Sunday, February 27, 2011

First timer, first design memory

I was thinking this morning about my first game design memory. Kids make you think about these things. You think things like, how on earth did I get here from there, and you look at your child realizing one day she'll be taking a similarly unlikely journey to get wherever she is going, and that there is some heavy shit you will want to have a full glass of whiskey to even consider contemplating.

But I digress. The first game design memory I was maybe 7 or 8. Had a bunch of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, this is the late 70s now, so try to imagine a lot of firebirds and corvettes and actual metal construction here. If you chucked one of these at your friend, your friend's mom would be taking him to the ER. They were seriously fucking weighty, like small bricks with tiny cheap wheels.

One day I was playing with my cars- I had probably 30 or 40. I remember I was bored with them by now. I just couldn't think of much to do with them beyond collect them and even back then I wasn't the collecting type I guess.

Boredom made me mad. I start slamming two of my favorite cars together. One flips over. The other one flips the other car and stays upright.

Light bulb.

I start what must be some sort of OCD destruction derby. I ram every car I have into every other car.

The rules are simple. A car on its roof loses. A car that stays upright and on its wheels, wins. If both cars are on their roofs or both upright at the end of a collision, it's a draw.

It's immediately pretty awesome. I remember I kept notes on who won and who lost and that was the second big thing I realized. That the shape of the cars was dictating if they won or lost more often that not. I noticed that the Mongoose funny car which had a really sloped front end was by far the biggest winner because he always got under the noses of the other cars. I noticed that the square nosed cars often could knock over a rounded nosed car because they took the impact better. I noticed some cars had better balance, inexplicably, than other cars, like the grey jaguar I used to have, and that flimsy cars were naturally unpredictable physically compared to more well made cars. 

I wish I had my notes from back then. It's nice to see where you come from.

What's your first design memory?


  1. I was around five and had been given a set of "giant" tinker toys. The "long" pieces were in the neighborhood of a meter in length. This had the distinct advantage of allowing a kid my size to create things of equal size to myself.

    With this realization, the tinker toys became less a pile of things and more a heap of potential. I recall my first design being a trebuchet of some kind, but my brother would insist it was a prison cell. Either way, awesome.

  2. My parents were really scared of D&D when I was a kid...they thought I'd kill myself or something. So I wrote my own RPG in junior high called "The Blood Wood" and wrote a whole backstory to the world.

    Over the next few years I wrote two revisions of it, and eventually it spread out from this one forest to a whole continent. My friends and i played a few adventures in the world. I still remember some of the lore, but much of it is lost on old 3.5" disks for a Brother Word Processor.

  3. I did a lot of light stuff, like coming up with rules for a game where me and my bother would try to name all the states, letter by letter. You started with A and then took turns naming states until the other person couldn't think of one. If you could think of another state that started with A after they had given up, you got extra points.

    The first game that I got serious about was on the bus in Junior High. I wrote the rules to a game we called Death Race after the movie. You were theoretically running people over, but in reality just spotting them from the bus. I wrote up a whole set of rules and then a very politically incorrect list of point values. The rarer the target and the harder they would be to hit, the higher the point value.