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The underside of games

September 29th, 2005, By Duncan Gough

Just over a year ago I started writing casual games. I’d worked for 3rdsense for a while and I could easily see what I wanted to do. We were building Chickstop in response to the feedback we were getting from Playaholics and I wanted to build word games since they would fit in easily with the puzzle and grouper style games we needed. Looking around for inspiration, and this is as much the case now as it was then, there were very few first rate word games.

The big names, like Text Twist and Word Slinger were notable as much for their quality as they were for the lack of any alternatives. It is a huge credit to GameHouse that their word games are so polished in the face of little to no competition.

So I developed a bunch of word games and forgot about it. Just recently, having been in a few discussions about games for pay-to-play and betting websites, I realised where all the word games were. Gambling websites. Pay-to-play websites., and are good examples of this. They have good quality word games, they have developers creating innovative word and puzzle games too. Most importantly, they have plenty of players so it’s rewarding to keep doing this. Since the whole games industry has audibly woken up to female gamers and begun to wonder where they are, we now know. The concept of ‘Women in gaming’ isn’t going to take off until there are more word games on free-to-play websites, in particular, more word puzzles, more quirky takes on classic ideas. There are hundreds of word games in the paper and pencil space that would benefit from conversion into Flash games.

I’m not attacking the gambling websites either, some of the best produced games are created for pay-to-play sites and some of the nastiest security problems have been tackled by these flash games. Moreover, in response to Tom’s question – Where are all the UK startups? – there are a number of game development companies who have created hugely successful games without too much noise. They may not be Odeo, Blogger or Six Apart but those companies inhabit a very small space with very little money up for grabs. Pay-to-play games, casual games and online games have a plenty of rapidly growing potential. There’s a story to be told about the history of this game in particular, but that’s for another time.

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