You Are Games:
Name a Gameplay Theme


You Are Games

PsychotronicSimple Puzzle. Grow. Replay. Ball Physics. Upgrade. We've had some good themes over the years for the Casual Gameplay Design Competitions. The last couple have seemed almost prescient, coming right before the explosion of physics games, and then the current upgrade craze. With each competition, the CGDC has grown in size and scope; the prizes, the complexity of the games, the level of audience participation, the logistical nightmare behind the scenes.

Let's take it back to basics.

casual gameplay design competition 1casual gameplay design competition 2casual gameplay design competition 3casual gameplay design competition 4casual gameplay design competition 5casual gameplay design competition 6

Your assignment for You Are Games this week is to answer a question: What should the theme of the next Flash game design competition be? A good theme is specific enough to inspire, but simple enough to allow for a lot of different interpretations. No need to send your replies to us by email; just post them here in the comments. This isn't a contest. Yet.

Update: Whoa! I guess you all might like to have a game design contest! Many thanks to everyone who has made suggestions, and extra super mega thanks to those who have taken it upon themselves to compile lists out of the chaos. I'm setting a cut-off for new ideas, so we can get to work on Phase Two. Post your themes before the end of the day Sunday, July 26th, EST.

339 Comments

What about something along the lines of: Transportation

How about "failure"?

Maybe something like... Retro?
Or, like when you have book competitions people have limits, maybe you could do that, but in reverse, so like you have to have at least * levels? Just some random ideas.

"Explore"?

I'd be interested in seeing one revolve around the theme of "blindness". There are actually some really cool games out there for people who are totally blind, relying only on sound and interaction with it as the game mechanic.

Inside/Outside.

An interesting topic from a programming side of view is "randomization / randomisation" [Cross out incorrect spelling depending on nationality]

However a heavy base on random gameplay can lead to some awful games. But then this could part of the challenge. To create a game that doesn't have the chance to create unfair circumstances.

Chains.

"Alternatives."

The inspiration was something like The Erudition Chamber, which had a schtick I hadn't seen too often: each puzzle has several very different solutions, and the result of playing the game is largely about which sorts of solutions you as a player tend to find first.

Of course, there are all sorts of other ways to interpret the word. We'll see what people come up with.

I have several ideas, I may post more when I come up with them:

Punishment/Death
Duality
Editing/Manipulation
Stealth (boring I know but I love stealth games)
Combining

How about 'reverse' ?

How about 'Parallels'?

It's a bit odd at first, but think of all the possibilities, like puzzle games about parallel lines, action games about parallel universes, etc.

Teamwork/Cooperation

"Explore" and "Alternatives" are what interest me. But for the sake of a new suggestion: "Construct."

Or time manipulation, because I love games like that.

top down

Teamwork/Cooperation

If a simple word like "Upgrade" worked why not "Achievements"? This could spring original concepts about this mechanism like in Achievement Unlocked. E.g. it would be nice to see a game where the achievements are not just an additional thing but a replacement for the XP system or stage progression.

-Halloween
-Simple
-Lost
-Click

A game about Losing would be nice, but since someone already said "Failure" i'm going to pitch in "Colours"

I really like Forsythe's "Failure". That sounds really exciting. It makes me think of Karoshi, in a way. The first thing that came to my mind was "Escape". I think there are some obvious ways to go, but I'd like to see what other directions people can take the idea.

control

I definitely agree with Explore/Exploration.
Maybe we'll get a few metroidvanias!
Or how about Discovery.

I think it should center around music. Creativity with music, or featuring it...

...that or grow games, they are lovely...

>Liquid physics
(can't wait to see how Bart Bonte interprets this one...)

i like the fail idea as well.

but my entry would be games that use the mouse and keyboard in a new way. get away from point/click and arrows/wsad for moving. I need a catchy name tho to sum this up. Right now I got:

"Input/Output"

Intelligent Avatar. The player character will act on it's own, whether this means fully autonomus movement or just yelling at the player and refusing to do things it doesn't like.

Explore/ Time/ Collect

Space

Escape!!!

