Patrick Curry’s Thoughts on Game Design

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April 2nd, 2006

Game Idea #14: Soapbox Grand Prix

I always wanted to compete in a soapbox derby as a kid. There just weren’t enough hills where I grew up to make it feasible…

High Concept:

Soapbox Grand Prix is the racing game designed just for kids. It’s more than that though; it’s the racing game that kids get to design for themselves! Put together a soapbox race car from junk you find in your community, and then take it to the streets! Race the kids in your virtual neighborhood, or better yet, race the kids in your own real neighborhood!


PlayStation Portable

Why it needs to be made:

I’d rather kids do something than play videogames all day. But if they have to play games, they might as well play games that promote creativity, engineering and socializing with other kids. Soapbox Grand Prix does that, but it also subversively tells kids that going outside to play together is fun, and maybe when their PSP batteries die they’ll try building their very own, real-life racers.


Soapbox Grand Prix is the racing game I always wanted to play as a kid. First you scrounge around your house, your school yard, and maybe even the junk-yard for spare parts. Then you assemble them together into an old-fashioned “soapbox racer” using your dad’s tools. After you’ve built your car, you can take it for a test run down your steep driveway. You’ll probably find that it needs some re-tooling, so back to the tool shed. Once the car is ready, it’s time to race!

Races consist of very simple dashes down steep hills around the city. Control of your racer varies from the “stick your feet out and drag them to steer” all the way to functional steering wheels. Each “track” will present some new challenges that will require slightly more advanced engineering. Knowing how to “play” the game will only get you so far… you have to “build” your way past the challenges in this game!

The PSP’s wireless networking is ideal for sharing your racer with friends, or racing head-to-head against a pal. Players’ best times would be displayed on both local and world-wide score-boards, along with profiles of their racers. Over time new “junk” (AKA car parts) could be released for download online, along with new tracks and new engineering tips.

Why it will be fun:

Racing games are just good old-fashioned fun. Learning can be fun. Learning disguised as a videogame is almost always more fun. Making stuff is fun. Making race cars is even more fun. Soapbox Grand Prix is one part Legos, one part Mario Kart, and one part Excite Bike. Sounds fun to me!

Final thoughts:

I usually don’t post about how I see a game’s art direction going, but Soapbox Grand Prix just cries out for a very specific art-style: Normal Rockwell.

5 Responses to “Game Idea #14: Soapbox Grand Prix”

  1. Michael Chui commented:
    posted April 2nd, 2006 at 5:01 am

    I’d rather kids do something than play videogames all day.

    I wouldn’t mind if kids played games all day. As long as they’re not all videogames. =P

  2. Devin Curry commented:
    posted April 4th, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    All I gotta say is Soapbox royalle between Pugsley & Wednesday and Wally & Beav. Mischief v. Morality going 40 miles down Killer Hill with no brakes and the respect and admiration of Baby Boomers across the entire universe on the line. What does Dale Earnhardt know about pressure?

  3. Chris Lang commented:
    posted June 27th, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    How well do ragdoll physics work on a PSP? I’m picturing a cross with Flatout here.

  4. cody commented:
    posted January 1st, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    that idea is horrible why not promote building an actual soapbox racer

  5. otakucode commented:
    posted January 7th, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Brilliant idea, but I would hope the game didn’t attempt to appeal to kids too directly. Kids can enjoy very complex entertainment and a lot of “kids games” limit their audience unnecessarily by making the game unpallatable to adults while not doing anything that would actually lure kids (since kids like to play Halo just fine).

    When I was a kid, I always wanted to design and build a soap box racer, I thought it would be a great deal of fun, but the opportunity never presented itself. Given an accurate physics model and good designing tools, this game could be a lot of fun even for adults who enjoy designing things.

    As for the kids going out and building their own racers after playing the game, that just won’t happen. The parents of today do not let children out of their sight, and don’t let them do anything remotely dangerous. They could roll their soapbox car and snap their neck would be all the ultra-paranoid parents of today would think. Wait a generation, when todays kids grow up and start respecting their own children more than their parents respected them, and then maybe kids can get back to playing outside, exploring, and having fun. Hopefully the overparenting of this generation doesn’t harm them so much psychologically that they’re unable to function independently enough to start their own families…

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