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Theme for Word Game

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Word Nerd
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I have a word game design which includes about 1000 different language tasks, ranging in difficulty from mindlessly simple to fiendishly challenging. What I lack, however, is a back story or theme upon which to build a corresponding artistic design for the game materials (cards, packaging). I'd like to use a concept with broad, if not universal appeal; no zombies or dinosaurs. Suggestions, please.

ReluctantPirateGames
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Zombie Dinosaurs

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Seriously though, it's a little tough to think of themes with very little information. I'm just going to leap to some conclusions instead. So I assume this is a game that is 100% cards, or so close that it hardly matters what the other objects are. I'm also going to assume that players will win, either as individuals or as a team, by solving or completing a certain number of these language tasks. So there are two ways I would probably go about this.

1. Cast it as a series of tasks given to you by some sort of ridiculous Riddler-type villian/overlord. Your motivation would be to solve his puzzles to uncover or foil his dastardly plans. This theme could be stretched a bit to include some sort of "save the library" thing if you are into that. Perhaps some evil dude wants to demolish your beloved childhood library, and the only way to stop him is to prove to him that you are really smart. Sounds silly, but it might work.

2. Think "Professor Layton." If you aren't aware, the Professor Layton games are a series of puzzle games for the Nintendo DS that weave together otherwise theme-less puzzles with a Professor of Archeology and his companion. They are very highly rated and have a great quirky tone that works well with the little puzzles presented. They usually solve a mystery, but the specifics really have no bearings on the puzzles. Maybe you could use a similar character-driven idea?

Word Nerd
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Good idea

Yes, you're on the right track. The game involves cards only; there are no dice, no board, and no player tokens. Players choose their own game topic, and place a battery of words connected with this theme into a draw bin, from which they are randomly selected during the game. The play method is completely flexible in that the players can choose or limit the number of activities involved, determine the time that they will play, and even choose how many points would be required for a winner (or winners, if they elect to play as teams or partners) to be found. There are no set winning conditions. Indeed, there are cards in the system which alter point levels arbitrarily, with the intention of separating achievement of points from the intrinsic motivation of play itself. In effect, more successful players establish their "bragging rights" in this way.

Your suggestion of an (evil?) mastermind or overlord is something I've considered also. I wanted to stay away from something Harry-Potter-ish, so I like your idea of "the library" as a conceptual model. This idea would inspire the artwork on the backs of the cards (a caricature of a spooky old library building?), perhaps with the card border on the faces composed of stacks of books.

Here are some examples of the cards, to aid further conceptualization:

Suduko: Draw words (from the draw bin) until you've collected at least nine letters. For one point, insert the first nine letters you've drawn into a 3 by 3 grid of cells in such a way that you do not spell any three-letter words in any direction or orientation, and that two similar letters do not appear in the same row or column anywhere in the grid.

Enthymeme: An enthymeme is a syllogism with at least one suppressed element. Draw a word. For one point, use it in an enthymeme.

The Cake Walk: Say your name. Earn a point.

Reverse Spelling: Choose another player. They will draw a word and read it aloud for you, once. For one point, spell the word backwards.

Too Much Information: Draw a word. For one point, use it to describe personal details of your sex life, toilet habits or anything else the other players will find disgusting or unwelcome. (Do not read aloud: Earn a bonus point if another player says, "Eew!"). <--this card is from the "adult" collection.

New York Minute: Your turn is over.

There are almost 1000 cards like these. In addition to the "adult" collection mentioned above, I've developed thematic collections within the system for Christmas (charity and sharing), Hallowe'en (magic and horror), Valentine's Day (love and romance) and Saint Patrick's Day (luck and Irish things), and I'm working on family-friendly items for my Mother's Day and Father's Day collections.

Your contribution is much appreciated! If you have anything else to add, please do so.

Word Nerd
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Recent developments

The system now includes 1056 game concepts; I expect to have developed more than 1200 items before the end of this year. As a complete system, the game may be too expensive to produce (and purchase) initially, so I'm planning to divide the system into modules: a starter-pack of 100 (?) cards, plus expansion packs of equal number, which can be introduced later.

MarkKreitler
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More than a game

This is a great concept, and it's more than a game: it's a gaming system. As such, a single theme is too restrictive. When you described the game with its modules, my expectation as a consumer led me to envision each module with its theme (like "Christmas" or "Adult"), with all modules linked by a universal "brand".

Fluxx does the same thing. All Fluxx games use roughly the same gaming system, but the system is tweaked in small ways depending on the theme of the deck you're using: "vanilla Fluxx," "Zombie Fluxx," "Eco Fluxx," etc. Your game has a similar structure, at least insofar as I understand it. I admit, I could be *way* off.

Reading your description, I thought of two things right away: "the labors of Hercules," and "olympics." I don't think either one helps to establish an overarching brand, but their intersection resonates with the idea that players have gathered to compete in a series of challenges.

I hit the thesaurus and tried to combine synonyms for "challenge" with Latin or Greek words for "word" or similar words. I came up empty, but I'm guessing someone with your vocabulary could bang that out in a few seconds. A catchy name like "Fluxx," coupled with individually-themed modules, could allow you to make dozens of different decks. It's a brilliant design -- wish I'd thought of it. :)

Word Nerd
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Peel Me Off The Ceiling

Thank you so much for your generous comments! I think you're *way on* and I'm going to run with your suggestion. I've been working with the same approach (dictionary diving), but so far I've not found anything not already in use by someone else. I don't want to get into an unnecessary copyright or trademark dispute.

I'm off to the China Toy Expo---http://www.china-toy-expo.com/en/---today and tomorrow, to learn more.

MarkKreitler
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Great!

Word Nerd wrote:
Thank you so much for your generous comments! I think you're *way on* and I'm going to run with your suggestion. I've been working with the same approach (dictionary diving), but so far I've not found anything not already in use by someone else. I don't want to get into an unnecessary copyright or trademark dispute.

I'm off to the China Toy Expo---http://www.china-toy-expo.com/en/---today and tomorrow, to learn more.

Excellent news! Good luck at the Expo!

Mark

regzr
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Joined: 05/27/2012
Theme search

Consider these theme suggestions:

little robot school
word laboratory
word party
word blacksmiths
word knight challenge
letter workshop
word coconuts

- regzr

Word Nerd
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Game development update

The total number of game concepts included in the system is now 1220, and I doubt very much that I've reached the bottom of the inspiration well.

I played with a name concept for a while (Word-U; Word University), but the remarks I'm hearing from my colleagues (you guys, and others of your ilk) continue to fall mostly on the negative side, and include words like "elitist" and "boring". This is a point requiring resolution so that I can move on to developing the physical look and feel of the card design.

Sabash
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I think a "theme" would just

I think a "theme" would just get in the way. Seems like what you really need is a brand/name as mentioned above.

My gut reaction is that your forum name would make a great brand name. Word Nerd. It's catchy, it rhymes, it fits.

anonymousmagic
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Joined: 11/06/2013
I agree with Sabash. You need

I agree with Sabash. You need a brand name, not a theme.
Unfortunately, I'm lacking the creativity to make any suggestions at the moment.
Please keep me updated, though. I would definitely want to play this one.

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