While my first thought is my love for room escape games, this one word could have a ton of different interpretations. A platform game could easily have a goal of escaping some evil lair, or whatever. A point-and-click adventure game could involve escaping the confines of your alien abductors. A puzzle game could have you escaping a room by pushing boulders, toggling switches, avoiding acid, what-have-you.

Come to think of it, this may end up being too broad. But I'd love something that captures room escape point-and-click games, but doesn't keep it quite that narrow for the room-escape haters out there.

"Achievement"

And jmtb02 can't enter. :P

Free

Freedom

Pandemic (topical!!)

-Age
-Tether
-Freeze
-Stolen (or Steal)
-Copy
-Bounce

*Game Over*

I'd like to see how that one's interpirated. I think it could come out well.

Divide
Rotation
Distractions
Inversion
Coincidence
Stretch

"Regeneration"
"Return"
"In Progress"
"Dive"
"Pixel"
"(I/You/We/They) Don't Care"
"Monochrome"
"Comics"

Here's a bunch, hope you like some of them :D

Procedural.

What about pixels? Or maybe driving......
Or hapland? Hmmm....so many games......

"Towers"

how about "Omnipotence"? There's plenty of potential for games where the player is god.

How about "meta"?

I'm also liking many of the suggestions already posed.

I vote for "escape."

"Different methods of locomotion" (I know it's a long one, it's just that I couldn't find a way to condense it.)

My inspiration for this was the game Parasite, in which your character can take on multiple forms in one level, completely changing the game experience. This theme could work with puzzles, platformers, and even arcade style games, adding a lot of fun and variation to some already enjoyable concepts.

- Jump
- Down / Up
- Restart
or, obviously: "You have to burn the rope"

Build & Destroy

mutate
evolve
combine
beasts
freeworld

i think it should be themed off "best difficulty" as in... its easy enough to complete the game but hard enough to really challenge the player to get a high score

Darn it, mine wasn't original. Okay, I'll go an alternate route here. It's not a quality, it's a noun!

"Cheese".

Ragdoll

sandbox

physics

maybe a combination of all three

Social

I propose "Multiple paths to victory". You could replay the game and try to win it using different methods. This is different from "achievements" in at least two ways:
1. This is about having different ways to win the game, not about activities that you may do during the game.
2. The possibilities are not spelled out for you (in the case of achievements, you usually have a list).
Also, this is not the same as unlocking multiple endings. Multiple endings are about what you ultimately do or don't, whereas "multiple paths to victory" is about *how* to reach the ending.

Also, I would like to say that the idea of the "Intelligent Avatar" sounds very cool!

"Elements".

Pretty much anything can come out of this concept. Another one that sounds interesting is "Failure", it sure would be an original theme.

BTW, making a You Are Games event over picking a theme for the next CGDC was a stroke of genius!

The "achievements" thing has been done already (sort of) with the "upgrade" contest.

It's already been mentioned but I thought of "Water" or "Liquids" as an idea. After pondering it for a few moments I think making it more basic would open up more possibilities.

How about "FLOW" as a theme?

Designers could interpret that in many different ways and go whatever direction they wanted with it. Maybe something to do with a plumbing problem or using hydraulic pressure to solve things. Or perhaps the player has to keep specific items in motion in a certain order to progress in the game. Or the avatar you play as is a gooey thing pouring itself from one level to the next devising new ways to overcome various obstacles.

I think JIG should pick 5-7 suggested themes and set up a poll. The actual theme would be a predetermined and 'secret' combination of *two* poll ranks. Top two, first and last, 2nd and 4th, etc.

ooh, nice post/discussion.

So far I'm backing

Acheivements by EasyGoing
and
Losing by Sava 2004

Strangely I had the same first thought as DarknessKeepr but to be honest I reckon a Cheese based competition would be too Edam hard.

Gah! AaronzDad just beat me to it. I was going to suggest "Fluid" as a theme, for almost the exact same reasons.

"Sandbox" would be amazing, and can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Also, maybe "Detective" would be awesome.

