Not Attracting The Worm

Rhythm games fascinate me.

I can’t make them, not really. Not with my tools and skillset.

See, here’s the thing: I am a low-tech creator. I have some nice systems like computers that let me make my things look prettier, but ultimately, I’m not coding machines. I am not making mechanical devices that can serve as timers. Ultimately, because of the medium I work in, the things that dictate the types of games I can make are ‘what can people manage’ and ‘how can I do this with cardboard.’ There are some things I really wish I could make happen that I just can’t with my rules, and my current understandings of games.

Particularly, one thing I can’t really just ‘add’ to games is rhythm.

I’ve experimented with it – in the tiny flick-em-up Wobbegong-12, there’s a mechanic where players, if they don’t want to play in real time, have to all count down together to three, in order to power their carts. But that mechanic is kind of fuzzy and uncertain. After all, if players are counting down together, three, two, one, flick, what happens if someone falls out? The only enforcement is themselves, and other players, and the game is so silly it doesn’t really have a punishment system.



But if I want to make a rhythm game, like the whole category of videogames, I don’t have the means to do that, at least right now. What’s more I don’t even have the fundamental skill underpinnings to try. I don’t know what makes rhythm good. I can’t dance. I don’t know how to identify the beat, and every time people remark on this with me it’s with this incredulous ‘surely you can do this’ kind of reaction that makes me feel stupid. Which is embarrassing and we’re moving on.

It’s not like rhythm games aren’t doable with the tools and implements I have. Every clapping game, every call-and-response song, every make-up-a-rhyme, a bunch of grievance songs, almost any kind of singing, dancing, or clapping that involves playing with the possibility of the sound is itself, a kind of rhythm game. And those are games that just seem so impossible to translate, to put into a context that I can share them with people.

After all, the main way we have to convey rhythm is to show people, rather than to tell people.