2 min read

A Collection of Games

This week I wanted to highlight a selection of simulations and games that other folks have built that I’ve enjoyed playing.

In Mechanical Rock’s DevOps Dream you play a CIO who has to make some hard decisions about where to invest your budget and how to respond in a variety of situations. As you make choices, you must balance multiple concerns: employee happiness, employee productivity, stability, and customer satisfaction. It’s harder than it seems to make the right choices to keep all your scores for all four dimensions high enough to keep your job (especially if you decide to take the big job with Elephant Enterprises).

Kromatic’s Plinkromatic is a virtual pachinko board where the marbles represent ideas. As each marble bounces its way to the bottom, it racks up costs. Depending on where the marble lands, you might get a large payout. But you might not. As the game progresses, you add gates to block marbles from going down unprofitable paths. This is a great game about designing a decision framework around innovation and investment with go-no go points.

Julia Evans blogged about her experience writing choose-your-own-adventure network debugging puzzles. I played The Case of the Connection Timeout and found it both educational and fun. A sort of choose-your-own-adventure debugging game, at each stage you choose what to investigate. When you choose the right path, the game progresses. I noticed that the game celebrated my wrong guesses with a cheerful “You’ve found new information!” I was surprised how encouraging that felt. As far as the game was concerned I hadn’t guessed wrong; I had taken a step and learned something about what the problem wasn’t. It’s definitely a game design technique I will remember in the future. (Hat tip to Logan Dean for pointing me to Julia’s puzzles.)

Nicky Case has created numerous explainers and games. All of them are awesome, but my personal favorite is the Wisdom and/or Madness of Crowds. In it you make and remove connections between people in a social network. Along the way you learn how bonds within social groups and bridges between those groups influence the spread of ideas.

Last week Joel Spolsky announced that Stack Overflow was being acquired. In that same blog post he noted that he’s been working on a platform for running complex system simulations, HASH. I spent a little time playing with the models they’ve published and can see that there is a huge amount to explore.

And finally although it’s been out for a few years and is not in the same category of game/simulation, I must give a nod to Universal Paperclips. Your objective is to turn all the matter in the universe into paperclips. Whimsical and surreal, the game takes bizarre twists and turns, yet is surprisingly profound. (I found it strangely addictive and played it all the way through twice.) Hat tip to Kim Wallmark for introducing me to the game.

That’s it for this week. I hope you have as much fun exploring these games and simulations as I did.

As for the still-unnamed software development simulation, progress continues. I’m currently working on using the engine to model a variety of scenarios just in code, without a GUI. These experiments are prompting refinements to the mechanics of the simulation. I’m still working toward having a playable scenario, but am not quite there yet.

Stay Curious,

Elisabeth