"Freedom" (May lead to 'sandbox overload')
"Devolution" / "Downgrade" (Who knows?)
"Infection" (lots of creative interpretations)
"Zombies" (Hey, it's basic, but we all love zombies!)
"24 hours" (Yay ambiguity!)
"Spoiler Alert" (Inspiration from the comment box)
"Memes" (Only use this if you like being Rickrolled)
"Ninjas" (See "Zombies")
"Control" (Another concept that can be game-ified)

Alright, that's all I have for now. That said, the first thing that came to my mind was "Stealth", but that's because I've been designing a stealth game in my mind because I'm a nerd like that.

I like the idea of explore the most, but there are some other ideas:

-Power Ups
-Lemmings (games where you don't have direct control of the characters)
-Customizable

Ooh, I just thought of another one: Drawing. You could do a lot of interesting things with that one. :D

What 'bout "Sandbox"?

Superhero

-Symmetry
-Text
-Aggression

Real time strategy/simulation.

Change.

You fools, Jayisgames, you've opened Pandora's Box!

...

"Pandora's Box"

Sorry for the double post, just thought of another.

Create

Defense

"Multiple Endings". Like The Majesty of Colors or How to Raise a Dragon.

Failure is a cool option; I like the sandbox idea; Devolution is an interesting one...

How about "Destroy"? Rather than constructing something, the goal is to deconstruct something. You can have it so you have a time/move limit, or maybe a platformer where destroying well-built structures gets you to the next level. I'd like to see what different ideas people invent for this one.

Whatever it is PLEASE do not have us stuck with WSAD, or any other "qwerty" layout key choices. I have a Dvorak keyboard, and there are some games I just can't play. Please design games so that either we don't need letter keys, or we can select our own controls.

thanks in advance

I really enjoy Music/Rhythm games. Why not that as a theme?

It's probably been done before, but how about "One Key," where the whole game is controlled by pressing one key. I'd like to see all of the different ideas for that theme.

Hide-n-Seek

Co-operative is the big thing in board games right now (e.g. Pandemic)

Would be great to see some co-op casual games... even better if they were large scale social games

Even match-3 could be fun if it were massively multiplayer...

Divert or Diversion (not the cheap method of diverting your time, but actually coping with diversions throughout the game)

Why not something along the lines of "survival," "island," or "build?"

Dream, the designer can make the kind of game that they would personally love to play. Or a game inspired by another game.

What about words with dual interpretation, like revolution, suspect, and present?

I've got two ideas:

1.) ROOM ESCAPE - WITH A TWIST
I guess this one speaks for itself.

2.) SIMPLE IDEA
This should be about games that are based pon a very simple gameplay idea. By simple idea i mean one that's very easy to understand and doesn't require complicated gameplay. One of the earlier winners, Wouters's Gimme Friction Baby is an excellent idea. Or take minesweeper. Or almost any of tonypa's creations. All are extremely easy to understand and to plays. Now, to play well, or very well... That's another idea.

bio

"Perspective" is the one thought that came to mind for me - there are so many ways to interpret that!

"It Almost Plays Itself!"

also : "Seamless"

I do like "Failure" though.

A CGDC6? Yay! As for my choice of theme, I'm with ensoul and the "Explore" theme.

How about a game for engineers. You know games like the codex of alchemic engineering or the bereau of steam enginering. I love those games

Three words: Giant. Flaming. Monkeys.

Decay / Destruction

Online multiplayer.
I don't know how easy/difficult this would be to implement, but I always love competing against others in real time.

what about "simple escape?" everyone enjoys escape games. And they are pretty easy to make.

* Ninjas

Or, much more open:
* Black

I haven't read through all the suggestions yet, but I must say, of the ones I saw, "Teamwork" and "Meta" both struck me as really cool themes.

Voting to support:

-Evolve/evolution (a little too much like Grow but slightly different in flavor)
-Flow (highly versatile theme which could result in very interesting interpretations)
-Alternatives (because replay value is fun)

And adding on:
-Story

Rationale in spoiler tags for space :)

I read an interesting article I was linked to from Play This Thing that analyzes the goals of interesting gameplay and interesting story as in direct opposition, because the player needs to feel freedom in order to enjoy the gameplay but to tell a great story you need to restrict the gamer's freedom to make the story come out. (Full article here: http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/firstperson/storyish) So, especially given the heated discussion on the storytelling power of games that was generated by the Braid entry a few months ago, why not make this the theme of the next competition? It admits a wide variety of games and it also fosters a characteristic that we are all very interested in these days in gaming.

