WRITING: Games and Apps

One of my secret ambitions has always been to someday write a video game. I love the concept-building and story elements of games, after all, even as I’m not the most avid player of them. One of the earliest creative projects I can remember is, after falling in love with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a kid, spending weeks filling tiny notebooks with plans for a Zelda game. Items, levels, characters – I was planning it all.

Games, when they have striking characters, wonderful worlds, or really interesting game dynamics, have always deeply intrigued me. I played around with an RPG maker for years when I was younger, starting many games but never completing them. I loved the idea of building the dialogue, building the story, and having the audience play through it at their own pace.

I haven’t been properly engaged by a non-group game since 2006’s PS2 release of Okami, which was absolutely gorgeous and had a system of controls that appealed to me. I was interested in Super Mario Galaxy, but I lacked the time and patience to play through the world, especially now that the family Wii is stored with my parents. In fact, the first games to really grab my attention in recent history, to the point where I play them pretty regularly, are app games.

First Run!, which impressed me by its simplicity, its ease of play and its humourous nature. The idea of kicking a zombie or a shark in the face and shooting down a helicoptor with a missile launcher while freerunning across the countryside was a lot of fun. Then, of course, I found the infamous Angry Birds, which utilised cuteness, as well as a game engine that used strategy and just enough chance to draw me in. Both of these games have absolutely no character development, or even characters, to speak of, but their utter simplicity means that all of the focus goes into making a deceptively simple and fun game.

I’ve been thinking a lot about app games these past few weeks, and have had the urge to look at the idea of writing one. Now, while its open to everyone and the process is still developing, would be the time to pursue one. I have a few concepts that I’m putting together should the opportunity arise.

So, what app games have I enjoyed, and would like to emulate?:

  • The aforementioned Run! and Angry Birds, who establish a very easy-to-use game engine while constantly adding new functionality that keeps the games fresh. See, particularly, Run!‘s new enemies and Angry Birds’ differently-abled unlockable bird as you progress.
  • Plants vs. Zombies, a game that takes the idea of playing with differently-functionable pieces to new extremes by giving you a whole army to work with, then placing the onus on your to choose which tools will work in a given situation.
  • Genesis, a lesser-known game with a really intriguing concept: bouncing a ray of light to hit a number of planets, sometimes reflecting it through something to change its colour.
  • Games like We Love Katamari and the simple Labyrinth, who use a simple functionality alongside the iPod’s unique capabilities to create a pretty interesting gameplaying experience.

I don’t have any contacts in animation or programming, but I’m developing a small portfolio of ideas should I ever get the opportunity to pursue this.

So guys, a couple questions:

  • What apps do you guys love? Not just games, though those are awesome; utilities and the rest as well!
  • Would you ever pursue writing/designing one? Where would you start?

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