Patrick Curry’s Thoughts on Game Design

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April 16th, 2006

Game Idea #16: On the Road Again

I don’t know about you, but I spent a lot of time in a station wagon when I was a kid, crossing the country on family road trips. This week’s idea is the game for all my fellow station wagoners.

High Concept:

On the Road Again is the game that the entire family can play during a road trip. The game combines wacky activities with fun trivia games and a wealth of interesting facts that help the time melt away. And maybe if we’re lucky the players will learn something along the way.


Handheld (Nintendo DS / PlayStation Portable)

Why it needs to be made:

Even though I used to loathe road trips, I have very good memories of the games my family used to play during them. We’d quiz each other on all kinds of topics, play makeshift board games on a notepad, or just listen to wacky songs or books on tape. The goal was always the same: make the time go by more quickly without driving Dad insane. On the Road Again is the game that facilitates this kind of family-play, and hopefully won’t drive Dad insane either.


On the Road Again is a unique type of cooperative game. Instead of each player having to have a copy of the game or hold a controller in his hand, only one player directly interfaces with the game. All of the other players play the game by interfacing with that player (the MC if you will), so the game forces the players to talk and work together to solve the challenges.

The challenges in On the Road Again are not meant to be super-complex brain teasers. Most of the game can be played like a game-show, where the MC is reading the questions to the other the players, the players discuss what they believe to be the best answer, and then the MC enters the answer and tells the family how many points they scored. The players can also decide amongst if the MC is allowed to answer the questions he knows the answers to or not.

On the Road Again features questions on a wide-range of topics, from geography to politics, from pop-culture to ancient history. When paired with a GPS device, the game can almost magically ask questions about the family’s current location: “What’s the state bird of Texas?” “What river flows through the Grand Canyon?” or “Where did aliens supposedly land in New Mexico in 1947?” And not only could the questions be relevant to where you are, the game could recommend activities that are in the immediate vicinity: “Take a picture with the giant T-Rex on I-10.”

Why it will be fun:

Road trips can be stressful, but they don’t need to be. On the Road Again helps elevate friction, instead of creating it. By letting the family play and work together, everyone can contribute. Maybe little brother doesn’t know as much of the trivia, so he can be the MC and practice reading the questions aloud. Maybe dad is a history buff, so he can give clues to the rest of the family when he knows the answer. And maybe sister is a math-whiz, and she can answer all of the “two families leave Tucson at the same time in opposite directions” type questions.

Final thoughts:

I’ve come to realize that I grew up in a game-friendly family. Whether we were aware of it or not, we were always challenging each other and pushing each other to learn new things, but while having fun. Perhaps On the Road Again can be my way of sharing that experience with my own kids.

2 Responses to “Game Idea #16: On the Road Again”

  1. Mason Dixon commented:
    posted April 16th, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    it’s a good game idea, but also this makes me think about games in a good way.

  2. Sean Hyde-Moyer commented:
    posted April 24th, 2006 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Patrick,

    Great idea! I too logged a lot of hours in the back of the family wagon. I think the localized information/trivia is a really good approach.

    Even though I prefer (and develop for) the DS, you could potentially package something like this with the PSPs upcoming GPS add-on (as a bundle), and then really tailor it to the vacationer-on-the-move.

    Of course, on the DS you could use the stylus to touch a map, set trip waypoints, do some rough speed calculations and ballpark it pretty well.

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