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29 November 2004

Softer wins

When you play Monopoly or Risk or Sorry! there is always someone crowing in triumph while others quietly sulk in defeat. But Richard Tait, 40, founded Cranium in 1998 with the opposite idea: to produce games ''where everyone has a chance to shine,'' a phrase he repeats like a mantra in every conversation. Tait designs games that no single player can dominate; at some point, every player will be the hero. ''And then they have that moment of glow, that moment of shine, that moment where everyone celebrates them,'' he says, speaking practically in the cadence of a preacher. That makes the games particularly appealing to young children, who can be unhinged by the sting of losing. And for parents, it means that playtime is unlikely to end in tantrums. You can win a Cranium game, but no one really cares. It is, as one Cranium designer delicately puts it, ''a softer win.''

From The New York Times: The Play's the Thing, via Blackbeltjones

How do they achieve this?  Firstly, every game has multiple components, each one challenging a different skill (see Howard Gardner's theory of ''multiple intelligences'). Secondly, the game design process builds out from ''moment engineering'', "imagining the paroxysm of triumph each player ought to feel at least once in the game and using that as their goal post."

Based on my own play experiences, I'd say the same approach has been taken by the designers of the party games EyeToy and Wario Ware. There is obviously something about designing for groups of people who will be in the same living room that results in more sociable solutions. (Or at least solutions that are more appealing to this tantrum-throwing casual gamer.)

See also: Mike Kuniavsky's Extending a Technique: Group Personas.

Posted at 12:07 PM in Children and teens, Games | Permalink


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Link: foe romeo: Softer wins. I'm all for games that boost creativity but kids need to learn how to lose and lose with grace. Our youngest would cry every time she lost a game (which isn't very often since she [Read More]

Tracked on 31 Dec 2004 21:49:18


There are quite a lot of hugely entertaining games out there with very soft wins. Most celebrity panel games are good examples: nobody really cares who has the higher score at the end of "Have I Got News For You". My old favourite, Mornington Crescent, is another good example: the point of the game is the journey, not the destination. What you have are a bunch of collaborative, creative group activities poorly-masquerading as zero-sum games.

For good examples of collaboratively-creative games that are sold as products, take a look at some of James Wallis's games, especially "Once Upon A Time".
While the rules specify a definitive winner, they also have a good deal about ensuring that the game is won in a way that's satisfying for all.

Here's a good list from Board Game Geek.

Posted by: Yoz at 29 Nov 2004 15:17:19

I'd tried to design the Design Engaged conference something like this, too: different sorts of group interactions over 3 days so that everyone would feel they could contribute at some point. (http://www.heyotwell.com/heyblog/archives/2004/11/design_engaged_3.html)

Posted by: Andrew at 30 Nov 2004 14:06:27

I was reminded of this article when I stumbled upon http://www.isketch.net/ . Have you played?

Posted by: Seb at 18 Dec 2004 22:00:46