Tyler Dawson

I make apps, games, and whatevers.

How Original

A few weeks ago I played the excellent puzzler 12 Word Searches. It reminded me of a Boggle-like word search game I once sketched out.

Even in describing my idea, I find it hard to avoid comparisons to games new and old. Word-search-likes are a dime a dozen from app stores to kid's menus. In calling it "my idea" I'm taking great liberties with both words.

Still, I felt that familiar excitement as I returned to the original sketches. I turned it into mocks and then a prototype. That same week I saw day 2 of The New York Times' new game, Strands, a word search game with a "spangram" category twist. "My" "original" "idea" was the same thing, replacing the spangram with unscrambling remaining letters. In fact, "Strands" was on the shortlist of names I was considering. (The prototype was called "Threads.")

When ideas are so similar, it's fun to look at the differences. The spangrams, the hint system, the cryptic puzzle titles, and the pleasing UI all contribute to my enjoyment of Strands. Even these small differences add up to feeling different than similar games I've played.

So why did I feel so deflated when version 1001 of an idea I was working on was released? The timing was unfortunate, making me feel like a copycat when really my copy was of an entirely different cat. I have shelved it for now, maybe I'll revisit with a different twist. We'll see.

At the same time, it felt validating. An entire team of excellent puzzle-makers thought the idea was worth exploring and expanding on. All games build on others. There are no original ideas. That's not an original idea. Good.