracks:

My Top 5 albums listened to in 2023:

  1. No Rules Sandy, by Sylvan Esso
  2. The Lion King: The Gift, by Beyoncé (and other artists)
  3. History, by The Knocks
  4. Touche, by O’o
  5. Sylvan Esso, by Sylvan Esso

My Top 5 tracks listened to in 2023:

  1. Apricots, by Bicep
  2. Heaven Takes You Home, by Swedish House Mafia
  3. Coffee, by Sylvan Esso
  4. Claws, by Charli XCX
  5. Echo Party, by Sylvan Esso

Shout out to Le Youth, which both sites agree was in my top 5 listened artists, but somehow doesn’t appear in either of the above lists. Bonobo and Ben Böhmer also appear in my top 10 artists.

Notes on Process

A bit about my tracking of this stuff: I’ve spent a fair amount of time for this post pulling together all my data. Here’s a list of my sources:

  • the daily log (text file) self-reporting all the games that I play
  • Board Game Arena
  • my game design journal entries
  • The Story Graph (I also track books I read and my reviews in a text file)
  • Letterboxd (I also track movies/dates/reviews in a text file)
  • Last.fm and ListenBrainz for music

Around the time I started the original game log, I was trying to log all my games to Board Game Geek (BGG). BGG is great for board game plays, but doesn’t do all the other games that I play, so I mostly stopped using it (or BG Stats, which syncs with BGG) in favor of my own custom text file that just lists the date, and any games that I played that day, as well as the platform each game was played on. Every year since 2019, I’ve enhanced how I parse this log, so I can milk it for more statistics. The latest version is, of course, written in Swift.

I spent at least a couple of hours on the Swift project this year, and mostly it does exactly the same stuff it did last year, but now it does it better. It’s got better error reporting (important for the inevitable data-scrub that has to happen before the file parses correctly), but also the report it spits out is clearer, and ordered with the totals that I really care about at the bottom (while still printing all the gritty details above, so I can fact check and get into the weeds if I want to). Finally, I did also do a refactor of the project itself, moving it from a command-line macOS application to a Swift Package executable. This allowed me to write some tests. So now I’ll know if any future changes I make break parsing of the older log files.

And I have already identified two things I want to be able to parse for next year:

  1. I’m going to start marking games that are new-to-me games in my “played log”, so I’ll have better stats on how many games I played that I hadn’t before. I’ll do this by prefixing them with a +.
  2. I’m also going to mark games that I played more than once in a day by adding something like x2 or x10 in the parenthetical section after the game name. Most of the time this won’t apply to video games, so it’s fine if it’s missing, but for board games or any other game where you can “finish it” one in a sitting, I’ll add this when necessary.

I’m 6-days into 2024, and I’ve already used both features a bunch.

I will of course continue to pull in my digital board game plays from Board Game Arena (BGA) next year, but I’ll be adding games from AbstractPlay.com to that as well, which means I’m pretty sure I’d like to somehow incorporate parsing both of those and then integrating them into the Swift project as well. Both so I can get consistent gameplay counts, but also just so I don’t have to do as much manual counting.

I’ve written quite a bit about my game design journal, and in some posts I did analysis around what kinds of ideas I had. This year, because I’d already added the entries from 2023 to .git, I decided it was fine to add to that file as long as I didn’t change its contents. So I went through all my ideas from 2023, marking each entry with 2-5 hashtags. Obsidian has several features around hashtags that let me easily pull together the raw numbers that I reported above.

Of course just the process of reading through all the entries from last year was interesting, and I even found an idea I thought might be of interest to the creator of a game I like, so I sent it to him. Hopefully he’ll find that unsolicited idea welcome, but I’m not holding my breath for a reply.

I mentioned moving to The Story Graph for book tracking. It’s what both my wife and I have decided to use instead of Goodreads. We both have Goodreads accounts that go back over a decade, but are unhappy with Amazon (who owns Goodreads), so we’ve decided to stop using the Goodreads entirely. I also have a text file for books I’ve read, and that file is actually far older than any of my other logs. (I neglected it for many years in the middle, but started keeping a list of books I read in 1995, while I was still in High School.) I love some aspects of The Story Graph, but I recently wanted to see a list of my wife’s books read in 2023, and that seems to be impossible currently, though the site has all this information and will show it to me in different ways, as well as show it to her. it just doesn’t make that list available to other users. (The stats are, in general, far better on Story Graph than on GoodReads though.)

As usual, pulling this post together took way longer than I’d expected. This year I even set aside a whole day for it (January 2nd), and even though I actually got a decent start on it the day before, I still wasn’t ready to post it at the end of the day on the 2nd. I then proceeded to spend at least half of the rest of the week on this endeavor, and still hadn’t finished it by Friday. I’m guessing I spent ~20 hours putting this post together.

Looking Forward

I enjoy this kind of introspection for its own sake, but I sometimes struggle to come to any conclusions after. And since I dislike putting pressure on myself, I usually avoid new-year’s resolutions and that sort of thing.

