This week I was visiting family and living on a sailboat for part of the week. Because of these two things (mostly the seasickness, to be honest), I wanted to keep this week a little light. Also, because I knew that I would be seeing my 5 year old niece at the end of the week, I thought it would be really fun to make a game specifically for her. I know that she likes playing games a lot, as we’ve play things together every time we see one another (fun fact: her favorite games to play when she sees me are Octodad and the game I made for Rami’s birthday last year).
Last I had heard from my parents, my niece was doing well learning her numbers, but was having a hard time recognizing/reading them (especially those past 11). So I decided that this would be a good place to start. I’ve never made an “educational” game before, so I had no real idea what to do, or what would be useful, engaging, and educational to someone of this age. So, I decided to go with the simplest thing I could think of: I would have numbers floating around, and she would have to find a certain number of numbers (e.g. five 5’s or twelve 12’s).
What went right
Since it seemed like having cute and childish pictures to click on would be integral to holding her attention, I reached out this week for help on the art. I got a response back from Dina who said she could whip up a few cute animal numbers for me. I think reaching out for artwork this week was a really good move, since I’m obviously still trying to find a good art style for myself. By utilizing someone who had more experience and talent in that department, I ended up with a more polished looking product (which is definitely important when making a game for someone with the shortest attention span in the history of humanity).
I had my step-mom provide some “voice acting” for the game. As my niece can’t read all that well yet, I knew that the instructions for the game would have to be audio based. I also wanted to have a voice that said the number that she would be seeing. This was extra important to me as that seemed to be the biggest hurdle with her learning the numbers – recognizing the number visually and associating it with the word she knew for that number. Finally, by having my step-mom do the voices, this gave the game a nice extra personal touch to it for my niece (she immediately, and happily, exclaimed that it was Granny Shelly talking to her once she played it).
I had a little bit more planned for the game, but ended up cutting a few things out to keep it as simple as possible. I really wanted this to be a tiny game that she could pick up whenever she wanted and play a few rounds of. De-scoping was definitely my friend this week.
I was also able to easily put the game straight onto her Nabi Tablet as it’s an Android device and the game was simple enough to just quickly export from Unity into an .apk file. She caries that thing with her everywhere and is the device that she plays most of her games on, so I was happy with how easily I could put my own executable on there!
What went wrong
Not a lot went wrong with this game. I recorded the voice files in two different parts (1-9 then 10-20), and the second recording is significantly quieter than the first. I didn’t realize this until after I had completely chopped up the file into the individual clips and wasn’t sure of a good way to mass-fix the problem, so I simply let it be. I think it takes away from the game a bit as it’s a little hard to hear the numbers that my niece was having more difficulty with, so in retrospect, I wish I had fixed it.
What I learned
This was simply a fun week where I got to make a fun game for someone I love. It was a nice break from more intense game design ideas, and a great way to wind down from my excitement of making a game that I’m super proud of last week.