One-key games - I second Billy_kane's choice.

Platform

High Difficulty

Here are a few of my ideas:

-economy or recession
-weakness
-virus
-pacifism

Hope it helps!

I also agree with "flow" as an extremely interesting game base.

Some great ideas here! I particularly like "alternatives" and "failure", but to add to the ever-growing pile (I think):

Swarm.

Evil! >:)

Humor

Simulation

Political

Simple Idea

I have a few ideas:

Breaking the 4th wall: That s been used a lot in videogames, movies, television shows and other forms of popular culture. It would be very interesting to see how people work with it.

Perpetual Motion: It's an interesting topic, that's for sure. I would like to see how that can be utilized.

Surrealism: Have a game with such an unusual yet artistic sense as Salvador Dali being implemented.

Multiple failures!

Seriously, I hope that would encourage:
Narrative

But failure and/or multiple paths sound great.

A while ago, I was thinking about CGDC themes, and the possibility of having JIG readers come up with ideas, or vote on one. I'm very glad to see the site becoming more interactive.

My ideas at the time were words related to math, like multiplication or geometry. I came up with an idea today that I think I like better.

Illogic.

A designer could make a platformer based on an M.C. Escher drawing, or a physics game with completely unrealistic and possibly inconsistent physics. Maybe a puzzle game could be made, where the logically correct answer or move is the wrong one.

If that idea isn't any good, my other ideas today are:

Dark(ness).
Comedy.
Dark Comedy.

I can't think of anything myself, but there are so many neat ideas here already. I too love the "exploration" suggestion, as well as "meta" because I love meta concepts so much.

Consequences.

On Consequences: This has possibilities for both mechanics and story. Games in general seem to lack consequences, whether it's painless failures with restarts, leaving hundreds of dead 'enemies' in your wake or whether it's making fairly binary (black and white) moral decisions.

It's open ended but calls forth a certain design aesthetic. I'd be interested to see where people took it.

What about "generative games"?

Similar to the game "Seed", where the programmer designs a framework that gives the player tools that can be used to create levels/creatures/art the programmer couldn't even have imagined....

Simple, cool and fun.

(Possible double post)
ThemePark, I guess Flowchart could make for a good game. My guess, though, is we're looking for a theme that can make for a good 20 games. They don't all have to be perfect, but they should be mostly different, am I right?

With this in mind, here's an edited, alphabetized summary of Page 3:

Access Denied
Alternatives
Box
Cartoons
Charge
Cheese
Cliché
Color
Copy
Craft
Discovery
Downgrade
Environment
Failure
First Person
Flight
Flow
Funnel
Genre
Glitch
Hybrid
Illogic
Indirect
Internet
Join
Key
Layer
Liquid
Locomotion
Meme(s)
Meta
Missing
Monkey Wrench
Music
One-button
Parallel
Path
Phone
Pixel
Poetry
Procedural
Reverse
Save
Settle
Strange Sight
Tile
Twist
Unlock
Virus
Wall
Wave

I was going to suggest "perspective" because I've been playing "Crush" for PSP. I'll second it, I guess :)

How about...

Dimension
Parallel
Discontinuity
Elemental
Your Powers Combined
(or maybe just "combine" or "combinational")
Meme

colour would be interesting. or endings...

From reading this entry, it looked as if you had asked to get drowned in one-word sentences.

C'mon, pushing for games to be based on "meme"? Flash games that only have one cheap laugh as its high point won't get replayed as much as one that deals about memory or about the interplay of information and culture. Real culture, not pop-culture.

Anyway, I'd be happy to see more immersive games, where the player is a character or is addressed by the game and its characters.

Like Cy Reb, I decided to compile a page of ideas collected so far. It's alphabatized and edited, leaving out some of the repeats, too-specifics, and the ones that Cy already mentioned.