But in spite of that, I’ve decided I’m going to make a concerted effort to try and play more abstract strategy games this year. I’ve already made a deal with my kid to play a game of Go at least once a week, but I’m not holding my breath for whether that happens.

I will also be attending GAMA this year for the first time. I’ve heard it’s the industry conference to attend for Board Games, and I’d like to check it out for myself.

Here’s hoping that you and I both have a productive and happy 2024!

2021 in games Played and Created

In 2021 I wrote 73 game design journal entries. Of those, I think I made (or started making) 6 board game prototypes (most notably for Blither, I think), and worked on at least 2 new digital game prototypes. There were 28 entries for game ideas I’d already had or worked on in some previous capacity.

I did only one game jam in 2021, the Global Game Jam.

I also released one game on two platforms in 2021, Thrive Digital, for both iOS and Android.

The played log

This was my third year keeping track of all the games I played. (You can also read my previous year’s posts about 2019 and 2020 if you’re curious.)

I played 319 different games in 2021.

My “played log” boils down to a list of entries per day, with a comma separated list of games, and each game has an associated platform (iOS, Switch, tabletop, etc.). This is the epitome of manual data collection, so I’m just trying to remember to add to the log whenever I play something. Usually after I get done, but sometimes in a batch at some point later in the day.

I added a totally new type of entry this year after last year’s resolution, which is just a single line with a name of a game and a (mini) review. I think in every case it was about something I’d played earlier that day. Before I parsed the log, I was certain I would be disappointed in the number of reviews I wrote because I could only remember writing a few of them, but I’m happy to say that I ended up with 38 reviews!

Top Played Games

I’ll write about some of these individually below, but here’s the top 10 list of games:

  1. Good Sudoku: 365 days
  2. Stone Age: 319 days (33 games, 18 won)
  3. Innovation: 293 days (70 games, 40 won)
  4. Splendor: 215 days (42 games, 26 won)
  5. Race for the Galaxy: 212 days (53 games, 36 won)
  6. 7 Wonders: 200 days (45 games, 15 won)
  7. Flow Fit: Sudoku: 128 days
  8. Roll for the Galaxy: 128 days (43 games, 27 won)
  9. New Frontiers: 119 days (25 games, 19 won)
  10. Picross S6: 106 days

This list includes games I played on Board Game Arena, some of which span multiple days. I think this year I’m going to log games on BGA slightly differently, and only include the names of games that I complete that day. This will reduce some of the tedium of figuring out which turns I just played on BGA (I don’t usually log them until after), but of course at the expense of being able to figure out which days I thought about each individual game, however briefly. Also worth noting that BGA collects extensive statistics itself, and that’s how I was able to see how many of each game I played (as well as the number of victories).

Here’s a list of the top 10 games not on BGA:

  1. Good Sudoku: iOS, 365 days
  2. Flow Fit: Sudoku: iOS, 128 days
  3. Picross S6: Switch, 106 days
  4. AM2: iOS, 102 days
  5. Picross S4: Switch, 84 days
  6. Picross S5: Switch, 63 days
  7. Picross S: Switch, 40 days
  8. Cozy Grove: Switch, 21 days
  9. Genshin Impact: PS5, 19 days
  10. God of War: PS5, 19 days

I’m happy to say I’m no longer playing AM2, and I’m hopeful that next year there will be no clicker or idle games on my top 10 list. (Though I’m not ashamed of checking them out now and then.)

Daily Routine

It’s obviously worth noting I played more games this year than last year. 319 unique games versus last year’s 297. I think one reason for this may be that among the many changes the global (COVID-19) pandemic has wrought on my life is a new and more-regimented daily routine. More so than at any other time that I can recall, I now have a set pattern to my life. (Maybe this is as much attributable to age as it is to the pandemic, I truly don’t know.)

In the morning, I drink coffee and usually catch up on my Board Game Arena games before starting my workday, with breaks for lunch, picking up my kid from middle school, and sometimes a walk with my wife or (rarely) the whole family. Around 6 is dinner, and by around 9:30 or 10 my wife goes to bed and I begin my daily workout. (Don’t worry, this is when my evening games routine begins.)

My workout involves my Apple Watch (the completion of my “fitness circles” is a game in itself), and also a fitness/physical therapy tracking app called PT Timer. The PT Timer app tells me which “routines” need completion. Currently this is: a floor stretch, standing neck stretch, some upper-body strength stuff on M-W-F, and finally a 20-minute-minimum cardio that I don’t use the app to complete, but enjoy “marking completed” at the end. During my cardio (which has a variable length because I try not to stop until the Apple Watch tells me I’ve burned enough calories for the day) I jog in place on a small trampoline in front of the TV… while playing something on the Nintendo Switch. Almost always, it’s some form of Picross.

After my workout, I read a book or some poetry, sometimes play another video game, sometimes do some writing, and somewhere between 11:30 and 1:30, I brush my teeth and head to bed. While I’m brushing my teeth, if it’s past midnight (and it usually is), I do the daily Sudoku problem in Good Sudoku. And recently (well, for the last 125 days) I also do the daily puzzle in Flow Fit: Sudoku.

