4. The typing game market
Why make typing games?
After this long read about game design challenges, it’s time to take a step back from the technical aspects and talk about why we make typing games and the place they have in the current market.
I already mentioned that Benjamin Bushe and Jake White started Backspace Bouken as a ludum dare game. “We really never considered making a typing game before,” they told me, but the popularity of the game jam version motivated them to release a full version. This is a common story: unexpected circumstances push a small team to make a typing prototype that shows potential and gets developed further. Diego Sacchetti went to the 2016 Global Game Jam with a good friend (as they do every year) and the theme “ritual” gave them the idea of typing out an exorcism, recounts Diego. “My friend said ‘What else? It’s going to be very boring (read educational) like this…’, and I said ‘You also have to dodge bullets’. From there it sounded like a cool idea (read not educational) and we made [it]. The game received lots of praise from the participants and everybody had some good fun with it. After the Global Game Jam, we really wanted to explore this mechanic further so we decided to make a real game out of it.”
Epistory wasn’t born out of a game jam, but out of a design test: a fellow game design intern and I had to write a game concept for an educational typing game to get the internship. During said internship, we put our ideas together, made a better, non-educational concept, and prototyped it in-between our other tasks. Only then did we see potential in investing into the development of a full game (first with a limited budget that was extended when we first showed it to players). In other words, the game would never have existed without this safe and free way to make a proof of concept.
Epistory was then an influence for Malte Hoffmann to make Touch Type Tale. He played it to improve his typing skills and then thought about how to use typing for a strategy game (the kind of games he likes). “The game ended up being very different from what I had imagined,” he said of the project, which began with a small scope and is now six years in development.
Last but not least, Typing Hearts came out of one of the side projects Ettome does outside of his main job. Inspired by typing exercise programs, small online typing games such as Z-Type, and Epistory, he started prototyping a lot of things with typing (a bottom-up approach). Implementing the typing input in a meaningful way means that you often need to redesign simple things. It sometimes feels like you have to reinvent the wheel, but it’s an opportunity to experiment outside of the box of traditional game design. As Ettome puts it, “it’s a constraint that is a source of creativity. At first I asked myself ‘what can I do with it?’ ” Eventually, his project got bigger and he is now planning a release.
The typing mechanic is a source of creativity.
Whether in the context of a game jam or through experimentation with personal projects, the idea of using the typing mechanic always comes from a desire to innovate by playing with a little-used mechanic.