Duct tape, Kleenex tissues, WD-40, Listerine, SMS, dental floss and the anticoagulant drug Warfarin all belong to a very special club that provides the inspiration for today’s endorsement. I say ‘endorsement’ not because I’m being paid by any company mentioned herein, but because I believe one of them has unwittingly crafted the perfect game for an existing, untapped market of which I am a member. And boy am I grateful for their work!
In the cases of the products and services listed above, each one was created to serve one particular purpose, only to be appropriated for a different use that it turned out to be even better at!
- Duct tape was invented to keep ammunition crates watertight in WWII;
- Kleenex intended their tissues to be used for make up removal;
- WD-40 was developed to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles;
- SMS was conceived simply as a tool with which telcos could contact their users with service information;
- Dental floss allegedly started life as a thread for use in waterproof clothing;
- Warfarin was – and still is – an effective rat poison; and
- Listerine had a range of uses from surgical antiseptic to cure for the common cold prior to establishing itself as a mouthwash.
Out of this mildly interesting collection of repurposed inventions, SMS and Warfarin offer the closest parallels to the game I’d like to recommend today: Blizzard’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. All three are creations that were highly successful in their original role, but have gone on to fulfil their unexpected potential when placed in different hands.
In one sense, Blizzard have gone a step further than the developers of SMS and Warfarin; not in terms of global impact (yet) but in the clever utilisation of related technologies. Hearthstone on PC and Mac was already a very good game, but it was through porting the game to Apple’s iPad that what I believe is the perfect game for the emerging demographic of ‘New Parents Who Love Gaming But Don’t Have Enough Time Or Sleep’ (NPWLGBDHETOS) was forged.
As people had done before with the combining of ham and cheese or chocolate and milk, Blizzard’s combination of Hearthstone and iPad produced something far greater than the sum of its parts.
The two milestones that tie my personal story into Blizzard’s journey of incidental discovery were the birth of my first child nearly a year ago, and being given a pre-loved iPad 2. What a valuable gift that iPad would turn out to be! (The baby is pretty cool too…)
I would hazard a guess that most people in the world are aware that babies have no respect for your eating, sleeping and working schedules. They don’t care that its 3:30am, you’ve had to feed them and get them back to sleep two or three times already and you’ve got to go to work ‘in the morning’ which after a couple more settlings is nearly now. To make matters worse it turns out there is this period of ‘sleep limbo’ in which your baby outwardly appears to be asleep but should you stop rocking/walking/singing/bouncing and try to put them down there will be immediate baby-shouting and you’ll have to go back three spaces and start the whole settling process again. It is in these dark moments at stupid-bloody-o’clock that the Heroes of Warcraft come to the rescue.
Now were I to write to a developer and say “Please design me a game to relieve my desperation at watching precious sleeping minutes tick by while my baby decides whether or not to be asleep”, these are the features I would expect the product to exhibit:
- No detriment to gameplay when played on silent. The reasoning behind this is pretty obvious: game with sound = disturbed baby = bad.
- One handed operation. It is easy to cradle a baby with just one arm and the occasional opposite elbow for balance. Trying to do so with no arms at all or just upper arms in order to manipulate a controller of any kind is asking for trouble. Dropped baby = bad.
- You may need to settle your baby in different locations within your house, and the ability to place the screen where it won’t be shining brightly in your baby’s face is desirable.
- Moderately-paced action with no real narrative or crucial points to remember. Gaming when you haven’t slept consistently in eight months is a challenging proposition, especially at stupid-o’clock in the morning. Players of MMORPGs who have raided with international guild mates from very different time zones will be familiar with this slow-thinking sensation. Who knew that the human brain doesn’t function very well under these conditions?
- Turn-based play to allow for walking laps of the room while making ‘shhh-shhh’ noises.
- Carefully planned incentives can make you think you have actually achieved something in that time when you should have been asleep, and can make you feel that it is worthwhile coming back again tomorrow night, and the night after that.
- BONUS: Paid is fine, cheap is good, free is even better.
Through the combination of Hearthstone and iPad, Blizzard have achieved all of these hypothetical goals and more*. The nature of Hearthstone as a free-to-play CCG (Collectable Card Game) meant that its original incarnation was already about as good as you could get for us NPWLGBDHETOS. Porting it to iDevices added the crucial element of portability; you can have it resting on your leg, a chest of drawers, a stationary pet, the back of the couch… wherever you want and on whatever surface is available. I’ve also found portable Hearthstone to be suitable for enlivening the folding of washing, though less so when washing dishes.
The only warning I will add to this endorsement – and if you are a NPWLGBDHETOS I can’t recommend this FREE game enough – is that Hearthstone is extremely addictive. It has the potential to compromise your productivity at times, but that is a risk you take with any accessible, incentive-based past time, be it Angry Birds, Facebook, Twitter or Candy Crush Saga. I was looking for a good digital CCG when I came across an unassuming mention of Hearthstone’s iPad release, and it has since been my most played game by many, many hours and proved itself valuable at all times of day and night.
So forget wine and soft cheeses, this is what every new parent should be handed as they leave the hospital.
NOTE: Pokemon TCG Online has also just been released if this appeals to you more, but to my knowledge requires an iPad 3 to play. If you’ve ever played Magic: The Gathering with old school trading cards or fantasy games in general then Hearthstone should please.