Avoid! (The Game)
It looks simple, like what computers experience when they practice zazen. And it is, my brothers and sisters, it is very simple. Therein lies the beauty of Avoid! (The Game) (I bet that exclamation point was jarring), a compilation of short vignettes by Alex Miller that plays off the theme of avoidance.
You control a dot with the mouse or keyboard, depending on the particular exercise, and try to avoid the solid objects. A blue bar in the lower left corner of the screen represents your progress. When it fills up, you can proceed to the next exercise. Along the rest of bottom of the screen is a red bar that fills when you are intersecting with solid objects. You want to keep the red bar from filling while the blue bar fills, and thats the whole show.
Analysis: As the game states in its early text, avoidance is a basic, almost primal motif for gameplay. It relates to ancient wiring in our reptilian brain stems, fight or flight, escape and survive. Sure, our ancestors weren't running from grey squares and circles moving in a variety of patterns, but the cognitive principle is the same. What results is a game that is as pared-down as a game can be that still holds our attention. As Avoid! accelerates into later levels it starts to grip your attention and you get sucked into the trance of keeping your dot alive. There's also a game design lesson in this: avoidance is a dynamic goal that shows up all over the history of games, though it usually isn't the only mechanic. I suspect Avoid! could serve some illustrative purpose in a game design curriculum, as well as being a relaxing way to pass the time.
Are you motivated by gratuitous exclamations! If so, this is a game you shouldn't avoid!
Jay - Although Alex's game doesn't offer much in the way of innovations to avoidance games in general, what I was most impressed with was his presentation. From the initial creative approach to a loading screen and the minimalist style of graphics, to the nicely designed practice system and help screens, this game offers a solid production experience even if it offers gameplay that we may have experienced before. Too often we see Flash game developers create a compelling concept that doesn't quite meet its potential due to haste in what I like to call 'packaging'. It's these finer details of a release that can improve the overall impression and perception of quality in a game, and can even make the overall game play experience more enjoyable. When it comes to creating excellence in games, the importance of presentation should not be underestimated. Aspiring Flash game developers could do well by taking a cue or two from Alex Miller.