Here I am, sitting with Designer Genes, a game dated 1984 (a great year for Van Halen) and imagining how at that time the gameplay must have unfolded. A table with presumably 4 yuppies sitting around shucking and jiving, rolling the dice and moving around the simplistic board design like the other 200-300 board games that game out in the 70’s and 80’s. Sipping their white wine, talking a little game trash like they’re at the Bushwood Country Club. Those people who can relate to the topical parts of the game are grandparents now. Society has moved on. We’re different. I’m different. Nearing 40, I can tell you I’ve never once been in that kind of environment and probably never will be. Gaming both online and offline has changed in monumental ways over the past 30 years. This little thing called the Internet had a lot to do with it.
Making changes to the Designer Genes approach
Pondering and playing the game alone at 2 in the morning I realized immediately; I HAVE TO MODERNIZE THIS. When the game was originally play tested with a large board game manufacturer it was met with mediocre results. It was to go back and be re-tooled to speed up the games pace, but my Dad started his own business a few years later and that took up the remaining time that was previously spent on Designer Genes. That’s why I found it in the garage recently when helping clean things up and get some of my old tools out to bring to my garage and workbench. It was there, forgotten yet still wildly relevant. Genetics and altering the human body is more popular now that it has ever been before. He touched a market before it’s time. Now that time is here, and I hope to realize its full potential.
The game as it was originally created must be modified. It has principals within it that are fantastic, they just need to be refined for what a modern tabletop or card game player will be interested in. It’s an arduous task and will require a lot of reverse logic and re-inventing the methods in which the game intended to deliver the goods, the fun and gameplay. Principals in place like genetic building are fantastic and can be utilized moving forward. I found that many of the aspects of the game were good, but not great. Maybe in 1984 with the market it was aiming for it hit the mark, but for me personally and the people I know who like these kinds of games it is lacking. Case Studies are a prime example. It was to be read aloud and then a Master DNA Rod is assembled. Then the players goal is to assemble a similar DNA Rod of their own with a lot of infighting and side by side, left player / right player, activity. I think the battle between players can and will remain, I just want to present it in a way that amps up the excitement. Lots of the games original principals when translated to a more modern gaming environment can and will remain, they will just be changed to suit a more modern game design.
Rebranding the Designer Genes game
As I was typing the old ruleset guide, manuals, case studies, cash and action cards out I was envisioning more and more how this can be played and enjoyed more. What can we do to improve gameplay? Keep in mind I’m not a game designer by trade. I have been an artist of sorts for many years but more the jack of all trades variety than any one specific medium or style. One thing in my favor is growing up in a generation where we went from the isolated pre-communications world to what we have today. I also know some awesome artists, designers both game and otherwise, and a lot of people with opinions who I can poke and poll along the way to see what they think.
For now, I’m in the harvesting and creating stage. Building a complete understanding of the games original mechanics and figuring out how I’m going to apply this to a modern rendition of the game that will be a blast playing. Can Designer Genes be made into an App down the road if a success? Can it transcend gaming genres into its own class? Can it be a board game? A card game? Is it a finite game or is it expandable? If so, how do we expand and in what ways? There are a million questions to be answered and I’m knocking them down 1 by 1 to narrow things down.
Will rebranding Designer Genes just be an exercise in futility? Who knows? I think that from my book of notes I’ve already made there is a direction to take this with familiarity to the modern game player but different enough to warrant wanting to play it. Game On!