Good Sudoku

There is an achievement for a full year of Good Sudoku. I should have it, but I don’t. About halfway through the year an update lost my current streak. This was 182 days ago. (My current streak.) I actually emailed the developers about it, and they offered to fix it for me, which I definitely indicated I would be happy about, but then I never heard back from them again. I get it. I’m not great about supporting my apps either. Anyway, this is the only game I actually played all 365 days in 2021. I’m 100% sure Good Sudoku is the first and only game that I’ve ever played every day for a year. Mostly I consider using the hint button cheating, but the Sunday puzzles are sometimes really hard, and if I’ve spent more than a half-hour on it, and am still having problems, I’ll do it anyway. Usually one hint is all I need.

Flow Fit: Sudoku

Flow Fit: Sudoku feels a lot like Sudoku. It’s got tetrominos with numbers in them, and you have to fit them onto a grid such that no number occurs more than once in any row or column. It’s a really engaging game for me, and if the daily puzzle is too easy or quick, I will pretty frequently do some of the other puzzles to fill out my toothbrushing routine. It’s also a frequent go-to if I’ve got some time to kill. So far I’ve done 410 of the 2625 puzzles bundled with the app.


I modified the script that parses my game log a bit this year to count number of days played per platform. Last year’s platform numbers were all the games multiplied by all the days they were played. This year’s can tell me both number of unique games played as well as number of unique days. Here’s the full list:

  • BGA – 96 unique games on 346 days
  • iOS – 74 unique games on 365 days
  • Xbox – 40 unique games on 93 days
  • Switch – 34 unique games on 329 days
  • PS5 – 22 unique games on 82 days
  • tabletop – 10 unique games on 12 days
  • steam – 13 unique games on 15 days
  • AiAi – 19 unique games on 2 days
  • web – 8 unique games on 7 days
  • Tabletop Simulator – 5 unique games on 6 days
  • pc – 5 unique games on 11 days
  • Ludii – 3 unique games on 2 days
  • Quest – 2 unique games on 2 days
  • tvOS – 2 unique games on 1 days
  • Blinks – 2 unique games on 1 days
  • Oculus – 2 unique games on 3 days
  • Itch – 1 game on 1 day
  • Mac – 1 game on 1 day

A few observations:

It’s interesting that no Xbox games made it onto my top 10 games list. I managed to find an Xbox Series X even before I got a PS5, and I definitely played a lot of games on it. I subscribe to Microsoft’s Game Pass, which is fantastic for someone like me who likes to try and sample a lot of different games.

My top played game that was definitely on the Xbox was Astroneer (13 days), which I was playing at the beginning of the year. I also played a bit of Deep Rock Galactic (11 days) with my friend Angela, as well and Path of Exile and Sable tied for 10 days playtime each. I finished Sable, and really enjoyed the experience. I’m surprised it was only 10 days, because I became a bit of a completionist about it, not wanting the experience to end.

It’s also interesting to me that BGA and iOS are kind of both leaders, since I played games on iOS more consistently than BGA. Frankly, I’m rather surprised there were 19 whole days I didn’t play any turns on BGA.

I like calling out Stephen Tavener’s AiAi. 10 of the 19 games in the log were the ones I reviewed for the BEST COMBINATORIAL 2-PLAYER GAME OF 2020 competition, but I know I opened up AiAi more than just a couple of times this year to try out various games I saw show up in his announcement thread. AiAi has become an incredible resource for playing abstract strategy games, and Stephen is able to add them at a simply incredible pace.

I called AiAi the platform when I could have just said I played these games on “PC” or desktop. I did already manually “roll up” a bunch of different ways of saying “web” into that category (as opposed to “browser”, “puzzlescript”, or just a plain URL.) If I add up: Steam, AiAi, pc, Ludii, Itch and Mac, I get 42 games & days, 47 if you include Tabletop Simulator. But that’s not quite right because of course some of those days might have been the same between the different platforms.

I’m pretty convinced I forgot to log some VR plays. There’s no way that I only used my Quest 2 on 3 days last year. I can actually think of 3 days off the top of my head, and I’m sure there were some days I used it in my living room as opposed to getting together with my friend Nate in the park, or the only in-person VR meetup of the year (also outdoors) where we played the new Space Pirate Trainer “Arena Scale”. Still, it’s worth noting that I didn’t use VR very much in 2021.

I was surprised to see that I played 15 different tabletop games across 18 days, so I decided to dig into the data. Turns out, I am deliberately only taking the first word when I parse the data for platform, and I had a bunch of entries where the platform was “tabletop simulator”. I fixed those entries manually and the actual numbers are displayed above. I did play more tabletop games than expected, given how seldom I went anywhere outside of my apartment this year.