Page #1:

24 Hours
Achievements
Age
Aggression
Beasts
Blindness
Bounce
Breaking the 4th wall
Chains
Click
Coincidence
Collect
Combine
Comics
Consequences
Control
Customize
Death
Defense
Destroy
Detective
Difficulty
Distractions
Divide
Don't Care
Drawing
Dream
Duality
Economy
Elements
Escape
Evil
Explore
Freedom
Freeze
Giant Flaming Monkeys
Hide n' Seek
Humor
In Progress
Infection
Input
Inside
Inversion
Island
Jump
Lemmings
Lost
Manipulation
Monochrome
Multiplayer
Multiple Endings
Omnipotence
Output
Outside
Pacifism
Pandora's Box
Perpetual Motion
Perspective
Platform
Political
Present
Punishment
Ragdoll
Randomization
Regeneration
Retro
Revolution
RTS
Sandbox
Simulation
Social
Space
Spoiler Alert
Steal
Stealth
Story
Stretch
Superhero
Survival
Swarm
Symmetry
Teamwork
Text
Time
Top-down
Towers
Weakness

Hmm. I'm finding it educational to see which of the words I suggested are considered too specific or otherwise unsuitable.

I wonder why I found them inspiring, while some other people did not.

Maybe it's the difference between creator and player?

What about "Fable"? As in old stories with morals, you know.

I don't think we should do escape because there are so many escape games and we get a new one each week, but i really do favor "Explore".

OK, here's a compliation of the two compilations above (nice job, BTW), plus a few other ideas from page 2, so it sums up nearly every theme that has been suggested up to now. But be warned, this is one BIG spoiler.

24 Hours
Access Denied
Achievements
Age
Aggression
Alternatives
Beasts
Blindness
Bounce
Box
Breaking the 4th wall
Build
Cartoons
Chains
Charge
Cheese
Cliché
Click
Coincidence
Collect
Color
Combine
Comics
Consequences
Control
Copy
Craft
Customize
Death
Defense
Destroy
Detective
Difficulty
Discovery
Distractions
Divide
Don't Care
Downgrade
Drawing
Dream
Duality
Economy
Elements
Environment
Escape
Evil
Explore
Failure
First Person
Flight
Flip
Flow
Flowchart
Freedom
Freeze
Funnel
Genre
Generative
Giant Flaming Monkeys
Glitch
Hide n' Seek
Humor
Hybrid
Illogic
Illusion
Impossible
Improvisation
Indirect
In Progress
Infection
Input
Inside
Internet
Inversion
Island
Join
Jump
Key
Layer
Lemmings
Life
Liquid
Locomotion
Lost
Manipulation
Meme
Meta
Missing
Monkey Wrench
Monochrome
Mouse
Multiplayer
Multiple Endings
Multitasking
Music
Mutation
Omnipotence
One Button
Output
Outside
Pacifism
Pandora's Box
Parallel
Path
Perpetual Motion
Perspective
Phone
Pixel
Platform
Poetry
Political
Present
Procedural
Punishment
Ragdoll
Randomization
Recycle
Regeneration
Reverse
Retro
Revolution
RTS
Sandbox
Save
Settle
Simulation
Social
Solve
Spin
Space
Spoiler Alert
Steal
Stealth
Story
Strange Sight
Stretch
Superhero
Survival
Swarm
Symmetry
Teamwork
Text
Tile
Time
Top-down
Towers
Twin
Twist
Unlock
Unique
Virus
Wall
Wave

I would like it to be "reverse".

It has a lot of different implications.

@axcho: For the record, there were several themes that I left out simply because they seemed too close to the past themes that have been done. I also left out some that were inherent in other broader themes.

@Donut: Nice job dude. Now we have some method to this madness.

As for me, I would love to see the themes "Story" "Exploration" and "Humor" delved into, as those are my ideal pillars of gameplay.

puzzle?

level editors. or bosses.

Collapse. I'd love to see what our favorite developers can do with that idea.

Time
Space
Switch
Shapeshift
Change
Morph
Transform

-Failure
-Collect
-Explore
-MusicScape
-Sandbox
-Webtoy

Sounds good. And while I don't want to make the polling process too hard for the pollsters or the voters, I think that some distinction should be made between game elements (such as humor) and gameplay themes. Whether that distinction is made before, during (by voters), or after the poll, I couldn't say.

Counterintuitive.
But counterintuitive what...

