Some of the best innovations occur when people take something generally considered to be creatively exhausted, and then re-invent it.
A good example is Zynga’s casual mobile game, Words With Friends, which is similar to Scrabble. You might think that after 60 years under the focused attention of some highly competitive players, the rules and design of Scrabble were pretty much locked down, but as Mark Anderson describes in an article in IEEE Spectrum, that’s not the case.
Zynga applied some heavy duty analysis to Scrabble, then tweaked arrangement of bonus squares on the board, and adjusted the values of some of letter tiles: the result is a game where players are much more likely to be able to lay down high-scoring words, making the run of play more unpredictable.
Beyond what Anderson describes however, Zynga has also recently managed to add in-app purchases to Words With Friends. In-app purchases have become a critical part of the business model for many games companies. Zynga’s genius here is in offering a range of purchasable services that are useful, without being so advantageous that players could be accused of buying victories. For example, players can find out if all the tiles belonging to a particular letter have been played already, something expert players already do by simply relying on their memory of the distribution of letters among the tiles, and counting what’s on the board.
If you’ve have any suggestions for how these, or other games, could be adjusted, let us know in the comments below.
Five poems about the mind
Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution
As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.
I taught myself to lucid dream. You can too.
We still don’t know much about the experience of being aware that you’re dreaming—but a few researchers think it could help us find out more about how the brain works.
Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?
The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.