As mentioned previously, I wrote 38 game reviews, but they were all very short and casual, and several of them (3 to be exact) were second reviews of games I’d already written about before. Those games were Astroneer, which I wrote about twice in January, Ori and the Will O’ the Wisps (in February), and Shapez (in August). Also, it’s worth noting that 10 of those reviews were written over two days for the previously mentioned Best Combinatorial Game of 2020 competition. I can’t really decide if I want to publish these anywhere. They’re written a lot like my goodreads reviews, which is to say that the audience is definitely “future me”, as opposed to “anyone else”. I usually just say something short about what I felt the game was about, as well as anything unique or interesting I observed while playing. And of course I say something about whether I enjoyed the experience.


I sometimes do wonder if there’s any point to the game log. It feels… kind of narcissistic to keep track of all my game playing. But being able to write this post (and have these introspective insights) definitely feels “worth it” to me, so I have no plan to stop. (And feel a renewed vigor for the project as I write this.)

I’d like to do more releasing of games in 2022, but I’m not going to hold myself to that too strictly. It’s more important that I continue to enjoy creating games as much as I enjoy playing them.

Happy new year everyone!!! Here’s to playing (and making) all the games in 2022!

Design Journal Notes for 2019

Most people I know have heard me talk about how, back in 2016, I tried to write in my game design journal every day. So many good game ideas came out of that experiment that I’m still designing and developing games from that year to this day. (Notably, I had the idea that eventually became Thrive in that year.)

I always meant to write a “wrap up” post about that experiment, but I got bogged down in trying to categorize all the journal entries. I have a spreadsheet I started with a row of 26 checkboxes for each entry. The column headers were:

  • Board Game
  • Video Game
  • Mobile Game
  • Physical Game (Not board game)
  • VR Game
  • Idle/Unfolding Game Idea
  • educational game
  • mechanic only
  • puzzle
  • story
  • expands on previous idea
  • expanded on in later post
  • made prototype
  • feel really has merit
  • multiple ideas in one post
  • 2nd second entry that day
  • 3rd third entry
  • felt rushed or inconsequential
  • short (under a paragraph)
  • long (half a page or more)
  • could be complete (playable if prototyped)
  • would need a team to implement
  • skipped for blog post
  • expanded on in blog post

I clearly made the task extra difficult for myself by including whether the post was expanded on elsewhere, because it was no longer just skimming through the journal, it was also cross-referencing my blog, as well as other entries in the journal. I only made it through categorizing 3 months of posts before I lost steam.

Since 2016, I never really “stopped” trying to write regularly in that journal, but I was definitely not diligent about writing every day. I spent some time and just tallied up number of entries in that journal per year (yes, this was more time than I probably should have spent), and here are the results:

52010 (and undated, before 2010)
1952019 [was 183 as of this post date]

[It was only the 19th when I write this. I updated this post with the final 2019 total on Jan 2nd 2020.]

This means, if my math is correct, my game design journal contains somewhere around 802 entries. It’s currently a 254 page single spaced gDocs document (so I can update it from anywhere).

I took some notes about each month in 2019:


  • 16 entries, 1 from a dream
  • A few entries about the Thrive expansion
  • Some ideas & feedback from Protospiel MN (Especially about the “pyramid tile” game, which I had as a prototype there.)
  • An entry with a bunch of ideas I had at Global Game Jam, but didn’t have time to implement there.


  • 10 entries
  • A notable entry about a Puzzle Prison “static puzzle” mode (which is a good idea, and I should do it)
  • More Thrive entries, three of them about multiplayer


  • 9 entries
  • Month started strong, then no entries for a couple weeks (Only one the entire week of GDC!)
  • Hard to believe this was the month the Thrive kickstarter ran.
  • There were 3 entries about Thrive puzzles (which I spent several days actively designing toward the beginning of the month)


  • 7 entries
  • One of them was when I first started thinking about the “next” version of Ship Deck (which I have only recently sent off to get printed at Game Crafter) – Interesting that it took me 8 months to finally act on those ideas.
  • Some important Thrive rules clarifications & revisions.
  • Only one real “new idea” from the entire month!


  • 6 entries
  • One entry was a list of the types of game ideas I want to have. (Seems like a cop-out in terms of actually generating ideas, but even looking back on it now I think it’s probably a helpful exercise to clarify the purpose of the journal periodically.
  • 4 of the 6 ideas were about a tile-and-meeple board game prototype I made that I still think shows promise.


  • 6 entries, 1 from a dream
  • Made a lego copy of Thrive
  • Low volume, but high quality this month. Every entry (except the dream) was an interesting idea that I continued working on (or at least thinking about) in some way.
  • Last entry was a game with transparent pieces with arrows on them that I prototyped and play tested a few times. (As well as continued to think about.)


  • 11 entries, 1 from a dream
  • Only 2 entries before 7/23, which is when I decided to begin trying to write an entry every day again. I probably felt guilty about the creative dry spell.
  • Notable entry that included lots of the pieces (mechanics) of a game I’ve been thinking actively about this month (in December, so 5 months later). What’s interesting, is that my thoughts on this game lately have been inspired by Innovation (Innovation is a Carl Chudyk game that until this month I haven’t played in many years. I’ve been playing it turn-based on BGA.). But when I wrote this entry, I definitely wasn’t thinking about Innovation.