Holy wow there have been a lot of suggestions. I like one of the ones that was posted relatively early on, "Teamwork/cooperation". That leaves it open to all sorts of possibilities and interpretations, from Lost Vikings/Warbears type games, to games where you control multiple characters simultaneously, even maybe a new concept like a multi-player game where people are actually working together. Heck, even Tower of Goo type games would fit in there!

There's my two cents added to the masses. :)

I have a couple of ideas that have not been mentioned, well, at least not entirely mentioned.

1. I recently played a game called Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. Not to spoil the story, it is a gripping supernatural thriller that has a main theme entangling about it: Sanity. Or more accurately sanity and insanity. Such a theme has been used in many novels, such as Brave New World. It manages to instill such a curiosity and, even more so, a sense of surrealism. Without sanity, we are lost. Without insanity, yes, we are not alive. We try to hide from ourselves are greatest fears, our greatest regrets, our greatest secrets. I myself, am one sentenced to that sort of imprisonment. And yet, those sort of thoughts are what keeps me moving, it is what feeds my drive to live. I am not a preacher, mind you. You do not have to listen to my words. But keep this in mind, to be used as a theme, wouldn't anyone want to see it utilized to it's true potential?

2. I see how everyone is putting up different kinds of feelings as a theme, so then how about we put them together and call a theme 'emotion'? Think about it. Emotion is what signifies the core embodiment of our souls, of our hearts. To create games, we need to let out emotion in such ways in order to send our points across. Emotion can go in so many ways. A subtle feeling that creates suchaa simple idea, like exploration. Or it can go the other way, in which an emotion is screamed out, and molds such complex narratives and stories like the kind Mateusz Skutnik or Jonathan Blow of Braid uses to bring their own unique emotions across. To convey one's feelings is what makes these men what they are today. Without emotion, we are nothing. With it, we can create such beautiful creations.

Psychitronic,
sounds good. The only side question: can you prevent someone voting more than once? Or is it no prob?

bio

Letting people vote for multiple entries will thin it down in some way, yeah. That makes sense. But I trust that not all suggestions will be seen as suitable for the final stage, since not all were made in seriousness.

These ideas can be interpreted many ways, so i'll just put the words, no descriptions.

1.Decay

2.Reality

3.Epic

4.Loop

Escape and/or adventure. These are the games I find myself craving whenever I seek an online escape from reality!

Just because a suggestion wasn't "made in seriousness" doesn't necessarily mean it can't be a good theme. :)

I think from the earlier suggestions, Co-operation/Teamwork, Failure and Music would be my top three.

I was going to suggest Emotion, but I see someone just beat me to it - it covers quite a few of the other suggestions in a single category, and is broad enough to cover quite a lot of possible game ideas.

Maybe it's been said already, but Evolution?

My suggestion: Evolve

I tried to come up with words that had multiple interpretations. Here's my list of those suggestions and some of their interpretations:

Fork (the utensil, a fork in the road)
Switch (changing back and forth, light switch)
Type (keyboard typing, classification)
Train (locomotives, training)
Twist (spiral, surprise ending)

And some other random topics:

Up, Luck, Instrument, Numbers, Outside, Metamorphosis

Construct.

Using Unity.

Psuedo
Call/Name
Glitch
Link

I also like blindness - would be a challenge at the very least.

what about "adult"?
I mean the direction "grown up" games, no classic goal; design, experimental, perhaps scary, melancholic, indepentent no-category-games.

greetz (great page)

Marian

Oh, I just thought of a pretty versatile one (hope it hasn't been said already!)

"Walls"

You can utilize walls in a variety of game genres, plus there's a lot of room for ingenuity! Additionally, it's one of those words that if you repeat it enough, it starts to sound like a jibberish word :P

I just noticed that in the compilation for page 1, my idea for "multiple paths to victory" does not show up in the list. As I said before, this is not the same as multiple endings. Plus, I don't see that this is too specific. :/

what about humor?

a good theme would be "One Button"

Psychotronic,

I like the checkbox idea for the poll, but I think to help it out even more would be to limit the number you can check. You're not limited to one good idea, but you can't just check everything either. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 should be able to provide a list of what's most popular.

DANG IT! I just thought of the greatest theme ever, but, alas, it's too late. Here it is anyway:

CHUCK NORRIS!!!!

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