Designing the Ultimate Game of Tag


The Perfect Terrain for Tag

Whenever you feel like you’re actually skilled at something related to game design, leave it to kids to trump you.

We were at a playground near lovely Avila Beach this past weekend when some kids approached mine for a game of tag. The ages and abilities of the participants varied greatly. As the game progressed, I was impressed at everyone’s communal game design chops. The kids play-tested, discussed, and iterated on the rules until they worked out an optimal experience that was challenging, fun, and fair for everyone involved.

Stage 1: “It” can’t touch wood (brown zones in photo above). In other words, using age-old tag parlance, wood was “base.”

This was okay for a while, but the play structures were big enough to provide several safe zones impossible for “it” to reach, and too many angles where tag-ees could break away far from “it’s” grasp. After realizing that life was too difficult for “it,” a new rule was added.

Stage 2: If anyone other than “it” touched sand, she would lose and immediately become the new “it.” This made things a bit easier for poor “it,” but there were still too many ways for people to evade the tagger.

Stage 3: Nobody except “it” can touch red. After a while, this was deemed too difficult for the tag-ees, since the red spongiform surface was the primary design, creating too many re cul-de-sacs. “It” would keep trapping people in impossible corners and nailing them in no time at all.

Which led to the final innovation:

Stage 4:Only “it” can touch blue or sand (yellow regions). This was perfect! This created a few “choke-points” around the area which had to be leapt or crossed in daring ways, making the terrain nuanced and tactically exciting.

By this point, every kid over the age of five was playing the game.

Unspoken rule: If perched on a wood plank trying to avoid “it,” you had to keep moving after a few beats to not be considered a lame-o. There wasn’t an official time limit, but it was important to try to make mad breaks to another part of the playground to keep the drama going.

What a cool concept!

Anyone up for doing some 3D modeling and coding this into a FPT (first-person-tagger)?


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