  • 25 entries
  • Many (at least 3) of them about a engine-building game I’ve since prototyped, tentatively called “Black Box”. The basic idea (and theme) came from a conversation with Adam Rehburg and Ryan Lambert in the car on the way back from GenCon.
  • Had the idea of playing games via FlipGrid.com (still haven’t tried this)


  • 25 entries, 1 from a dream (not mine!)
  • Several play testing notes, including Black Box, Pyramid Tiles.
  • But also some notes from games I’d played, including Cabal (https://www.walkingshadow.org/cabal)
  • I prototyped a game with 18 identical cards for a ButtonShy game design contest. Didn’t do anything with it.
  • Wrote down a game idea that was from a dream my kid had. (That was not my only entry from that day.)


  • 20 entries
  • A few entries about a game idea that I think shows a lot of promise, but I haven’t prototyped yet. (It’s got a unique hook that I’m not ready to post publicly yet.)
  • Some ideas / entries for ALT.CTRL.GDC that I never took the time to prototype


  • 31 entries, 2 that feature ideas from dreams
  • One notable entry with a chess variant / VR hybrid idea. The chess variant could actually be playable on a tabletop, if I gave it a little more thought. The VR does make it slightly more interesting though probably not required.
  • Several “new idea” entries, probably a higher ratio of those to “continuing ideas” entries than previous months.


  • 17 entries (so far!)
  • [Update: total for Dec. was 29 entries. I finished the year very strong with several new game ideas, including a small-hex-grid game I’ve since prototyped, and definitely want to get to the table soon. At protospiel in Jan, at the latest.]

Since I got serious about this project again in July, I’ve also been keeping track of my “streak”, or number of consecutive days I remembered to write in the journal. My longest streak was 25 Days, 29 Entries, and it ended on 2019-11-10.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue to keep track of the streak, but I’m definitely going to continue trying to write daily. The actual title of the document is “Game Ideas”, but I definitely want to treat it more like a journal, and I’m formally giving myself permission to wax on about the design of other games I’m playing, or anything else game design related. (Although the goal is still to have at least one new “design idea” in each entry.)

Finally, I was surprised by the number of ideas I wrote down from dreams. I do also have a dream journal, and it barely ever gets written in (I’m guessing only 1-5 entries a year). I wonder if any games have actually been made that started out as an idea from a dream. Maybe I’ll have to make one.

Game Idea A Day – Retrospective

As should be obvious to anyone following along, (or stumbling onto this series), I basically quit doing the weekly summaries for my “game idea a week” project back in July. There are probably a lot of reasons I suppose, but mainly I got busy. I had 19 daily journal entries in August, so I didn’t fall off doing them entirely. But if I didn’t have time for the daily journal entries, I definitely didn’t have time for the Friday recaps. (Which always took longer than I’ll admit to myself to write.)

Anyway, I felt I should write something here. I’m still going to keep this project going through the end of the year, and I want to write a recap of the entire year at some point, summarizing the number of entries, frequency of certain types, and generally just doing some meta-creative analysis.

Game Idea a Day – Week 28

Almost every week, I get to Friday, and before I start writing this post I’m thinking “wow, the ideas for this week were not very good, this is going to be a hard post to write”, but then I start looking at them, and it’s never as dire as I imagine. (Even bad ideas often have some merit!)

Also, I missed another day this week, and I’m thinking now that even if I skip one day a week, that’s alright. I don’t want this project to stress me out. (And I’ve got plenty of other stuff I should be working on.)

7/8 – I thought a bit about an augmented reality game in VR. So there is a virtual environment, and you put on a “headset” in the game, that then changes some aspect of the environment (either how it looks, or by changing it).

7/9 – Missed a day.

7/10 – A game where you are a walking flower, with littler flowers for eyes, and you collect flower petals to open doors that looks like giant flowers.

Maybe this was inspired by my donut on donut idea from the previous week. I guess idea inception was a theme for the week, since my next idea was basically the same thing for hats:

7/11 – A hat collecting puzzle game. A game where you put hats on cute furry animals. A game where hats are currency. A game with hats on top of hats on top of hats. A game where hats indicate status and occupation and stealing a person’s hat is tantamount to stealing their identity. A game with hats as achievement badges. A game with hats for guns. A game with hats to indicate belts in a hat-based kung-fu with hat-katas and hat-hand to hat-hand combat. Hattastrophie.

7/12 – A game inspired by some conversations on slack about Pokémon Go and “skinner box game mechanics”, labeled simply, Skinner Box: The Game. A game that attempts to recreate a Skinner box like experience as closely as possible. You are a rat in a cage. You have a single button and you are being conditioned to press it.

7/13 – Some thoughts on the milieu/setting/premise for a game set on the construction site for a giant city-sized building. The thing has been “under construction” for hundreds of years and the entire process has been meant to be self-sustaining from the beginning, so you have folks whose job it is to make food for the folks whose job it is to make concrete, etc.

