Theory: Designing for New Parents

Years ago, when my friends began to have children, I started thinking about a board game suitable for new parents. I came back to this idea in my interview for the NYU Game Center, and a few times since, but I’ve never pursued it in earnest. Now I see that that was a good thing; I would’ve been violating the rule that one should write what one knows.

Having had the experience of being a new parent, I’ve detected some constraints that must be respected:

The game can be played one-handed. The other hand has the baby, or the baby’s things.

Each game action resolves quickly. It’s hard even to have one hand free for any length of time.

The game state signals strategy. One must be able to leave the game, come back to it hours or days later, and remember what one was going to do next–and why. (In Salen and Zimmerman’s terms, the game must help the player understand why decisions are integrated, because the player might well forget.)

The game is proof against being knocked about. Maybe the pieces can’t move accidentally, or maybe their position doesn’t need to be maintained. Regardless, the game has to survive when one jumps up to handle an emergency.

No narrative, or lots of reminders. Interruptions and late nights can make it difficult to keep up with a complex plot. Either do away with story, or make it easy to get back up to speed.

These are not trivial requirements. However, a game that meets them would be interesting indeed . . . .

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