7/14 – A game inspired by packing a moving truck full of boxes. Essentially you have a bunch of different boxes and you have to fit them into a truck. I was imagining this as a VR game, because I think it’s more fun if you have the 3D perspective on it. You could have a bunch of different sized trucks and scenarios. Maybe it starts out just packing trunks of cars getting ready to go on vacation.

Game Idea a Day – Week 27

My game ideas from the first week in July:

7/1 – A sort of turret game where you control the angle, thrust, and explosion intensity of fireworks. Your goal is to line the trails up with stars in the sky above. Maybe this is in VR and you have to also line up your gaze at the right angle too.

7/2 – Had the revelation that it might be worth prototyping the playground games I’ve worked on in the Vive. My original journal entry for the playground games were written back in November 2014, so I’ve been thinking about these for a long time. This idea could use another entry (or two), since there are at least a few different games that could be evaluated whether they would “work” in the Vive, and how.

7/3 – A game you play with keys and locks. Maybe this is a match-2 game. The twist is that there is only one match on the board for each other tile. So it’s actually a lot like the match trivia games I made for Moai, with a sort of fantasy skin. Maybe there are also chests or safes, and any lock next to it is assumed to go with it. Once all the locks are open, the save opens and gives you a powerup, or maybe just another key that you need to proceed.

7/4 – You know how you can play “giant monopoly” at a bunch of different board game conventions? A lot of publishers have giant versions of their board games, and you can even buy some of them commercially. (Giant Jenga and giant connect-four are both playable at the recently opened Up Down arcade in Minneapolis). Anyway, this idea is basically just that you could play those giant versions in VR without having to have enough space for them. I was looking at my shelf of board games when I had this idea, and in particular imagining the game Spiel, (which is a pyramid of dice), and how fun it would be to walk around that game, and throw giant dice around.

7/5 – A VR relaxation/exercise game called Sway. The main game input mechanic is the name of the game. You progress “forward” by moving your weight from foot to foot, swaying back and forth. The game will also prompt you to look left right, up down, for neck stretches, and to swing your arms or spiral them, essentially doing upper body stretches.

Donut on Donut7/6 – As you can see to the right, I spent a bit of time this week (a few hours so far) prototyping a game from this entry. Some friends and fellow MN gamedevs recently conceived and built The Donutron, and I was basically lamenting the fact that there aren’t (yet) any games made for it specifically involving donuts. So this idea is just that you are a donut, rolling around a giant donut, collecting donuts. I’m soliciting feedback on a name for the game. Here are the possible names so far: Donutworld, The Little Donut, Space-Time Donut, It Came Frosting Space!, Planet Donut, Donut Moon, Space Case Donut Race, TorusTime, DonutFall, DonutGame, Donutroid, Donut Donut Donut!, Donut on Donut (on Donut?), Donut Eat Donut, Yo Donut, I heard you like Donuts!, Donut Moon. I’m leaning toward Donut on Donut, or Donut Eat Donut.

7/7 – A few different one-line game ideas yesterday: An open world board game (open in terms of you can do anything at any time). Game where your body is melting as the timer mechanic. Game where your feet are rats and you can’t really control where they go without cheese. Game where the world is a bicycle tire. Game where you are made of lava and melt / burn everything you touch. Game where you head is a book and you have to fill it with words.

Game Idea a Day – Week 26

Some weeks pass so much faster than others. This week felt like an eyeblink. Here were some ideas:

6/24 – I teased two entries on this day in last week’s entry, but the second entry was very much just about some UI mechanics (specifically about menus attached to your controller in VR), and not really a game at all. The first entry was interesting, but also could probably be read as “all the ideas from Cosmic Trip that I really liked”. For instance, I really like the way the teleport mechanic works, how there are discreet parts of the map, tied together by this network of portals. In the game I imagined, they are all regularly spaced hexagons, with potentially different resource types on each, and you can harvest them and craft stuff.

6/25 – A simulator for those cute magnets that come in cubes of 6x6x6. Maybe in VR. The beauty of the idea is that they could be any size! Probably this would be a great way to teach people how to make specific shapes and patterns with them. But you’d be able to shrink / grow the creation at will. Also, you wouldn’t be limited in how many you own!

6/26 – In the same way Zombies!!! made bags of little plastic zombies popular, it would be fun to make a game with little plastic ants. I know I had some when I was a kid, and they were a blast to put all over everything. I’m imagining you set up a table with some obstacles and every player has a bag of colored ants (everyone with a different color). There are some objects on the table that represent food, and you have an ant hole where your ants spawn, and then you make trails of ants to the food nearest your hole. This happens one ant at a time, and no ant you place can be more than one ant-length away from at least one of your other ants. So you build lines and on your turn, you can place one ant then move any of the food objects that are within one ant-length from one of your ants, down the line, one ant toward your hole at a time. When you’ve collected a sufficient number of food objects, or when it’s obvious who will win, the player with the most food wins. Your ants can also fight, maybe, so there could be rules about that too.

6/27 – I think it would be fun to make a game called “Crash Reports” about debugging. (Or maybe just an extended metaphor game about debugging.) The story is that you are a galactic traffic cop, and you have to go to the sites of major interstellar space ship crashes and write up reports.

6/28 – This idea is literally: “just add water!” Basically, a waterproof board game where the box has a fill line and maybe some cups that look like towers. Maybe you have pieces that sink (anchors) and pieces that float that you can attach to them (or not, but you can’t reposition them between turns!). Not sure what the goal(s) would be yet though…

6/29 – A dinner table in VR, you pick up the corn on the cob and play Tetris on it.

Another game: You are a butcher, cutting up a cow in VR. (Butcher Simulator!)

6/30 – Turrets are cool in VR. You are in a circular room more or less the size of your room-scale (smaller than your chaperone). Maybe there are different levels for different eras in time. A castle level, where you have arrow slits and have to shoot out of them with a bow. A WW2 level, with rifles and sand bags. And a future level with cool telescoping windows and laser guns. You are basically just shooting enemies as they approach, but maybe you can send waves of enemies out of your tower… and it’s multiplayer, so you are sending them to your opponent’s tower. Or maybe you build the castle itself before you get into your tower.

Game Idea a Day – Week 25

Sorry for the delay on this post (and the short writeups)! Here are the game ideas from last week.

6/17 – A pen-and-paper game with destructible element mechanics. Kind of a complicated last-man-standing tic-tac-toe variant. Co-credit for this game idea should go to Zach Johnson.

6/18 – A connect-the-pipes game in VR. Thoughts on mechanics and UI.

6/19 – A mountain-climbing game, where you realize the mountains you are climbing are actually human fingerprints.

6/20 – A Poi simulator for the Vive. (This came out of the news that the Blarp! source code is available on github.)

6/21 – Some thoughts on shared mechanics in table top games Splendor and Ticket To Ride. I then outlined a game that does something slightly different but draws on those elements.

6/22 – A VR bird-simulator. I’m pretty sure I’ve had thoughts along these lines in the past, but apparently I didn’t remember that at the time.

6/23 – I actually didn’t write an entry on the 23rd. (3rd or 4th missed/skipped day, I’m not sure.) I wrote two the next day to make up for it, but you’ll have to wait till next week’s writeup for those!

Game Idea a Day – Week 24

My game ideas for last week:

6/10 – Three rhyming ideas: Weasel Easel, a drawing app where everything turns into fuzzy animals. Cube tube, a puzzle game played by swapping adjacent tvs, what’s playing on the tvs is how you match things. Two episodes of the same show, for example. Cop Mop, a game where you are the janitor of a police station, and have to clean up messy (bloody) jail cells and solve crimes.

I also wrote an entry about shoving giant blocks around in VR, and how it might best be accomplished.

6/11 – An intriguing idea for a two-player abstract where you move a piece, and then choose a square anywhere on the gameboard to raise. Once a square has been raised, the other pieces on the board would slide away from it, assuming the spaces beyond them are empty. I first started by thinking of this as a chess variant, and it works as that, but I think it also works with simpler pawns and I could imagine any number of different victory conditions. The first thing that came to mind is the last player with a pawn remaining on the bottom level would be the victor. One interesting aspect of this idea is that it would likely be rather difficult to play with a physical prototype, and yet, unlike a lot of my other digital board game ideas that meet that criteria, I didn’t start out trying to think of a game with it in mind from the beginning.

6/12 – A brainstorm that started with the title “VVVVVR”… The obvious idea is just a 3D version of Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV. You are in the platformer, but you can teleport around for movement, and if you teleport onto the ceiling, the whole universe flips upside down. Obviously, it wouldn’t be a literal translation of the mechanics from the original. That clearly wouldn’t work, but it might be fun to take inspiration from as many mechanics as possible. I even thought a bit about one of the possible levels or areas.

6/13 – More thinking about my VR RTS idea from 5/22. I outlined some details for 5 different ship types: Fighter, Scout/Sniper, Shield Generator, Destroyer, and Miner.

6/14 – More thinking about the idea from 6/11. I basically just wrote down more of the details, and outlined some specifics for the non-chess game.

6/15 – A brainstorm devoted to video in VR. Thinking about how we might capture a scene in realtime, both with standard cameras and kinect. This would enable lots of game ideas, charades, hacky-sack, social dance games.

6/16 – A game where you play as a turtle swimming around in a murky swamp. I outlined rules for how you might control a 3rd person turtle character that swims in front of your HMD (head mounted display), avoiding Crocodiles and looking for other turtles.

Today (after doing my brainstorm) I started re-reading Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun, and got to the part about how games take place in a “magic circle”. This reminded me that I had picked up The Magic Circle back at Indie Cade last year, but hadn’t played through it yet. I spent most of this afternoon doing so, and highly recommend it. I think it’s probably the kind of thing where I shouldn’t talk about it too much, or I’d be spoiling it for you, but obviously, it’s (at least somewhat) about game design. This led me to wondering what other games there are out there specifically about the making of games. I can only think of The Beginner’s Guide, and some others that are more accurately summed up as “game developer simulator” games. (Game Dev Story and Game Dev Tycoon are the ones I’m familiar with, but it looks like there are a bunch more on steam.) If you know of any others, please let me know!

Game Idea a Day – Week 23

This week was Eyeo Festival, and I felt inundated with a million interesting ideas. I don’t know if any of them made it into this week’s game ideas, (looks like maybe some from 6/8) but I did post some really interesting stuff on twitter.

6/3 – Writing up last week’s entry inspired a comment about puppet shows in VR. It would be cool to make a marionette game in VR. So tilting your controller would pull the strings, and make the puppet walk and dance. Maybe you would play the whole game that way, a platformer or some other running/moving forward game might be cool, but the puppet only walks if you make its legs walk. Maybe it’s more of an obstacle course, and you have to move the puppet around and through the space.

6/4 – I played Bloxyz for the first time, and it gave me lots of ideas about in-VR controls for block puzzle games. I don’t think it quite nailed the controls, but it was better than I was expecting. I couldn’t help but feel that it didn’t really need to be in VR, but it was a solid experience nonetheless, and gave me lots of ideas. Three that I wrote down.

One is that simply every wall of a space is filling slowly with blocks. Maybe even the floor and ceiling. The blocks simply fade in, or appear with a *pop*, or something, and you can grab them and move them to a different space, attempting to make 3 to 5 in a row of the same color, whereupon they’ll disappear. Easy enough.

A second idea is that you would have Tetris-shaped transparent trays in your hands, and you could only grab blocks in a configuration matching each tray. You can then put them down wherever they fit, again, attempting to make large groups of the same color. (Maybe more than 3 in this version.) If you ever grab a tray full of the same color, you also clear them, and get some bonus for doing so. Since you only have two hands, you would pretty much be looking for ways to grab some blocks with one hand, put them down in such a way that you make a group of the same color matching the tray in your other hand. That sounds like a much more interesting game to me.

A third idea is that you would have a “block fountain” in the center of the room. You grab blocks from it, and place them around the room, trying to make specific “target” shapes out of them. If the fountain overflows, game over, so you have to be fast.

6/5 – This started by thinking about using the cardboard API camera in conjunction with text input and 3D models of the alphabet to let you type in a sphere around you. (And then maybe letting you “save” the sphere to read/view later.) Several game ideas came to mind: you could have a crossword that is a full sphere around you, (with “visual” clues that are just images floating behind the text boxes). Or maybe it’s an elaborate 360 photo, and there are clues hidden in it, one for each letter of the alphabet. You have to “tag” the part of the photo with the correct letter before proceeding to the next photo.

6/6 – This is one of those meandering entries where I started out with one idea and ended up with another. I think I knew as I began that I was just starting from my idea on 3/14 (which I sometimes think about).

A game with a grid of physical spheres set in rollers (so they can be freely spun in any direction). Maybe there are 9 spheres, maybe 16. The spheres all have white at one pole, and black at the other, and are a full color spectrum around the middle. You start by aligning the spheres to all black or all white. Then in turn, each player can spin one sphere. They choose how hard to spin it, but they can’t keep their finger on it for more than a second. It’s a sort of dexterity game. You try and match the colors shown on the other spheres, or maybe the color of something in the room. If you see something in the room that is basically the color of the sphere, then you get a point or something. Maybe we only need one sphere for this game. That might make mass production easier. The sphere should be very well balanced, and freely spinnable, like a ball bearing.

6/7 – A game called “this little light of mine” about a candle flame that has the power to set things on fire and turn into a monster (a big red one, with horns). The bigger the flame the longer you stay as a monster. Levels involve timing events where you have to transform, then beat up something or someone quickly (maybe “enemies” are cherubs and Angels) before the thing you set on fire runs out of flames. The music for the game is already written! The trailer should have the second verse about hiding under a bush, and then the bush lights on fire and then you kill a bunch of folks. The game should have a clear anti-religion message.

6/8 – First idea: Take the 9-up video camera work of David Hockney as a starting point, and build a camera system in VR where you are looking at a scene from 9 perspectives, essentially the middle one is basically from the user’s eye position, but the others are all offset some significant amount of space, and all are visible in the user’s periphery. Then the game should involve noticing minute details of something. Or maybe there could be something you wouldn’t even be able to see except from multiple vantages at once.

Second idea: Extrapolate the previous idea into hexagonal bee-vision. 8-cameras / eyes.

Third idea: simulated physical augmentation. When you move your tracked controllers, a skeleton also moves with you. The skeleton might include: 8 arms arrayed around the player.

6/9 – A team-on-team game in VR. (VR MOBA, or VR Killer Queen.) Maybe the “play space” is relatively small, 1×1 meters, and appears in the center of each player’s room-scale tracked space. Players then control different avatars of their team color within the space. The avatars move around as in a 3D platformer game, but there are multiple ways to win. Level design would (obviously) be very important.